It’s been a mere 100 days since Microsoft first introduced generative AI into its Bing search engine. It feels like a dozen years, but in the last few months, Microsoft and its partner OpenAI have pressed AI hype to obscene levels. Now, events have come full circle, and the Redmond, Washington company is ready to stuff its once-derided Bing search into ChatGPT.
At its annual Microsoft Build conference Tuesday, the company announced that starting immediately, ChatGPT users who pay for Plus will gain access to built-in Bing search. This effectively means a way to connect ChatGPT to the internet without plugins, whereas by default the chatbot is unable to access current or up-to-date information from the web. The Bing interoperability should also be available “soon” to free ChatGPT users, who should be able to install an official plugin, though currently the chatbot’s plugin system is still in beta and is only available to those who pay.
Microsoft said that this would let ChatGPT answers be “grounded by search and web data” alongside citations like users currently see when using Bing AI. OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, released its own official ChatGPT mobile app last week, though it does not currently support plugins. This new cross-support for Bing to ChatGPT effectively enables a first-party mobile internet search-enabled AI. Knowing how hard Google is pressing to create its own AI-enabled Google search engine, Microsoft seems to be trying to cement its place as the biggest game in town for internet-accessible AI.
The move effectively shrinks the distance between Microsoft and its AI partner OpenAI from a hand’s to a hair’s width, especially as Microsoft is now emphasising its own platform for developers to build their own plugins and AI applications. The company said it was adopting the same plugin standard employed by ChatGPT, meaning those extra bits of functionality should work across Microsoft’s AI-enabled apps like Microsoft’s 365 suite and the Windows 11 Bing AI sidebar integration.
Bing should also now work with plugins from the likes of Expedia, Instacart, TripAdvisor, Redfin, Zillow, and more. This effectively allows the chatbot to research topics like hotel or event bookings or prices, and even stick items into users’ carts.
Windows Copilot AI can control users’ settings or turn on the tunes
As already mentioned, Microsoft recently allowed users to access the Bing AI through a search bar at the bottom of the Windows 11 taskbar. Now, Microsoft is baking an AI directly into Windows 11 itself, allowing users to ask a chatbot to make changes to their PC directly.
Microsoft said the new Windows Copilot should be able to change users’ settings, open apps, or select a music playlist. It too is connected to the web via Bing, and users can make the chatbot available for access in a docked side panel on the Windows 11 desktop. The system should be rolling out in Windows 11 preview this June.
The company is also planning to open up its Microsoft Store to even more AI apps for Windows 11. Its new “AI Hub” will include a curated selection of AI apps available in the company’s Windows-based app store.
What’s more, users no longer have to actually engage with other users’ reviews to understand what’s best or what’s wrong with any potential app, assuming they trust Microsoft’s AI to give them opinions on apps. The company said it will allow users to create an AI-generated review summary that’s supposed to highlight some of the most important comments from among hundreds or even thousands of reviews into a simple three-sentence paragraph.
Microsoft’s dizzying expansion of AI into every product
Microsoft isn’t waiting around for anybody on its AI integrations. The company said its 365 Copilot, used for generating text, responding to emails, and more, is also now being integrated into the Microsoft Edge browser through a side panel. This is in addition to the Bing chat integration that already exists in Edge.
And that’s just the end-user products that are getting more access to chatbots. Microsoft is also going full hog into AI for its enterprise customers with the introduction of Microsoft Fabric, a new language model-powered analytics platform to understand the incredibly massive amount of data being collected by companies.
At the conference, Microsoft claimed daily downloads of its app have increased by a factor of eight since it launched its Bing AI. The company said back in a March blog post that it crossed the threshold of 100 million daily active users for Bing. Of course, compare that to the billions of people who use search every day, and there’s still quite a gulf between those who use ye ol’ Google Search versus Bing.
Microsoft is clearly all-in on AI, even as ethicists, researchers, and regular people express concern with the incredibly rapid rollout of AI systems and their impact on jobs, the planet, or on the very nature of truth.
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