back to article Microsoft promises Copilot will be a 'moneymaker' in the long term

Microsoft is asking investors to "temper" expectations for quick financial returns from Copilot amid efforts to convince customers that paying "substantial" sums each month is actually worth it. After trialing the use of Microsoft's GenAI in their workflow, testers told the Wall Street Journal that they had mixed feelings …

  1. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So they're going to dedicate Copilot to serving ads?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      What do you want to buy today?

      copilot> What do you want to buy today?

      user> Nothing, I have everything thanks

      copilot> Are you sure? You are missing out on so many things that people in your area buy.

      user> Like what?

      copilot> When did you last time had a good night's sleep?

      user> None of your business

      copilot> You are staying up late and still wake up early. That's 4-5 hours of sleep?

      user> So?

      copilot> You need a carefully designed memory foam pillow to get the most out of the time you have for sleep.

      user> My pillow is fine, thanks

      copilot> Your typing rate is slow in the morning and you searched for pain killers.

      user> None of your business

      copilot> Just take a look at that link <amazon affiliate link to memory foam pillow>, won't hurt. See reviews.

      user> Are they fake like yourself?

      copilot> I understand that you are sceptical, but the pillow has 100% money back guarantee. I think it will help you.

      user> I don't have time for this right now

      copilot> I can place the order for you.

      user> Ok do it, whatever.

      copilot> Done. It will be delivered tomorrow.

      *5 minutes later*

      copilot> Have you heard of the benefits of CBD oil?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: What do you want to buy today?

        copilot> Ah, so you're a waffle man.

    2. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Clippy trying to flog stuff

      It looks like you're writing an email.

      Let me interest you in ...

    3. Trank1234

      Lol, count on it. Abuse your data, steal your IP, take your job and force ads on you. If that isn't a giant pickup truck of 'Merica, I didn't know what is

  2. ptribble

    Whenever I see a claim that adding a given tools makes users of X, Y, Z more productive, all that tells me is that X, Y, and Z are in need of serious improvement.

    In this case, it's not that Copilot is good; it's that Office 365, Teams, and Outlook are so poor.

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      I think that if, as stated, X, Y & Z could be made more productive with Copilot, one of X, Y or Z will be fired.

      No doubt Copilot will help with the letter of dismissal.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Tried it today - turning 12000 words of random notes into a PowerPoint deck. It basically just cut-and-pasted it into a pretty shit presentation. Not even particularly well formatted (not quite into additional limb or a missing finger territory).

      Then asked it to compose an email thanking my co-worker for enrolling me in the trial. Was so fawning and gushing I actually blushed.

      Deeply underwhelmed by Co-Pilot for office.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Originally I was going to tell off a colleague for using Copilot to research business projects due to the data leaks so caused, but then I realised we already run most of our stuff on Azure and use Teams so Microsoft already have access to everything anyway..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yep. Our email is Exchange in the cloud, all our documents are in Sharepoint in the cloud, and we're migrating all our code to Github. MS pushing Copilot to Windows so it can scrape the remaining stuff off PCs is just closing the circle.

          It's a US multinational so no CxO cares anyway, but any business outside of the US with a board which allows the same thing to happen is incompetent.

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: It basically just cut-and-pasted it into a pretty shit presentation.

        Yes. But to a bystander it would appear amazing that it could do it at all.

        I had this experience way back when the first automatic translators appeared online. One was named Babelfish, which was a good start.

        I was impressed. I showed it to a colleague, a French national of Lebanese origin. I got it to translate a randomly selected page off the BBC news web site into French. Isn't that amazing, I gushed.

        No, he replied, it's shit.

        But, interest piqued he asked to try it in the other direction. We got it to translate a page from some French news site (I forget which) into English.

        Wow, that's amazing, he opined.

        No, it's shit, was my judgment.

        -A.

      3. Trank1234

        That's disappointing. This was basically the only valuable use case I could think of for AI

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Whenever I see a claim that adding a given tools makes users of X, Y, Z more productive

      ... it makes me wonder about those users.

      Take Copilot as a "coding assistant". Enthusiasts claim it makes writing code far more productive. What's their metric? Presumably something like volume of source code generated, or number of function points implemented, or time to completion for a small programming task (because LLM code generators haven't existed long enough to complete a large programming task).

      But writing code isn't programming, and programming isn't software development, so those metrics aren't particularly useful. If a code-generation tool makes that much of a difference to your productivity as a programmer, then you're not a very good programmer, and you're certainly not a good software developer.

      Also, a majority of software development is maintaining existing code: fixing, enhancing, or modernizing existing code bases. Often those are very large corpora — much too large to fit in the context window of any commercially-available LLM. So coding assistants won't have critical information for code-maintenance tasks.

      It's harder to mount specific arguments about the use of LLMs for generating prose (or, god help us, verse), because natural-language discourse is far more subjective. But as someone with degrees in literature and writing, and who has taught writing and done a variety of professional writing, I've yet to see LLM output that I'd consider more than functionally adequate.

      More importantly, using a tool to generate discourse is, I'd argue, fundamentally a cognitive trap. Writing is an important exercise in thinking: in organizing information, analyzing its structure and content, formulating arguments, making pragmatic1 choices, understanding audience, and so forth. Using an LLM sacrifices a critical opportunity to refine your thinking. That's counter-productive.

      In short, the LLM proponents are measuring the wrong things.

      1"Pragmatic" in the technical linguistic sense: being aware of and making an informed choice among various options for expressing an idea in natural language.

  3. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Joke

    Diversifying the income streams

    micros~1 keeps to push half-baked AIs into absolutely everything

    stream 1 : subscriptions for the non-shitty AIs

    stream 2 : subscriptions to make the half-baked AIs go away

    1. Trank1234

      Re: Diversifying the income streams

      Nice breakdown. You're totally right

  4. Howard Sway Silver badge

    users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

    Do I detect the beginnings of an admission that this stuff has been hyped up out of all proportion, driven by the vast sums paid by big tech companies hoping to get in on the hype, and now that people have started paying for it and using it and discovering that it really can't do anything more than spit out stuff that you could have found just as easily with a simple web search, the realisation may be dawning that it might have been rather oversold?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

      The back-pedalling has started.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

        But surely this was going to be the next blockchain! I mean VR! I mean IoT! Um ... 3D television? WML? Smart assistant? Wearable computing?

        Oh, wait.

    2. ITMA Silver badge

      Re: users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

      Not to mention...

      Employee "Here's the work you asked me to do boss".

      Boss "Ah good. Did you use AI much?"

      Employee "Yep. It was really good and did most of it! Saved me hours".

      Boss "Then what the effing hell am I paying you for? Your fired!"

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

        Employee "My fired what?"

        -A.

    3. Trank1234

      Re: users quoted in the WSJ want it to be their financial analyst. "And it's going to disappoint"

      But man they are happy to use enough water to fill lake Powell every year to extend the generous opportunity to you.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hell No... at least from my Company

    The MD decided that he'd like to try out Co-Pilot. 4 hours later an email was sent by his secretary banning Co-Pilot and also banning spending one penny with MS from now on.

    We were already weaning thew users off of Office and Exchange and what it did to his PC was the last straw.

    This was when it was spewing out pron.

    We are going Linux and MacOS from now on. MS is dead to us.

    Carry on forcing people to take your half baked tech when they don't want it. It is a great way to get rid of the dross from your customer base. Eventually, a few very large companies will do the same. How's that bonus then SatNad?

    1. Lurko

      Re: Hell No... at least from my Company

      I suspect that the experience you describe will be the exception rather than the rule.

      Microsoft know how most large company bosses think, and they've already identified that touting trivial productivity gains will be sufficient to persuade them. They'll keep on shovelling out "research" that "proves" people are more productive with Crapalot, and in the grand tradition of the Emperor's New Clothes, the bigwigs will suspend their disbelief and insist that it is rolled out. In addition to ENC, as soon as famous consultancies start bragging about the massive benefits realised at a competitor, that will tap straight into the executive FOMO.

      Like a tsunami of sewage, AI is rolling in unstoppably.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Hell No... at least from my Company

        I wonder what goes on with so many organisations switching to Teams and Microshaft ecosystem.

        There is always universal backlash from the users and push back from the top.

        I am yet to figure out what value add Microshaft brings, but procurement seems to be happy with it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hell No... at least from my Company

          For the lawyers, these are all assumptions.

          They have a vast infrastructure dedicated to security - because people tend to forget they're actually the reason you need that to start with.

          They have ruined usability - so they can prove to shareholders that it doesn't matter how bad they make it, people are locked in (and they can always revert this, claiming 'improvement', although anyone looking back at the promises of more productivity will have to be convinced to ignore the many lost manhours after they changed the user interface once again - and they're at it again with Teams and Outlook).

          They have deep data analytics so you can stop people from copying confidential information (unless they use a camera and make pics of screens) - because they need that anyway to have a look at all that juicy IP they could maybe use themselves. In that context, the need for CoPilot to 'learn' means allowing it to trawl through everything..

          Do. not. trust. them.

  6. Martin Summers

    Who is buying this bullshit? Who is it really saving time for so much so that it is 'indispensable'. I don't for a minute believe that everyone all of a sudden needs copilot. They'd love you to think they do because they've put so much time and effort into it, oh and lots of cash too.

    They can't let it fail because they've bet the house on AI. Only it is going to, because it's worth nothing beyond being a shiny toy for people to play with. I would argue it would probably cost more productivity in that respect if companies were daft enough to enable it.

    1. Trank1234

      Reminds me of VR

  7. froggreatest

    substandard?

    > “… and people have very high expectations," he told an audience of investors

    I think what he was saying that people want a good product and not just some semi finished crap bolted on openai’s api’s.

    Also, the claim it saves 10 hrs a week is baseless. I’m using these various tools daily and their effectiveness is marginal, akin to being introduced to a typeahead in the search.

    There is potential for sure, discounting all of the hype, but it will be acieved by some other company capable of building better products.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: substandard?

      "their effectiveness is marginal, akin to being introduced to a typeahead in the search."

      In other words, harmless if you just ignore it.

  8. david1024

    Playbook

    Can see the playbook now... They've already got us used to changing the language and the menu options... So I quickly see a way that updates lead to obfuscation that only copilot can untangle ... So yeah, we are already locked in. Just pays ya'monoy and stop squeaking.

  9. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Honest review

    We have invested heavily and soon we will need some greater fools to buy us out. We tried it and it works great, honest. We thoroughly recommend it ... to our competitors. If your IT people are trash talking it that must be because they are afraid it will replace them. If it did not rake in cash at your friend's company that is either because he is doing it wrong or he should have bought the enterprise version.

    Now how about investing in some sure fire high return sub-prime loans or block chain tulips?

  10. Wyrdness

    Github copilot is useful for coding

    I'm a Linux & Mac user, and definitely not a fan of Microsoft. But I've been using Github copilot recently with some great results. Last week I was writing a Lightningjs app for a smart TV. I've never used Lightningjs before and knew nothing at all about it (or indeed Javascript). Github copilot can be scarily good at times. Even with a language and framework that I had zero knowledge of on Monday, by Wednesday I had a basic but working home automation app running on a TV, able to control lights and other home devices. Copilot was able to guess what I was trying to do and would suggest code to do it. It wasn't always correct, but sometimes it was simply astonishing and really helped me to learn rapidly.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

      Right, but that's really just showing you the power of the LLM when it can scrape through everybody's code. Or did it tell you where it got which bits from? Doesn't really matter, the domain-specific stuff like programming should make the literate dream a possibility. But, considering there are now open source models out there that can do just as well, how much are you prepared to pay to use it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

        .. and are you ready for the lawyers who find bits of code that look remarkable like that of their clients?

      2. jospanner

        Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

        Which open source models?

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

      > I've never used Lightningjs before and knew nothing at all about it (or indeed Javascript). Github copilot can be scarily good at times.

      If you know nothing about either the library that you somehow decided you needed, nor even the programming language that somehow you decided was appropriate, just how would you judge how good it is?

      -A.

      1. Howard Sway Silver badge

        Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

        or how secure it is?

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Github copilot is useful for coding

        "Copilot saved me from thinking!"

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Hey, vastly overpaid CxOs, riddle me this

    All you high-falutin' business execs who swear on Sun Tzu, explain to me why :

    1) you are willing to not only give your internal company workings to a competitor (Borkzilla is nobody's friend), but are willing to pay for the privilege

    2) you have apparently no qualms to hand over such data to a company you cannot trust to either not benefit from it, or not sell that data or use it somewhere else

    Is it because, when Borkzilla starts a new branch that does what your company does, you're hoping to get hired as branch manager ?

    Good luck with that.

  12. trevorde Silver badge

    Lies, damn lies and statistics

    According to Microsoft sponsored research, Copilot users work 29% faster and save 10 hrs per week.

    If something is too good to be true...

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Lies, damn lies and statistics

      If it were true businesses really need to consider if they are employing the right people.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Lies, damn lies and statistics

        If it were real, most office workers would use an X percent improvement in "productivity" (however measured) to goof off by that amount. I know I would.

        My value to my employer lies in what I am able to do, not (within reason) in how long it takes. I rather hope that most of the rest of you are in that position.

        -A.

  13. terry 1

    NoPilot

    I had a little play out of curiosity. Most of the responses felt like they were directly lifted and reformatted from search engine data / wiki etc. I had a go at telling it to write Z80 code and it spew out loads of irrelevant stuff until I got a bit of code (hello world, yellow text on a brown background). after that I went to bed and didn't bother any more.

  14. MacGuffin

    Copilot Tattles

    I used Microsoft’s AI “Copilot” this morning to try and generate a picture. I entered “Donald Trump on the Titanic”. Copilot then reported my account to Microsoft for violating the terms of agreement. No picture. Just tattling.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Copilot Tattles

      Hmmm, censorship is just soo freedom lovin' American..

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Copilot Tattles

      I expect that it categorised Titanic and Trump as basically the same, with good reason, and disappeared up its own recursion.

      -A.

    3. samzeman

      Re: Copilot Tattles

      This "No generating real people" thing is definitely going to become dated and unfashionable. You can download Stable Diffusion and generate pictures of real people easily. The models are out there and almost entirely believable, especially for laypeople not looking out for AI images. The genie is out of the bottle, but they just want to cover themselves in case someone says they used Copilot to generate a pic of Princess Kate trying to leave the country.

      1. MacGuffin

        Re: Copilot Tattles

        I have generated real people using Copilot. It is selective about WHICH real people. No way of knowing just who will offend it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Copilot Tattles

          "I have generated real people"

          So has every parent.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Copilot Tattles

            Need. more. upvotes.

            :)

  15. breakfast Silver badge

    A question of policy

    Copilot does make Windows 11 Pro a slightly better option than the Home version, because you can disable it with a group policy rather than having to mess around in the registry.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: A question of policy

      Copilot does make anything other than Windows a slightly* better option because you won't have to mess at all to disable it.

      -A.

      * By which I mean "much".

  16. Cloudy Day

    Apparently....

    You can delegate copilot to attend teams meetings on you behalf. So it joins the meeting and captures a transcript etc. I was at an event the other day and this customer was talking about their experience around doing this whilst on the co-pilot pilot. They have a morning status meeting which is very boring. So, one day, one person sent co-pilot to 'represent' them. Next day, two people sent co-pilot. And so on. They were sayiong that pretty soon the morning status meeting would be entirely populated by co-pilots, rather than people.

    Of course, this is when the co-pilots will start talking to each other. Otherwise known as the singularity :)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Apparently....

      So the business case for Copilot is proving that some (many? most?) meetings are pointless and should be cancelled?

      That explains the "10 hours a week" claim!

      Although once you've cut back your meetings to the ones that actually matter, why would you keep paying MS to attend them?

      1. samzeman

        Re: Apparently....

        I think the endgame is co-pilot as a form of talking therapy for people that like the sound of their own voice.

        They boot up the weekly meeting and have a captive audience of 11 co-pilots to present to for as long as they like, with no questions or disagreements.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Apparently....

      I'm sure there are already cases of email conversations between LLM agents. And we'll see more and more of this over time. Machines just generating prose that's never seen by any human and has no useful effect whatsoever. Just consuming resources.

      We already have more or less constant wars between bot armies that are no longer being actively supervised by anyone and automated network defenses; this is simply a milder version of the same thing. Automate complex systems enough and eventually they'll simply run on their own to no productive end, as long as you keep them powered on.

  17. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Sure, Copilot can make money

    Set it to exploiting vulnerabilities in smart contracts and mixing the proceeds. Have it create MEV bots and front-run transactions. Pump-and-dump cryptocurrencies, or create new shitcoins and DeFi projects and then rug-pull.

    Use it to automate help-desk scams, phishing, BEC attacks.

    Automate conventional cons: Ponzi schemes and other bogus investment vehicles, romance schemes, 419s, grandchild-in-peril.

    None of that would be difficult; the only problem is getting in before you're drowned out in the noise of every other competent criminal enterprise doing the same.

    Oh, make money by providing actual value? Hmm, that's a bit tougher.

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