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Microsoft Build 2024 Links Past Innovations to an AI-Driven Future

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered his keynote address at Microsoft Build 2024 on Tuesday, kicking things off with a nostalgic video tribute that began with the sound of a dial-up modem. The montage included a throwback video clip of Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates from one of his own 1990s keynote speeches, evoking his “information at your fingertips” catchphrase and drawing a clear connection between the company’s past and its future.

This strategic messaging linked the golden age of personal computing and the internet revolution with today’s cutting-edge technologies, effectively setting the stage for Nadella’s main theme: the democratization and widespread adoption of AI for businesses and individuals worldwide.

“In a world where we have this ever-increasing information about people, places, and things,” Nadella said at the beginning of his address, “can computers help us reason, plan, and act more effectively on all that information?”

The answer was a resounding yes. Microsoft has been backing this belief with substantial investments in AI infrastructure, both physical and digital. Aside from Microsoft’s ongoing stake in OpenAI and the development of its Copilot chatbot – which now supports text, speech, image, and video input – there’s a lot more going on at Microsoft when it comes to advanced AI developments.

Investments in AI Infrastructure

Microsoft’s ever-expanding physical infrastructure plays a crucial part in its AI push. Nadella announced that Azure, Microsoft’s extensive cloud platform, will integrate NVIDIA’s new Blackwell chip and AMD’s ND MI300X V5 and continue using Microsoft’s own Azure Maia hardware. He also introduced Azure Cobalt, a cloud VM featuring a highly efficient Arm-based processor with impressive performance.

“Every layer in this tech stack is changing,” Nadella noted. “Everything from the power draw and the cooling layer of the data centers to the NPUs [neural processing units] and the edge is being shaped by these new workloads.”

He announced that Azure aims to achieve 100% renewable energy by next year, an ambitious sustainability initiative that was met with applause from the Build 2024 attendees.

Copilot+PC Hardware Initiative

Microsoft’s push toward sustainability and resource optimization extends beyond its tech stack. The focus on efficiency is also evident in the new Copilot+PC hardware initiative, announced at a separate event on Monday. This program will integrate small language model (SLM) AI chips into Microsoft Surface PCs and other hardware from select manufacturers, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS, and Samsung.

The local AI chips for the Copilot+PC initiative are designed to be less powerful than large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s GPT-4, instead prioritizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Nadella introduced three SLM AI models during Tuesday’s keynote: Phi-3-vision, Phi-3-small, and Phi-3-medium, joining the existing Phi-3-mini. These efficient, cost-effective models have current use cases in electronic health records processing, educational tools, and agricultural management in developing countries, Nadella explained.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella highlighted Phi-3 developments.

Developer Tools and Frameworks

As Microsoft Build is aimed at engineers and developers, much of Nadella’s presentation focused on specific developer tools and frameworks.

He introduced Windows Copilot Runtime, a developer toolset to be released next month. Featuring a library of more than 40 AI models, it promises to make Windows the preferred platform for AI development. Windows Copilot Runtime includes Phi-Silica, a lightweight SLM designed specifically for Copilot+PCs.

Nadella also announced that Windows will support native PyTorch and WebNN machine learning frameworks through DirectML, both of which are now available in developer preview.

AI’s Global Reach

Throughout the keynote, Nadella emphasized AI’s potential to assist with agricultural initiatives and crop planning in developing countries, highlighting use cases numerous times. He even shared an anecdote about a farmer in rural India he met who used GPT-3.5 to secure government agricultural subsidies, illustrating AI’s expansive global reach and rapid adoption. “The rate of diffusion is unlike anything I’ve seen in my professional career,” he noted.

Azure AI Studio, Expanded Partnership

Nadella’s other announcements included the general availability of Azure AI Studio, a platform for end-to-end AI model building. The updated platform includes new filtering options and custom models for domain-specific output, allowing for the safe development and deployment of user-defined Copilots. Features like hallucination detection and protections against prompt injection attacks are part of the enhanced security measures.

Additionally, Nadella revealed that Microsoft’s ongoing collaboration with Hugging Face will be expanded, integrating new inference tools into Azure AI Studio.

On Azure AI’s service side, Nadella noted that the platform will continue to feature models developed by the Frontier Model Forum, an industry consortium that includes Microsoft, Anthropic, Google, and OpenAI. Azure AI will also support open-source LLMs and SLMs.

GitHub Copilot Workspace

GitHub Copilot Workspace was another tool highlighted during Nadella’s keynote. Currently available as a private preview, GitHub Copilot Workspace is designed to empower developers by allowing them to work in their native languages and streamlining their workflows. The tool can turn natural language into code, diagnose problems, and assist developers in daily tasks. GitHub Copilot Extensions supports third-party integration, while GitHub for Azure enables intuitive queries on resources through natural language.

OpenAI GPT-4o

Nadella boldly proclaimed that OpenAI’s GPT-4o, now generally available on both Copilot and Azure AI, is set to revolutionize how applications and websites can be transformed into conversational personal assistants through Microsoft’s AI integration.

These capabilities were demonstrated in two impressive video presentations. In one demo, the AI successfully gave a live tutorial on Minecraft. In another, it helped a user purchase suitable footwear for a hiking trip.

Team Copilot

Aside from the standard version of Copilot, Microsoft is introducing an AI assistant called Team Copilot. The versatile assistant for collaborative environments aims to boost productivity by taking notes, scheduling meetings, tracking schedules, and acting as a virtual project manager. Team Copilot allows Copilot agents to be delegated authority, making it possible to automate complex business processes. The tool will be available in preview later this year.

Security and User Benefits

Nadella concluded his keynote by stressing the importance of security in all AI developments. He reiterated that Microsoft’s vision is broad and ambitious, aimed at directly benefitting users. “It’s never about celebrating tech for tech’s sake; it’s about celebrating what we can do with technology to create magical experiences that make a real difference,” he said.

Originally Appeared Here

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