Google and Microsoft are bringing AI to Word, Excel, Gmail and more. It could boost productivity for us – and cybercriminals


Google and Microsoft are on a mission to remove the drudgery from computing, by bringing next-generation AI tools as add-ons to existing services.

On March 16, Microsoft announced an AI-powered system called Copilot will soon be introduced to its 365 suite apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams.

The news came about two days after Google published a blog explaining its plans to embed AI into its Workspace apps such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet and Chat.

Collectively, millions of people use these apps each day. Bolstering them with AI could provide a major productivity boost – as long as security isn’t an afterthought.

The advent of generative AI

Until recently AI was mainly used for categorisation and identification tasks, such as recognising a number plate using a traffic camera.

Generative AI allows users to create new content, by applying deep-learning algorithms to big data. ChatGPT and DALL-E, among others, have already taken the world by storm.

Now, Microsoft and Google have found a more concrete way to bring generative AI into our offices and classrooms.

Like other generative AI tools, Copilot and Workspace AI are built on large language models (LLM) trained on massive amounts of data. Through this training, the systems have “learned” many rules and patterns that can be applied to new content and contexts.

Microsoft’s Copilot is being trialled with just 20 customers, with details about availability and pricing to be released “in the coming months”.

Copilot will be integrated across apps to help expedite tedious or repetitive tasks. For example, it will:

  • help users write, edit and summarise Word documents
  • turn ideas or summaries into full PowerPoint presentations
  • identify data trends in Excel and quickly create visualisations
  • “synthesise and manage” your Outlook inbox
  • provide real-time summaries of Teams meetings
  • bring together data from across documents, presentations, email, calendar, notes and contacts to help write emails and summarise chats.

Assuming it executes these tasks effectively, Copilot will be a massive upgrade from Microsoft’s original Office Assistant, Clippy.

Google’s Workspace AI will offer similar capabilities for paying subscribers.