Microsoft 365 Copilot 'generally available' – if you can afford 300 seats
Small businesses need not apply
Updated Microsoft has made Microsoft 365 Copilot generally available for enterprises worldwide. But you'll need to buy at least 300 seats for the privilege and customers are not feeling festive.
The $30 per user per month cost is in addition to what a customer is already paying for an E3 or E5 subscription, and so – in some cases – will nearly double the monthly outlay per user. An annual commitment is also demanded by Microsoft.
However, according to analyst Directions on Microsoft, M365 Copilot "requires a minimum purchase of 300 seats," and this is causing some annoyance among SMEs.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft forums – even official ones – are awash with negativity as users digest the reality of the situation. One noted: "A lot of people are going to be disappointed to find that GA only applies to larger enterprise clients and the rest of us are being left in the dirt."
They added: "A smaller, enterprise company with less than 300 users could arguably benefit from the Copilot capabilities as much or more than a larger company to automate, simplify many tasks that a smaller company can't always [afford]."
Another stated: "This is more than just a terrible look. With all the talk of Microsoft wanting to make AI equitable for everyone, and help all people – the very first thing they do is make it available only to multimillion/billion dollar enterprises. What about small business? What about non-profit organizations? What about Microsoft partners who try to re-sell this to the SMB market?"
One more said: "Have you never even considered small businesses with fewer than 300 people?" and another queried: "Generally available? Where? I can't get it, we have 200x Microsoft 365 E5 users."
The Register contacted Microsoft to find out if it plans to address the needs of customers unable to make the minimum purchase, and will update should they respond.
- Clippy-like AI at forefront of Windows update previews
- CEO Satya Nadella thinks Microsoft hung up on Windows Phone too soon
- Microsoft opens early access to AI assistant for infosec, Security Copilot
- Not even the ghost of obsolescence can coerce users onto Windows 11
As a customer pointed out, this not a good look for Microsoft, and that's without considering just how much of the technology remains either in preview or not yet available. For example, conspicuously absent from Microsoft's 365 announcement was the Mac incarnation of its productivity suite.
So what's the point? For users with deep enough pockets and in the cross hairs of Microsoft's marketing team, the technology promises the ability to chat with the company's productivity tools and create what Microsoft calls an "AI-employee alliance."
It has a number of statistics to back its statement. Microsoft reckons "70 percent of people would delegate work to AI to lessen their workloads" and "Business leaders are twice as likely to say AI will provide value by boosting productivity vs cutting headcount."
As a reminder, Microsoft has been busy cutting its own headcount of late.
Microsoft has bet big on AI, commissioning studies spewing statistics such as "For every $1 a company invests in AI, it is realizing an average return of $3.5X."
The application of generative AI will make a substantial impact on productivity suites such as Microsoft 365. However, by charging so much and placing such high barriers to entry, Microsoft is running the risk of alienating large swathes of its user community and even – heaven forbid – encouraging them to consider alternatives. ®
Updated at 13.35 on November 6, 2023, to add:
A spokesperson at Microsoft sent us a statement:
"Ahead of enterprise GA, we had a chance to learn from and co-create with our early access enterprise customers. Now, we're doing the same with small businesses and entrepreneurs as part of an early testing program. This testing allows us to gather real-life feedback and fine-tune the product experience for their unique needs. We'll have more to share on broader availability for small businesses in the coming months."