November 15, 2023
MICROSOFT IGNITE 2023 — Microsoft is more than bullish on AI, so much so that the topic dominated CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote on the first day of the company’s annual customer and partner event.
Noting that it has been one year since ChatGPT went live, Nadella said AI’s “pace of innovation has just been astounding.”
“We're entering this exciting new phase of AI where we're not just talking about it as technology that's new and interesting — we’re getting into the details of product-making deployment, safety, real productivity gains, all the real-world issues and that's just the most exciting thing for all of us as builders,” he added. “We’re at a tipping point.”
To that point, Nadella spent the remainder of his Microsoft Ignite 2023 speech on Wednesday touting the dozens of launches — most AI-led — the software and cloud computing provider is introducing this week.
Copilot Is the Key
For Nadella, the root of the excitement around AI lies in this year’s introduction of Copilot. Copilot serves as Microsoft’s embedded AI tool. The latest iteration of it was introduced two weeks ago for Microsoft 365. Copilot within that suite summarizes emails, creates presentations, generate status updates and more, for $30 per user per month.
“With Copilot, we’re able to complete tasks much faster and that's having a real cascading effect on work and workflow everywhere,” Nadella said during his Microsoft Ignite 2023 keynote speech. “People who use Copilot are spending less time searching for information, they're holding more effective meetings. They're able to collaborate on work artifacts — whether they're Word documents, spreadsheets, emails — all of them have richer context about their role, about their organization, so that they can collaborate much more and stay in focus. And of course, we're just getting started.”
To that point, Nadella continued, Copilot “will be the new UI that helps us gain access to the world's knowledge and your organization's knowledge. But most importantly, it's your agent that helps you act on that knowledge.”
Powering Copilot and other AI capabilities, though, all starts with Azure cloud computing, he noted. AI demands more power and reliability than nearly any other workload. As such, Microsoft is boosting Azure’s networking among data centers.
“We're driving up the speeds,” Nadella said. “Our breakthrough hollow core fiber technology is delivering a 47% improvement in speed because photons are able to travel through these microscopic air capillaries inserted through solid glass fiber. This is really cutting-edge technology. In fact, we are manufacturing this fiber ourselves in the world's only dedicated factory for hollow core fiber production.”
Nadella then talked up Microsoft’s expanded work with AMD and Intel for greater processing before announcing something significant: Microsoft is making its own custom chips. And the first, dubbed Maia 100, could even compete against partner Nvidia (whose founder, Jensen Huang, Nadella sat down with during the keynote to discuss the news that Nvidia is bringing its generative AI foundry service to Azure). The second, a Cobalt 100 Arm, supports general computing and could compete against Intel.
While these chips could go up against Microsoft’s suppliers, Nadella did not address that possibility. Rather, he focused on other outcomes.
“Our goal is to ensure that the ultimate efficiency, performance and scale is something that we can bring to you from us and our partners,” he said.
Another AI-related development at Microsoft Ignite 2023 comes in the form of models as a service, a new open-source, Azure offering. Developers will not have to provision GPUs.
“We want to support models in every language and in every country,” Nadella said.
‘A Copilot for Everyone’
From there, Nadella spent a lot of time reviewing new platform releases; go here for a look at some of the most significant for the channel. But he then returned to the big kahuna in the room: Copilot.
“Our vision is pretty straightforward: We are the Copilot company,” Nadella said. “We believe in a future where there will be a Copilot for everyone and everything you do.”
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