Microsoft’s annual “Build”developer conference is underway and the focus is firmly on AI, not least “CoPilot”, its brand for a growing family of AI assistants – with Redmond also looking to position itself as the go-to hub for third-party developers wanting to build and integrate their own AI capabilities into products and services.
Call it AI-as-a-Service or call it what you will, it’s a step towards a world presciently forecast by Nvidia’s Jensen Huang who (as The Stack reported last May) forecast that “in the future, you’re going to see large language models essentially becoming a platform themselves running 24/7, hosting a whole bunch of applications.”
Redmond introduced GitHub CoPilot nearly two years ago. At the Build conference it emphasised the extent to which it is building out this ecosystem, with Copilot in Power BI and Copilot in Power Pages in preview, Copilot in Microsoft Fabric (a new data lake platform), and Windows Copilot, to become available for preview in June.
Microsoft is also going to adopt a unified plugin standard across all of its copilot offerings so that developers can “enable people to interact with their apps using the most natural user interface: the human language” – revealing a new AI development framework that it said today will help “developers build their own copilot.”
“This stack includes support for plugins that augment the capabilities of AI systems by allowing them to retrieve real-time information, incorporate company or other business data, perform new types of computations and safely take action on the user’s behalf” said Microsoft’s John Roach. (CISOs in the early stages of battling with developers feeding sensitive corporate data into ChatGPT may have many questions about this…)
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Developers can use tools such as the Semantic Kernel SDK that Microsoft open-sourced in March to integrate large language models with conventional programming languages it added. That kit includes tools for memory and orchestration and some handy guidance for those who want to build everything on Azure…
Such plugins could be a “bridge between a large language model that was trained on public data from the internet and all the data that a company may keep privately about its benefits. The plugin is the bridge that gives the copilot access to those files when it answers a question from an employee at the company” Microsoft said, adding that developer-created plugins could also “serve as a bridge between a large language model and a website or back-end system that a company uses to book business travel, enabling the copilot to make arrangements for a salesperson’s trip to San Francisco that are in line with the company’s travel policy.”
Microsoft is also adding a Copilot AI assistant to Windows 11 (previewing from June) – a Cortana on steroids that Panos Panay, Microsoft’s head of Windows and devices, says will “make every user a power user.”