Microsoft Introduces Generative AI Tools To Boost Creativity

By Melody Brue, Patrick Moorhead - November 6, 2023

Artificial intelligence has changed the way we interact with the digital world. AI is not just a tool but a companion that can now guide users through tasks and jumpstart projects—at work and home. I recently wrote about Microsoft’s fall event, where the company introduced several new AI-infused hardware and software products to bring AI to life.

Microsoft showed off how its generative AI-driven Copilot will boost productivity by automating and assisting with tasks, documents and insights. Many of these Copilot feats are somewhat to be expected from GAI these days—table stakes, if you will.

What I purposely left out of my initial analysis were the many features of Microsoft products aimed squarely at empowering a more creative workforce. Let’s look at some of the creative elements that Microsoft debuted in September and think about which users it is catering to with these enhancements.

Microsoft’s Newest AI-Assisted Creativity Tools

In Designer, the new Microsoft 365 graphic design app, the company introduced several AI features for creating visuals, social media posts, invitations and more. Using GAI powered by OpenAI’s Dall-E 3 model, users can extend images beyond their border with a generative expand feature, add a new object or background with generative fill (both coming soon) and remove unwanted objects with generative erase (available now). Dall-E 3 will soon also power image generation in Designer to add original, high-quality images to designs.

In Bing, Microsoft upgraded some features to help extend creativity in search. Bing Image Creator was upgraded with the Dall-E 3 model, so it now better understands users’ requests, rendering detailed and more accurate images. Microsoft also integrated Designer into Bing for easier editing of AI-created images.

Microsoft Paint in Windows 11 is now AI-infused for drawing with digital background removal and layers. Layers act as transparent sheets that allow users to create parts of an image without affecting the entire image for easier editing. In Paint, users can call on Cocreator (now available in preview), a chatbot in the app that can create images from a text description, requiring no creative talent other than the ability to describe the visual the user wishes to generate. I believe some practice and fine-tuning of prompts is needed to get good results from a chatbot. As with search engine queries in the early days of AOL and Google, people will likely get better at writing prompts with experience. I also suspect that as the models advance, they will better understand intent or ask clarifying questions if a prompt isn’t clear or producing the desired results.

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AI in Microsoft Photos now makes optimizing pictures a simple click-to-edit. Social media influencers will likely be keen on features like background blur, which automatically finds and blurs the background of an image to make the subject stand out. Microsoft has also improved search within photos in OneDrive (home or personal accounts) so users can more quickly find pictures based on content or location. Online creators often have plenty of content to curate within themes or vignettes, so a hearty search function should be a time saver and help users sort content in new ways.

Thanks to AI, Snipping Tool, Microsoft’s screenshot utility in Windows, can now extract text content from an image to use in another application and protect sensitive information with text redaction. Users can also create videos and content with the addition of sound capturing using audio and mic support. These tools can be used in a corporate environment for illustrations in documents or by power users creating social media content without exposing sensitive information.

Microsoft’s Clipchamp video editing app now features auto compose, which creates scene suggestions, edits and narratives based on images and video footage. This tool is great for making quick video clips without heavy editing skills.

Microsoft has said that it plans to expand on these apps’ combination of accelerated productivity and amplified creativity with more AI-driven apps and services in the future.

A Muse Yourself

Microsoft’s new Copilot in creative apps acts somewhat like a muse. It is there to inspire and cocreate. In practical terms, it should unlock new levels of quality and creativity for users.

With these new capabilities, Microsoft appears focused on the more than $100 billion “creator economy”—defined as people monetizing their content goods and services online. An Adobe “Future of Creativity” study suggests that this is a rapidly growing segment with more than 300 million creators globally, 165 million of whom are new to this line of work in the past few years.

Adobe’s study highlighted that one in four people contribute to online spaces, thereby helping reshape essential areas of the future of work, including social causes and mental health. Creative tools like Adobe’s Creative Cloud and now Microsoft’s new releases empower professionals and non-professionals alike to monetize their creative inspirations and passions to make a whole career or simply empower their creative side at work. So then, with these new releases, is Microsoft trying to compete with Adobe for a share of that $100 billion and growing creator economy?

For people who work in a creative role or even have a creative side hustle, Microsoft’s new tools can help streamline workflows, generate new ideas and create content faster and smarter. For those who feel a lack of creativity, an AI-enabled creative Copilot can help with that. But can Microsoft compete with Adobe for enterprise content creator customers? In short, no.

Copilot Meets Users Where They Are

Microsoft says that, for 70% of creators, the most challenging part of the creation process is just getting started. At the same time, on Windows some people use 11 apps in a single day to get their work done. Microsoft’s target appears to be users who produce creative content in their daily lives—at work or at home—but for whom multimedia content creation is not part of their primary job function.

Whether for adding creative touches or in a complete productivity suite, a key advantage to a unified copilot is that there is no need to switch between AI tools. Copilot is integrated into Microsoft’s most common applications, making it a regular part of users’ daily workflow. Microsoft is looking to habituate that always-with-you contextual assistance to enable users to accomplish more and express themselves more creatively. The utility of many of these features is apparent, and there’s a clear market for them. For novice creators and professionals who might otherwise use tools like Canva, these tools keep users within the Microsoft 365 suite.

However, Microsoft is not yet expressing its creative side across all the productivity tools within Microsoft 365. PowerPoint is the outstanding example where AI has not yet made its mark. Nearly every professional I speak with about GAI says they look forward to being able to create a PowerPoint with simple text prompts. I hope that day will come soon, but I have tried Copilot in PowerPoint and today is not that day.

Drawing A Conclusion

Microsoft’s AI-boosted creative features cater well to individuals entering the creative space and small businesses needing simple graphic tools, but it won’t replace the robust features found in professional graphic design and video editing suites like Adobe Creative Cloud. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s tools serve as a source of inspiration and cocreation, potentially unlocking new levels of creativity for users. As Microsoft continues to expand on these offerings, it contributes to the growing creator economy, catering to a diverse range of users in the digital creative realm.

I look forward to seeing how Microsoft helps build this growing community. As I head to Los Angeles for the Adobe MAX event this week, I am eager to compare the tools available to professional creatives. Not to say that one type of software is better than the other, but I know I will see some powerful tools (and a lot of AI) at Abobe MAX that empower the creative community. I will undoubtedly have more to share on this topic soon.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to hear more about how Microsoft is empowering creativity and more with Copilot, check out Moorhead and his Six-Five Podcast cohost Daniel Newman talking to Matt Barlow VP of Windows and Surface Marketing at the Microsoft event here.

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Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.