Ignite, AI, and Government Policies
On the show: We talk about Microsoft Ignite 2023; it’s a smaller show, but does that mean quality over quantity? After Microsoft 365 Copilot arrived in GA (general availability) two weeks ago, what has feedback from customers been like? We discuss the USA executive order that brings in new AI rules – how will they affect your plans for AI using Microsoft Cloud technologies, and what implications could they have globally if other countries or the EU follow suit.
Speaking of governments – we’re joined by TEC keynote speaker & advisor to governments globally on cybersecurity, Dr Alex Crowther. He talks about cybersecurity risks you need to be aware of, why they exist, and how to protect against them, drawing on his 40-year career defending nation-states from attacks.
Microsoft Ignite 2023: What to Expect
This year, the session catalog has some familiar favorites and most of the session catalog is available live online as well as in-person at the mini-Ignite event in Seattle, WA.
For Teams-focused IT pros, the Teams Keynote follows a similar convention to the last few years: Get ready for the future of work with Microsoft Teams; and as you might expect, there’s a heavy weighting across the session catalog towards Copilots. Expect to need to draw a “What Copilot to use when” diagram by the end of the week. In all seriousness though, as I say on the podcast, the infusion of AI into different parts of Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft Cloud products does indicate that they expect customers to buy & enable role-specific types of Copilots rather than buy everything for everyone; For example – a frontline worker might not need a $30 license to do something Copilot-powered.
Check out the Ignite 2023 Session Catalog and stay tuned to Practical 365, as Tony Redmond will be writing about Ignite’s best bits later today.
Microsoft 365 Copilot is Generally Available: What Does That Even Mean?
These days, Microsoft’s terminology for “available” is as hard to decipher as their licensing model can be. If you are one of the majority of Microsoft’s customers – mid-market and smaller enterprise customers, or an SMB customer then you might be feeling a little left out, as you almost certainly won’t have been able to buy Microsoft 365 Copilot on November 1st.
Yes – it’s GA, but this comes hand in hand with a current minimum seat count of 300 licenses. Realistically, most businesses with, for example, 500-1000 employees won’t stump up for 300 licenses for Microsoft 365 Copilot today; and because Microsoft doesn’t currently offer a trial license or licensing in smaller quantities, it is fair to say Microsoft 365 Copilot isn’t generally available to most of it’s customers.
But, if you are in a business with say, 30K employees, then 300 licenses for a POC (Proof of Concept) or small Pilot and you have Microsoft 365 Purview in place and you have a well-governed Microsoft 365 tenant and you have Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 licenses – then it is generally available.
From the comments on Microsoft’s GA announcement, it seems a few people feel the same way. And with good reason: the smaller and mid-market customers are in numbers, Microsoft’s biggest customers, and they are the market that would benefit most from easy-to-implement commodity AI inside Microsoft 365. If you were an executive at a mid-sized business, then it would be easy to feel that Microsoft has begun the Copilot story by giving the Goliath enterprise a massive leg up first.
The reality though is most likely much simpler: Today Microsoft doesn’t have the capacity for new Azure OpenAI deployments of GPT-4 models in the USA, Western Europe, and the UK; the compute itself is expensive for Microsoft to give away as trials and the promised logical separation of data that doesn’t necessarily exist in normal ChatGPT-type solutions means that it’s not as straightforward to give away as Bing Enterprise Chat (or rather, Copilot in Edge as its now known).
If reports that Microsoft has or is developing its own AI chip prove to be true then the mid to long-term solution for Microsoft will be in sight, and it won’t need to rely upon Nvidia or other third-party vendors with expensive GPU capacity and could, potentially, run Copilot and OpenAI services using similar AI acceleration chips like Google’s Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) cloud offerings. Certainly something to keep an eye out for at Microsoft Ignite, as this could drive down Microsoft’s costs for running Copilot, and its availability significantly.
US Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence
Before Alex joins us on the show, we discuss the US executive order that has the potential to affect Microsoft, and any customers planning to roll it out in the US federal government in particular; while it might only affect the USA for now, similar rulings or regulation will likely be put in place in other western jurisdictions.
The order aims to ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, trustworthy, fair, transparent, accountable, and respectful of human rights and civil liberties. It directs federal agencies to adopt best practices and standards for AI governance, risk management, testing, and evaluation. Additionally, the order promotes public engagement and stakeholder consultation on AI issues, as well as international cooperation and leadership on AI norms and values.
Our Guest This Week: Cybersecurity Expert Alex Crowther & Microsoft’s Digital Defence Report 2023.
Dr Alex Crowther joins myself and Paul Robichaux on the show.
With his extensive experience in cybersecurity and international policy, Dr. Crowther brings a unique perspective to the discussion of the Microsoft Digital Defense Report for 2023. We dive into the key findings of the report and ask an independent view on whether Microsoft is providing insight or leaning towards a Microsoft-centric view of the cyber world.
Although Alex is an advisor to nations – he worked at the Pentagon for many years, and works with the UK, European nations, and nations in Asia; he has good, real-world advice that apply to us as individuals and to small and large business. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain valuable insights from a leading expert in the field.
We’ll be back in two weeks’ time, where Rich Dean and I will analyze the best of Microsoft Ignite and examine, once the dust has settled, what new technology has arrived; and we’ll be joined by a special guest to talk about real-world experience with AI in business.