Tony Stewart
, June 25, 2024
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More than three decades ago, a historic moment forever altered the future of technology. The momentous occasion? The birth of the world-wide web, or what is better known as the Internet.

At the time of its inception, the web provided limited options for civilian use. Yet, through decades of advancements, it ushered in a golden age of technology for everyone. It was a fundamental shift in how information is accessed and consumed, permeating every facet of our lives. From facilitating research to enabling a seamless retail shopping experience, and providing countless entertainment options, the Internet has become an indispensable part of our daily routines, both for work and play.

Fast-forward another decade or so, and the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007 delivered another seismic shift in technological advancement that reshaped society once again. Breaking the mold of preconceptions about what a telecommunication device was capable of, the iPhone transformed how mobile phones were utilized outside of their original intent. More significantly, smartphones focused on a critical aspect that had not yet been emphasized: the user experience.

By designing intuitive and easy-to-understand user interfaces, smartphones significantly lowered the entry point for users in terms of learning how to use the devices effectively. In turn, smartphones quickly became an essential part of our daily lives, greatly enhancing our ability to connect, create, and communicate from virtually anywhere. 

These two transformative technologies —the Internet and smartphones—possess a shared underlying power that has reshaped human interaction with technology. Individually formidable, together they have collectively revolutionized the way people engage with digital tools, fundamentally altering the discourse of technological interaction. Their combined influence has made accessing and using technology more intuitive and less obscure, empowering individuals to reap the benefits of these innovations as society prepares for the advent of humanity’s latest monumental milestone.

The origins of Microsoft’s AI approach

Today, both Internet and smartphone technologies have attained unprecedented levels of efficiency following years of maturation and growth. This convergence has paved the way for the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), marking yet another colossal milestone in the history of technological advancements. At the forefront of this evolution is the advent of Microsoft Copilot, an AI tool epitomizing the untapped potential of our future endeavors.

When Microsoft and OpenAI forged a transformative partnership in 2019, Microsoft made the decision to invest $1 billion in OpenAI’s research and development. This strategic move, spearheaded by Microsoft CTO, Kevin Scott, reflected his belief that AI holds the keys to a better tomorrow. Scott's conviction in the potential of AI stems from his days as a Ph.D. student, and from the wisdom imparted by his fellow engineers.

Central to this idea was Scott’s notion of short-term pessimism and long-term optimism—a philosophy embracing a pragmatic approach to addressing adversity, while maintaining unwavering hope for positive outcomes in the future.

Embracing this mindset, his goal was to “boost people” by means of empowering resourceful individuals through knowledge and expertise that would be demystified through AI. In one such case, technological advances had drastically minimized labor-intensive industries such as farming, which accounted for more than 70% of Americans that worked within the agricultural industry, to as little as 1.2% of the workforce today by way of the sheer automation outputs and streamlining capabilities of AI technologies. Despite contention on the potential consequences of eliminating or replacing the labor force, the reality remains that most farmers and farmhands have been able to adapt by finding alternative roles within the farming industry, such as transitioning to truck driving or pursuing higher education to take on accounting responsibilities for their businesses. Scott viewed the result of automation as a resounding win, allowing individuals to pursue loftier aspirations, and to find alternative ways to achieve success beyond monotonous and repetitive labor. 

This was critical to how he envisioned the beginning of a technological revolution and its purpose. He was hopeful that this sentiment would be shared by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, who was also excited about the progression of AI. If he embraced Scott’s perspective, it would pave the road to the AI revolution. 

Enter OpenAI

Two decades prior to 2019, Microsoft had spent millions on unfocused internal AI projects with few results to show. Executives also recognized the challenges inherent in such a massive organization, foreseeing hurdles mired by internal politics and corporate bureaucracy. These obstacles were significant barriers to AI development, which favored quick adaptation and swift decision-making. 

Understanding the daunting task ahead, Kevin Scott realized the need to explore and embrace “smaller”, more agile initiatives to surpass the competition and overcome criticism. It was during this search that OpenAI's mission statement, as articulated in their charter, captured Scott's attention:

“We commit to use any influence we obtain over AGI’s (Artificial General Intelligence) deployment to ensure it is used for the benefit of all, and to avoid enabling uses of AI or AGI that harm humanity or unduly concentrate power. Our primary fiduciary duty is to humanity.”

Motivated by this alignment and commitment to democratizing AI, Microsoft invested in OpenAI with the aim of leveraging AI to address complex challenges and drive societal impact. At the time, OpenAI had already achieved inspiring results from their research, such as creating a robotic hand that could solve Rubik’s Cubes. However, beyond such promising results, Microsoft was most impressed by the brazen intent of OpenAI to actualize their litany of ideas, to never rest their laurels on previous accomplishments, and to continuously move onto the next idea.

Throughout the course of their partnership, Microsoft incorporated OpenAI technology, producing Copilots for solutions spanning Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and much more. Furthermore, Microsoft provides organizations with options to tailor Copilot to their own Microsoft 365 workloads in Microsoft Studio, which the company announced when it introduced Microsoft Copilot Studio during the 2024 Build Conference in May.

Copilot integrations

Beyond the Microsoft ecosystem, Copilot technology is transforming other popular productivity and business platforms, enhancing usability, and redefining the digital workplace landscape. Here’s a look at some of those advanced solutions:

GitHub Copilot

While GitHub is owned by Microsoft, GitHub Copilot stands out for its integration with various coding environments like Visual Studio Code, JetBrains, and Neovim. Powered by OpenAI Codex, it assists developers by suggesting code snippets and completing code based on context, significantly boosting coding efficiency.

Google’s Gemini AI

Gemini AI serves as the core AI integration within Google Workspace, acting similarly to Microsoft Copilot for productivity applications like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It offers extensive capabilities in automated content generation, data analysis, and intelligent suggestions, enhancing the overall user experience.

Salesforce Einstein

Einstein is Salesforce’s AI assistant, which is integrated into their CRM platform. It aids in tasks such as predictive analytics, automated data entry, and lead scoring, and provides actionable insights for sales and customer service teams, thereby optimizing business operations.


Grammarly is renowned for its grammar and spell-checking capabilities. Its AI assistant also enhances writing by offering style suggestions, tone adjustments, and comprehensive writing improvements across various platforms, including web browsers and Microsoft Office products.
These examples illustrate the widespread adoption of AI-powered copilots beyond the Microsoft ecosystem. AI assistance now offers platform-agnostic capabilities across mainstream tools and applications, providing users with streamlined benefits and improved productivity.

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