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Determine which version of Microsoft Copilot is right for you

Copilot has quickly become an important strategic part of Microsoft’s product and service lineup. Whether you’re a large enterprise, a small business, or just a regular Windows PC user, you’re likely at least familiar with Microsoft Copilot and its generative AI capabilities.

Microsoft currently offers three versions of Copilot to its customers:

  • this Free co-pilot version It’s available to everyone using Windows, Microsoft Edge, or the Bing website.
  • this Co-Pilot Professional Edition It’s also available to everyone using Windows, Microsoft Edge, or the Bing website for an additional $20 monthly subscription fee.
  • this Co-pilot 365 version Available to Microsoft 365 subscribers for an additional $30/month/user subscription fee.

But which version of Microsoft Copilot is right for you and your business? Besides access price, what else should you know about each version?

Microsoft Copilot version comparison

feature microsoft copilot Co-Pilot Professional Edition co-pilot 365
Function operation General questions return general answers General questions return general answers Specific questions return specific answers
data source Bing Search and the Internet Bing Search and the Internet Internally generated organizational data
cost free $20/user/month $30/user/month
Best use cases General users and small businesses Small and medium-sized businesses that need reliability and speed SMBs and enterprises with large data pools

How to choose the best version of Microsoft Copilot

No matter which version of Microsoft Copilot you decide to use, the basic operation of the software remains the same: ask questions, get answers. The difference between each version is how the AI ​​accesses its underlying data sources and where the data comes from.

Free Microsoft Co-Pilot

The free version of Microsoft Copilot extracts data for natural language processing models from Bing searches and other aggregated information tracked by Microsoft. Basically, AI generates results based on internal sources, external sources through Bing searches, and various custom data sources.

This gives the Copilot platform scope to answer any general questions (Figure A). Typically, this reduces efficiency when users need specific and detailed answers to specific questions. The free version of Microsoft Copilot is intended for general use and should be used in this manner. If you need generative AI to provide general answers to general questions, Copilot may be what you need.

Microsoft Copilot answers general questions.
Figure A: Microsoft Copilot answers general questions. Image credit: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

Microsoft Co-Pilot Pro

The latest addition to the company’s family of generative artificial intelligence software is called Microsoft Copilot Pro. This version of Copilot uses the same NLP model based on Bing searches and other aggregated information as the free version, but for an additional $20 per user per month, the Pro version provides priority access to GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo during peak times to speed up performance. .

In other words, Microsoft Copilot Pro will prioritize access to the server so you can get answers from its AI faster than customers who are only using the free version. At least, that’s the theory.

The reality is that the time difference between getting an answer from Copilot Pro and getting the same answer from the free version is almost negligible at this point. However, assuming AI continues to become more prevalent and used, the speed of getting answers from Microsoft Copilot may slow down, making priority access more attractive in the future.

If you plan to rely on Copilot for critical interactions, it may be in your best interest to pay for a subscription that grants priority access. That being said, it may also be financially prudent to wait for this need to arise first. You have to decide which one is best for your situation.

Microsoft Co-Pilot 365

Microsoft Copilot 365 is very different from the free or professional versions of the platform in terms of where and how data is extracted for NLP models. This is because Copilot 365 uses data collected from data generated by the host organization.

Microsoft Copilot 365 is best suited for enterprises, organizations, and small and medium-sized businesses that generate large amounts of institutional data. By limiting the data that goes into Copilot’s NLP data model, institutional clients can have more control over the answers that the AI ​​will generate. Think of it as easily accessible systemic institutional knowledge. Access to this institutional knowledge costs $30 per user per month, which is in addition to your normal Microsoft 365 subscription.

To illustrate its potential, consider the following example. Let’s say you need to include your new official company logo in your sales proposal. Typically, you’d email marketing asking for a link to your logo file; that deal might require you to wait until the next day for a response, which could result in a lost sale. However, Copilot 365 should already know what the new official logo is and where to get it from. By asking Copilot 365 you can find the official link to your new company logo in seconds, without exchanging emails.

It’s important to note that institutional data accessed by Copilot must be accurate, vetted, verifiable and accessible. For Microsoft Copilot 365 to work effectively and efficiently, organizations must abandon traditional concepts of compartmentalizing and departmentalizing information. For many businesses and SMEs, this adjustment in attitude towards data will be a big hurdle to overcome.

Microsoft Copilot 365 has the potential to be an extremely powerful tool for organizations willing to adopt the platform, technology, and mindset required to implement it. Without support from all levels of the organization, AI also has the potential to cause a significant waste of energy, resources, and time.

If your organization has a forward-thinking collective mindset, Microsoft Copilot 365 may be just what you need to build a competitive advantage in your business market. If implemented correctly, Copilot 365 should provide users with reliable, accurate, and specific answers to specific questions. Decision makers in each organization must determine whether the potential for reliable answers is worth the implementation effort and associated costs.

How to choose the version of Microsoft Copilot?

Choosing the version of Microsoft Copilot that’s best for you or your organization depends entirely on you and what you want from generative AI, including whether you want nothing at all. At this stage of the development cycle, the overall effectiveness of all AI platforms varies greatly. Microsoft Copilot has huge potential. All businesses and SMEs should at least give this platform a try.

Just as cloud computing and the Internet of Things were once technologies on the horizon, generative AI is a technology still in its infancy. But like these innovations, artificial intelligence will play a vital role in the future of work. Therefore, it would be advantageous for organizations, businesses, and users at all levels to become familiar with the capabilities and limitations of Microsoft Copilot and other artificial intelligence platforms.

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