Demystifying Microsoft Copilots

Jon Manderville
May 1, 2024

In any business, you are mindful about where your company's budget is allocated. No one wants to willingly waste hundreds of pounds on tools that just gather virtual dust.

When it first arrived, I wasn't in a huge rush to jump on the AI bandwagon - at all. Some in our business are more adept at grasping the newest and shiniest but I put myself in the bracket of 'open but sceptical' on the real value of AI derived tooling to business.

A very brief aside here.  In this post, Im not going to differentiate between AI, Machine Learning, Deep learning and Large language models. I'll cover that in one of the live sessions you can see trailed below. Instead, I use the catch all term AI for all tooling that is 'derived' from artificially intelligent software techniques. In the main however - should you want to dig deeper - I am talking about software that uses Large Language models (or LLM's) as a write this piece as this is where consumer AI has really exploded.  

Back to the topic at hand...maybe it's sheer volume of selling that's softening me up, but Im starting to come around.  It feels like AI is everywhere. It's all my Facebook feed talks about - "AI will transform your business", "Don't miss the goldrush". Now, I'm also very much seeing Microsoft push hard alongside Google pushing Gemini and others too.

So when Microsoft launched their new "Copilot for Microsoft 365" AI assistant at a hefty £295 ($360) annual price tag, my first and over-riding thought was "do we need this?!"

In a sea of AI/LLM tools - most of which are currently free, including some great Microsoft ones - is there a use case for something that promises to be my "AI Business assistant"?

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First lets look at this AI landscape in general - before we dig into where this particular purchase aligns.

Why Use AI Derived Tools At All?

Currently, there are lots of business processes we have replaced or supplemented with either automations (like Power Automate) or with AI tools as either time savers or even in some cases to replace the need for time from team members. 

For example, I'm terrible at creating graphics, so we we use Midjourney and Copilot in Bing to speed up and reduce cost on Image creation. The main image on this blog and many others was created using a Midjourney prompt in minutes.

This is a job I just can't do alone and know that even if I reach for a service like to recruit someone to do it for me, there is a cost, and it will certainly take more than 5 minutes. It's a controversial decision for some but one which unfortunately I feel is inevitable if we want to keep pace and keep quality high in our Internet properties. 

Business processes where AI Derived Tooling can help 

Memory and Storage Capacity

I mean this in the sense of me as a person. I have a memory like a sieve. So when performing a task where we need to generate new ideas or structures, I sometimes forget some meaningful element I had learned that could transform the outcome.

Using ChatGPT, we have created custom "GPT's" that are trained on various frameworks we use for Digital Marketing. We use these to take an intent we decide upon and infuse it with key learning points from the frameworks. We use ChatGPT to create a plan of attack for mailshots or posts relating to upcoming events and workshops.

Left to my own devices, I would be more inclined to forget an important aspect when crafting the artefacts - like the importance of a headline or a phrasing in the overall impact a piece of writing may have. AI acts as my memory and conscience. I just have to edit it's output knowing it's got the right ingredients covered for me.  

Technical help and Support

I use ChatGPT (again) all the time to get help in rewriting complex brain dumps into coherent Blog post drafts or structures. I don't let it write the full blog text for me - often the word choice is dreadful and not at all my 'tone'.  I also use it in a technical capacity to create JSON snippets to use in SharePoint, analyse expressions in Power Automate and more. Essentially as my developer expert where needed.

I could find an expert and go pester them all the time (Connor is pretty patient) but then again, more often I can get the answer I need from AI. Saving time, context shifting for two people and energy (Connor demands a coffee every time he offers help so it gets expensive too).  

Other Use Cases

There are countless other tools we use - such as to help smooth and streamline (even grammar check) text we write - so the question for me is, can Copilot for Microsoft 365 replace AND/OR Build new options on top of the ones I use now?

Note: The only cost in all I have mentioned above is around $16 USD per month for 4 people to use ChatGPT pro on 1 account. A spend that's worth it in my opinion right now.

What Does Copilot for Microsoft 365 Replace?

To answer the question "Do I have a Copilot for M365 shaped gap" in my business or work life there is a very important clarification needed.

What are we talking about when we say "Copilot" and what can "it" do?

I hear these questions a lot:

  • Which Copilot do I need?
  • Will Copilot for Microsoft 365 replace the Copilot I use in Edge (or Bing?)
  • Can I make my own AI using Copilot Studio?
  • Do I just need Copilot for Power Automate?
  • Is Copilot for Power Apps same as the one I use in Edge?
  • What is Copilot Pro?
  • Is Copilot for Microsoft 365 the same as Windows Copilot?

Seeing a common theme here? I have mentioned "Copilot" in all of those bullets. Same word but each is a very different thing we are talking about. 

To me, it's like sharing a mini-van on a long journey with a lot of people all called "Jon". I shout to "Jon" for directions and all the Jons shout back different instructions together. Confusing right? 

I only wanted to talk to the Jon in the passenger seat who has the map. The others, I'd be happy if they stayed asleep! 

And that for me is at the heart of a lot of the barriers people face right now with the idea of investment in AI - and specifically in this Microsoft example. The questions limiting people right now are:

"Which tool is best? Which of these things all called Copilot do I need?"

A Simple Guide To Microsoft "Copilot(s)"

Here's a trick I have learned through a few painful chats explaining the potential purchase to the team. 


Take the mini-van analogy. You call out "Jon!", needing directions. 15 Jon's reply. This is bad. 

Call the person sat in the passenger seat "map-Jon" and the one sat behind you, name him "drinks-Jon". Maybe one at the back "singing-Jon".

That's what I do with Copilots. I align them to the purpose they fulfil. That way, I know which service I'm talking about and why it has a use to me and the team. In a conversation about why we want to use one of them, be specific. Match the use to a specific name and all will become much clearer.  

There IS a reason why they are all called "Jon" by the way. And its one we are perhaps not used to yet in many software applications we use. Each Copilot we interact with might LOOK different. However they are all in general driven by the same underlying engine (the Large Language Model).

In Microsoft's case, this is an instance of the LLM specifically procured for us to use in our tenants.

What we are seeing then are specific applications which surface the capabilities of this LLM to us in differing ways - to suit the context we are operating in at the time. 

Knowing this, you can still call each a different name but know that you don't need all of them to achieve the goal you set out to with AI support. Maybe you can use a free Copilot to get a high % of the productivity gain you were hoping for instead of by default being tricked into higher cost 

Hopping back into the mini-van. If I already know my way, I don't need a "map-jon". I wont pay his fee and he can leave. I can have "singing-jon" sat next to me because I may need some light entertainment in this long journey. Im still getting a nicer journey but Im not paying an overhead for services I don't need.

Although each Copilot has the same or similar names, they each perform a different task for you. That is the big trick to avoid confusion and to make sure you use/replace or learn about ONLY the Copilots that have high value for you right now.  

So, knowing that all Copilots are sourced from the same underlying software and just surface particular strengths in their context,  try the guide below.

See if it fits for you and put your own spin on each to match how you and your team will remember them best. If you have other 'Copilots' you are confused about, drop me a message in the Collab365 Academy and I'll add to the lists below. 



Other AI tools that do similar jobs

My "Friendly" Name

Copilot For Microsoft 365

An AI assistant that knows Your Data and can respond in a chat interface about your activity and your information within the M365 tenant

Azure Open AI

Microsoft Copilot - because it lives at tenant level and operates on all my data if I let it

Copilot In Bing/Edge

A general helper to search, create and write (inc. images)

ChatGPT and DallE

Edge Copilot - Because I use it from Edge. Now I have Microsoft Copilot, it also has a switch to be a chat interface for the web and my work data too 

Copilot for Power Apps

Copilot for Power Apps

A tool to speed up and help build apps using a no-code/low code interface


Power Apps/Power Automate Copilot - because it is a helper for these services only

Copilot for Windows 

A tool that lives on your desktop or laptop and helps perform certain tasks


Windows Copilot - It lives on my laptop. It also behaves just like Edge Copilot if I want but can ALSO do things on my device. So its different

But There Are Loads More Copilots!

Now you are getting the hang of naming your Copilots because they do specific things for you and are all driven by an underlying LLM, you can start to match each to the tasks you perform. I hope the table above helps with some of the bigger questions you might have. 

I am still very much in the evaluation phase to decide if I really can feel happy about a spend on Microsoft Copilot (my name for it) and will continue this series as the experiments develop. I'll be making this blog post into a series soon enough with early impressions and also some top things to try. 

Before I wrap up this post, I want to throw out some more terms and clarify what they mean to avoid them muddying the water for you.

Remember, each 'Copilot' is a specific implementation of the LLM that serves a purpose (or in some cases many) for you. Each does it's thing in the context of how that interface has been designed for you Maybe some do several things but you decide how and when they are useful.

Copilot Pro - Like Edge Copilot only a little more feature rich and performant. It is also for consumers and not businesses (an upgrade to Edge Copilot technically). 

Security Copilot - An entirely different beast dedicated to your tenant and data security. We will be exploring this as part of this series. 

Copilot Studio: Available on tenants where Power Virtual Agents used to be. It is a place to go build "Chatbots" or "AI infused Chatbots" called …you guessed it "Copilots". lol.  Im going to call the product of this service "chatbot-Copilots".  I'll be exploring these as part of this series as they can be super useful to both customers and your team alike.

If you have already taken the plunge, as a result of your purchase of Copilot for Microsoft 365, you will also get these additional 'in service' Copilots. I'll be exploring the capabilities of these more as part of this series. 

  • Copilot for Outlook: Assistant that can draft and manage emails
  • Copilot for Word -  An assistant that can help write and edit documents
  • Copilot for Excel - An assistant embedded into Excel that can help with Formula and data analysis
  • Copilot for Power Point - Like all those above, an assistant to help you describe the actions you want within PowerPoint and have it figure out how to implement them for you. 
  • Copilot for Forms - Develop forms quickly from a natural language prompt. 

Where Next?

More and more will be coming online all the time and I'll try to keep pace and explore these for you.

As a parting note,  if you remember one thing from this blog it should be:

Not all "Copilots" do quote the same thing!

See you next time in the series when I'll begin unpacking Copilot for Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Copilot) and exploring some of what it can do for you. 

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