Microsoft's Inspire 2023: 10 quick AI and partnership announcements you need to know

We explore ten key takeaways from Microsoft's Inspire 2023, focusing on AI advancements and strategic partnerships in detail.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Microsoft logo on phone
SOPA Images/Contributor/Getty Images

It's time for a quick "lightning round" roundup of Microsoft's AI and partnership announcements we haven't covered in more in-depth articles. 

Also: The best AI chatbots

Hang onto your hats, because we'll be moving fast and covering a lot of ground.

1. Microsoft 365 Copilot pricing

We have some good news and some bad news for those interested in Microsoft 365 Copilot. Microsoft 365 Copilot is an AI Large Language Model (LLM) tool that can help you write, summarize, and create from within the Microsoft Office applications. Think of it as something of an embedded ChatGPT with smarts about each individual Office app.

The good news is that Microsoft 365 Copilot now has a price. It's $30 per month, per user, for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium customers when generally available.

The bad news? First, a general availability date has not been announced. And second, consumer users (for example, those of us who have Microsoft 365 Family) are not expected to be offered Copilot capabilities any time soon.

2. Sales-related AI capabilities

Sales-related activities and AI are a match made in heaven. If you think about it, sales activities often require managing a very substantial set of situations, all a bit different. Sales agents turn over relatively quickly in their jobs, so they're often less experienced than their jobs demand and customers require. Plus, more and more customers expect nearly instant responses to customer and tech support queries. AI can help with all of this.

Also: Generative AI can save marketing pros 5 hours per week, according to research

To this end, Microsoft has a slew of announcements for Inspire 2023 related to sales automation. Dynamics 365 Customer Insights will provide AI-enhanced data analysis and prediction for customer interaction data. This is also offered in a subscription program to help with customer journey orchestration. Microsoft Sales Copilot provides a range of productivity and support tools for CRM users. The company's new AIM program provides AI-guided support for moving customers from on-premises to cloud-based applications.

Finally, chatbots with Copilot will help sales organizations to field AI-driven chatbots with all the capabilities of services like ChatGPT, but tailored specifically for customer service, containing the unique product and service knowledge customers will need.

3. Improve business operations with AI capabilities

A business is really a giant machine. Everything a business does can be identified as a process. And if it can be identified as a process, a series of steps, it can be optimized. Process automation and process mining are used to understand business operations, maximize process insights, and reduce the complexity of processes. This way, organizations can find and eliminate bottlenecks, reduce costs, and increase overall productivity.

Microsoft's tool for doing this is called Power Automate Process Mining. It's meant to provide analysis and insights into business processes for continuous improvement. The big announcement at Inspire 2023 is general availability for Power Automate Process Mining, which will be in roughly two weeks, on August 1.

Also: This is how generative AI can change the gig economy for the better

AI features include tools that generate process insights to optimize existing processes, improve efficiency, and provide automation suggestions.

The company is also offering "Out-of-Box" templates to help get started faster, deep AI integration with the process automation and analysis tasks, and an ongoing process improvement environment so process analysis is not a once-only initiative but can be built into the overall DNA of all company processes. Finally, Microsoft announced a slew of license options.

Two useful resources are trial plans so you can check out the tool, and a getting started guide.

4. Upgrade to Azure migration support program

Proving that not even AI can save us from changing product names, Microsoft has renamed their Azure Migration and Modernization Program (AMMP) to Azure Migrate and Modernize… because they can.

The shorter-named program (which still doesn't really roll off the tongue) offers an expanded set of features, including assessments and deeper partner incentives, as well as support for additional workloads like high-performance computing (HPC), Oracle, Linux, SAP, and mainframe migrations.

Also: Microsoft, TikTok give generative AI a sort of memory

At Inspire 2023, Microsoft announced the company's intention to make a "substantial investment to increase the scale and availability" of Azure Migrate and Modernize.

5. $100M investment into partner innovation support

Today at Inspire 2023, Microsoft announced a "dedicated, incremental $100M investment" in the area of analytics and AI. The program's goal is to help partners Incorporate AI solutions into applications, generate insights from analytics, and built custom cloud-native applications with AI capabilities, like custom AI copilot solutions using customer or vendor-provided data.

The Redmond giant plans to offer guided assistance as partners "explore and design capabilities for unique business workloads," as part of migration, modernization, and new solution offerings.

6. New Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program

Designed to leverage Microsoft AI and Microsoft Cloud initiatives with its partners, the new AI Cloud Partner Program announced at Inspire 2023 is designed to help partners build AI-based applications, modernize existing applications with new AI goodness, and help companies move services to the cloud at a faster pace.

Because every large tech company now seems to need its own metaverse, Microsoft announced that its industrial metaverse will be available to the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program in early 2024.

Also: Generative AI is coming for your job. Here are 4 reasons to get excited

Note that if you're an existing Microsoft partner, you will either be moved into the new AI Cloud Partner Program immediately, or very shortly. You do not need to take any action to be brought into the program and all your existing benefits and designations will be maintained.

7. New Solutions Partner designations

The new AI Cloud Partner Program also provides certain partners with a special AI designation, which they can use in their marketing efforts to bring awareness to the fact that they have a certain level of expertise in offering AI-level services.

Microsoft also announced a variety of other new designations that signify other proven skills and specializations, including a training service designation, an ISV (independent software vendor) designation, and a support services designation.

8. General availability of the ISV Success program

Last year, Microsoft announced that it was getting ready to spin up its ISV Success program. This program is designed to take promising early-stage independent software vendors and help them build "well-architected" applications, publish on the Microsoft Marketplace, and grow sales. It includes as a key benefit thousands of dollars in access to Microsoft and Azure services.

Also: 5 ways to explore the use of generative AI at work

Today, Microsoft announced general availability of the ISV Success program. If you think your small coding operation has the right stuff, you can apply.

9. Marketplace vendors can work together more easily

Last month, Microsoft announced multiparty private offers in the Microsoft marketplace. When announced, the program was in private preview. Today, at Inspire 2023, Microsoft is announcing that the multiparty private offers feature is generally available.

So what are multiparty private offers? Essentially, it's a way for Microsoft partners to work together and bid on deals together, using Microsoft's commercial marketplace tools. There are a few nuances to this capability partners need to be aware of. First, the actual billing entity (the partner making the sale) must have a US tax profile. Marketplace partners using this feature may also indicate an intent to transact, which allows partners to come together prior to the sale in preparation for bidding and other customer interactions.

Fundamentally, if you're looking at big deals where a bunch of different vendors need to come together to make bids and provide services, and you want to do it under the commercial marketplace auspices, you can now do so.

10. Showing how it's done with Epic Systems

To show how its AI and partner initiatives can work together in practical solutions, Microsoft is showcasing its relationship with healthcare provider Epic Systems. Epic makes software for doctors and hospitals.

Epic has incorporated Microsoft's AI in two key ways. First, they've added it to their patient information software, making it easier for doctors to find patient information, update patient reports, and answer patient-related messages.

Epic has also incorporated Nuance DAX Express, a voice transcription tool from the vendor best known for Dragon Naturally Speaking. According to Nuance, this new tool is, "a workflow-integrated, fully automated clinical documentation application that is the first to combine proven conversational and ambient AI with OpenAI's newest and most capable model, GPT-4."

Also: What is GPT-4? Here's everything you need to know

This tool can automatically record what doctors and patients say during visits, reducing the overall recording workload that most health providers find tedious and time-consuming. Any reduction in paperwork overhead allows more time for clinicians to spend with patients and provide care.

Epic has integrated both of these capabilities in its new offerings, which are being showcased at Inspire 2023.

More from Inspire 2023

We hope you've enjoyed this lightning round of offering spotlights from Inspire. Stay tuned to ZDNET for the latest up-to-the-minute coverage of Inspire 2023, including even more coverage of the Redmond-based company's announcements, especially in the white- hot area of AI-based solutions.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter on Substack, and follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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