Microsoft is giving its Office Suite an AI upgrade

Nobody can deny the excitement of a good competition (especially when you’re on the outside looking in). Uber vs. Lyft, Apple vs. Android, Facebook vs. YouTube vs. Snapchat, Netflix vs. Prime Video vs. Hulu. These rivalries fuel headlines and push innovation forward. Perhaps one of the greatest rivalries of all time, though, is Microsoft vs. Google. Not the battle over search engines. Rather the battle for the office suite.

Just about everyone can remember the time when Microsoft Office was the premier (basically only) choice in office suite products. I, along with millions of my fellow Millennials, learned to type on Microsoft Word and copy the Ken Burns style of presentation on PowerPoint.

But once Google entered the market with their G Suite and complimentary cloud storage, almost instantly the tides shifted in their favor. It was sleeker, fresher, and more user-friendly. Today, one estimate puts the overall G Suite at 62% market share to Office’s 37%, while another says it’s 58% to 41%.

That, however, is changing once again. And the torch is being passed back to the Office Suite. The analysts postulate that the businesses in the financial, education, manufacturing, and healthcare industries are driving this growth, choosing Office 365 at a 2:1 ratio over G Suite.

But I think one of the major drivers, which will bring a lot of the general consumers back, is the application of AI to the Office Suite – something that Microsoft is keen on deploying.

AI in the Office Suite

In a report titled Everyday AI in Microsoft 365, Microsoft announced the beloved Microsoft Office Suite would be getting a serious facelift. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, they’re all getting their first taste of an AI injection. These are some of the notable use cases, either here or announced for the future:

  • Excel Converter – Snap a picture of a table and Excel will analyze and convert it into a digital spreadsheet.
  • PowerPoint Designer – Drag and Drop images into PowerPoint and it’ll suggest the best design layouts for your assets.
  • PowerPoint Presenter Coach – Their AI will offer feedback on your presentation skills by listening to audio from your computer’s microphone. Some of the feedback that the summary will include are: pacing, muttering, stuttering, using inclusive language, filler words, and where you’re just reading the slides.
  • Ideas on Word – Their NLP will suggest grammar changes, recommend rewriting phrases to improve concision, clarity, and inclusiveness. Ideas will also help you review documents from other people by estimating reading times, extracting and highlighting key points, and even explaining acronyms.
  • Outlook Scheduling – Intelligent group scheduling finds the best time for everyone in a group to meet. Also, MyAnalytics gives employees insight into two key factors governing productivity: how they spend their time and who they spend it with.

Those are just some of the early injections of AI into their Office Suite, among their other intelligent apps. Honestly, Microsoft is perfectly positioned to dominate the AI-augmented work routine:

Having one of the largest graphs ever created of human activity while at work provides a huge advantage in creating powerful AI benefits for Microsoft 365 customers. We can train our AI models using the huge volume of interactions that occur in Microsoft 365 – 420 billion per month in Office alone – and achieve rapid improvements.

Everyday AI in Microsoft 365

With this in mind, it’s easy to get lost in what “could” become of the AI-enabled Office Suite.

Integrating the knowledge on Bing into Word, making it simple to find relevant topics to write about, easily gathering data to bolster an argument, and fact-checking across the web.

Embed Cortana [their conversational assistant] across Microsoft 365 experiences… so we understand their calendar, their tasks, their work documents, their interfacing with their close collaborators.

Andrew Shuman, Cortana Chief (The Verge)

That means Cortana will be able to learn your important projects, upcoming deadlines, meetings, and more to have the context when you ask questions, thus smoothing over your entire Office experience.

This futuristic vision for the AI-enabled Office Suite is all piled on top of Microsoft’s other workplace investments.

For the first time, Microsoft revealed how many people are using its work communicating [platform] “Teams”: 13M (Slack is at 10M). And that’s just two years after it launched.

Robinhood Snacks

So on top of dominating workplace communication Microsoft owns LinkedIn, the largest workplace social media network. I could see some nifty integrations between the Office Suite, Teams, and LinkedIn in the future.

When you look at the timeline of Microsoft, they made their mark in productivity software, capitalized on a popular gaming system, missed out on the mobile revolution, bounced back with the cloud, and are getting back to owning the workplace. This is not an area I see them botching.