Microsoft Corporation (MSFT.O) recently unveiled a comprehensive range of AI upgrades aimed at narrowing the gap with its competitor, Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL.O) Google. The upgrades include enhancements to ChatGPT, Bing, and cloud services, marking a significant milestone in Microsoft’s ambition to capture a larger share of the global search advertising market. This report explores the key changes introduced by Microsoft, including the integration of live search results from Bing into ChatGPT, the expansion of plug-ins for Bing, and the introduction of new features in its cloud services.
1. Integration of Bing’s Live Search Results into ChatGPT:
Microsoft announced the integration of live search results from its search engine, Bing, into ChatGPT, the popular chatbot developed in collaboration with OpenAI. Previously, ChatGPT relied on information available only up until 2021. With the inclusion of Bing’s web results, ChatGPT can now provide up-to-date information to its users. Initially available for paid subscribers, this feature will soon be extended to free users, enhancing the capabilities of ChatGPT and ensuring its relevance in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
2. Expanding Plug-ins for Bing:
Microsoft has embraced a standard developed by OpenAI to expand the range of plug-ins for Bing. These plug-ins enable businesses to engage more effectively with consumers through the search engine. For example, a plug-in can suggest recipes and ingredients to a user searching for dinner ideas and provide a seamless option to order the ingredients through services like Instacart with a single click. Microsoft believes that these plug-ins will revolutionize the way people use the web and facilitate smoother interactions between businesses and customers.
3. Potential for Ad Placements:
With the introduction of plug-ins for Bing, Microsoft may have the opportunity to sell ad placements related to these features. Although the company has not confirmed this possibility, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s consumer chief marketing officer, acknowledged that the evolving customer acquisition model could lead to new advertising avenues. As the usage of plug-ins grows and businesses leverage Bing’s capabilities, Microsoft could potentially monetize these interactions by offering targeted advertising placements to advertisers.
4. Microsoft’s Competition with Google:
Google, Microsoft’s primary competitor in the search engine space, has also been investing in AI upgrades for its search engine. Google’s generative AI advancements enable it to respond to open-ended queries that lack clear answers on the web. While the consumer preference for updated search engines remains unclear, Google’s chatbot Bard, which incorporates Google’s search results, is already available. ChatGPT and Bard offer different experiences, and Mehdi believes that regardless of the consumer preference, Microsoft will benefit from citations in ChatGPT, as they will drive traffic to Bing.
5. Enhancements in Cloud Services:
In addition to the updates in ChatGPT and Bing, Microsoft has introduced new features in its cloud services. Businesses can now build plug-ins connecting to Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI assistant for enterprises. These plug-ins allow staff members to interact with Copilot using plain language, enabling tasks such as booking travel or obtaining explanations regarding vendor contracts. Microsoft aims to provide companies with the flexibility to configure their own AI copilots, empowering them to streamline their operations and enhance productivity.
Expansion of Plug-ins and Monetization Potential:
Microsoft’s decision to embrace OpenAI’s standard for plug-ins in Bing opens up new possibilities for businesses to connect with consumers in a more seamless and interactive manner. By leveraging the power of AI, these plug-ins enable users to perform actions directly from the search results page, eliminating the need for multiple clicks and simplifying the user journey.
For instance, a user searching for a specific product can now find relevant information, compare prices, and even make a purchase without leaving the search engine. This streamlined experience not only benefits users but also presents an opportunity for businesses to increase customer engagement and conversions.
While the primary focus of these plug-ins is to enhance user experience, the question arises: Can Microsoft monetize this feature by selling ad placements related to the plug-ins? Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s consumer chief marketing officer, acknowledged that the company has not reached that stage yet. However, the evolving landscape of customer acquisition and interaction suggests that new avenues for advertising could emerge.
Imagine a scenario where a user searches for a particular type of clothing and a plug-in suggests relevant products from different online retailers. Microsoft could potentially offer advertising placements within these plug-ins, allowing retailers to promote their products directly to users who are actively searching for similar items. This targeted approach could benefit both businesses and advertisers, creating a win-win situation.
Additionally, as plug-ins expand and gain popularity, they have the potential to generate valuable data and insights about user preferences and behavior. This data could be leveraged by Microsoft to further refine its advertising offerings, making them more personalized and effective. By capitalizing on the power of AI and leveraging the vast user base of Bing, Microsoft can position itself as a strong contender in the search advertising market.
Competition with Google and Unique Experiences:
Google, a dominant force in the search engine landscape, has also been investing in AI advancements for its search engine. While both Microsoft and Google are exploring generative AI capabilities, the consumer preference for updated search engines is yet to be determined.
Google’s chatbot, Bard, incorporates the company’s search results, providing users with informed answers to their queries. On the other hand, ChatGPT offers a distinct experience, with its integration of live search results from Bing. These differences in approach and functionality create unique experiences for users, catering to their specific needs and preferences.
Mehdi emphasized that regardless of the consumer preference between ChatGPT and Bard, Microsoft stands to benefit. The citations in ChatGPT that drive traffic to Bing contribute to the search engine’s visibility and usage, ultimately bolstering Microsoft’s presence in the search market.
Enhancements in Cloud Services:
Alongside the improvements to ChatGPT and Bing, Microsoft has introduced notable enhancements to its cloud services. Businesses can now build plug-ins that connect to Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI assistant designed for enterprises. This integration enables employees to interact with Copilot using natural language, simplifying complex tasks such as travel bookings or obtaining explanations regarding vendor contracts.
By empowering companies to configure their own AI copilots, Microsoft fosters greater customization and adaptability within organizations. This flexibility enables businesses to tailor the AI assistant to their specific needs, leading to increased productivity and efficiency.
In addition, Microsoft announced that it will make an AI assistant, or copilot, available as a preview for some users of its widespread Windows operating system. This move signifies Microsoft’s commitment to bringing AI capabilities directly to end-users, empowering them with intelligent virtual assistance in their daily tasks.
Furthermore, Microsoft’s commitment to transparency in AI-generated content is evident in its efforts to help consumers determine if an image or video was generated by AI. This aligns with Google’s announcement in the same domain, emphasizing the importance of addressing concerns related to the authenticity and trustworthiness of AI-generated media.