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Zoom Delivered What Copilot Inspired

I was impressed the first time I saw Microsoft Copilot. It was during the Microsoft keynote at Enterprise Connect last March. Microsoft showed a fairly intuitive assistant that made things like meetings easier to manage and even miss. I was cautiously optimistic. 

That was 10 months ago. Also during that keynote, Microsoft showed off its new Teams client that was just released, and that upgrade wasn’t so smooth. Ten months is a long time in tech. Microsoft showed off Copilot again last week at Microsoft Ignite. Despite the demos being similar, it wasn’t as impressive this time. First, a lot has changed regarding both expectations and alternatives. Secondly, the pricing has become clear, and promises about future features seem vague.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started using Zoom AI Companion (ZAIC). It was introduced in September, and its features/scope expanded already in October and again today (see below). Unlike Microsoft 365 Copilot, it’s included with all paid subscriptions to the Zoom suite. ZAIC delivers more than what initially excited me about Copilot.

When Microsoft showed Copilot in March, pricing was unknown. I wasn’t concerned, though, as I’ve learned to expect more value from my Microsoft products at little to no cost. That train appears to have stopped. Copilot isn’t being included or bundled and is, instead, a separate purchase for a whopping $30/user/month. Microsoft also imposed a minimum order of 300 seats on Copilot subscriptions. That will exclude a lot of businesses. 

Larger companies will either absorb or negotiate down the pricing. However, it will be difficult to deliver an ROI for every employee. I’m not even sure every employee derives value from Office anymore. Sure, we commonly have to open and create documents, but there are a lot of ways to do that these days. At $30/user/month, organizations are going to need to evaluate Copilot carefully. 

Back in March, OpenAI was the golden child of generative AI. That’s the company that Microsoft has invested in and uses to power Copilot. Now, there are several alternative Large Language Models (LLMs) that provide generative AI. ZAIC takes a “federated AI” approach to LLMs. 

Zoom’s federated approach is designed to deliver high-quality results by incorporating Zoom’s own LLM as well as Meta Llama 2, OpenAI, and Anthropic. This allows ZAIC to evolve and incorporate innovations and quality and performance improvements across an ecosystem of alternatives. 

A quick summary of ZAIC so far: no additional charge, no minimum purchase commitment, and a federated approach that leverages four LLMs.

Now, let’s look into the scope. Both Copilot and Zoom offer a number of the same features, such as meeting summaries and whiteboard content creation. ZAIC also extends to Zoom Chat and Zoom Email (Zoom Email can connect to Exchange) and will soon extend into Zoom’s Contact Center, Zoom Phone, Zoom Docs, Zoom Events, and Zoom Workvivo — both Copilot and ZAIC support English. Copilot currently supports 7 additional languages, with plans to add 17 more next year. Zoom AI Companion supports English, and 32 additional languages are currently in preview.

But the difference that really stands out is simplicity. ZAIC has no complex licensing add-ons. Microsoft’s approach with both Copilot and Teams is getting complicated. Microsoft just announced several new editions of Copilot: Copilot for Dynamics 365, Copilot for Service, and Copilot for Sales. These can be used independently or stacked. Teams, too has multiple licensing options, including the new Premium license. 

Administrators will need to manage all these license types and determine who gets what - or, more likely, just purchase more than necessary. For example, one feature of Copilot is the ability to summarize a meeting. But that involves a Premium Teams license and a Copilot license. ZAIC’s single license contributes to a more equitable and inclusive environment for employees. 

As one might expect, Zoom continues to innovate ZAIC rapidly. Today, the company announced both In-meeting questions and, now, meeting summaries will be made available in 7 new languages (33 total, including English). There’s a new option to limit ZAIC to Zoom’s LLMs to restrict sharing with third-party LLMs. ZAIC now offers a meeting coach feature for hosts who desire coaching tips for better meetings, and ZAIC also now extends into Zoom Events to compose chats and emails during events.

One question that comes up is how Zoom can afford to offer AI Companion for no additional cost. I used to get the same question when Zoom introduced its free video conferencing service. Generative AI is still a very young technology, and it’s getting less expensive very quickly (prices are dropping likely faster than Copilot pricing will drop). I assume Zoom is banking on ongoing cost reductions as well as ongoing capability improvements. Zoom is able to differentiate its paid services with advanced features (such as AI Companion). 

Dave Michels is a contributing editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz

Want to know more?

Check out these articles on Zoom’s AI Companion and Microsoft 365 Copilot:

  • All About Zoom AI Companion: In a video interview with Zoom’s head of AI applications, Mahesh Ram, discusses how the Zoom AI Companion applies to the contact center.
  • Microsoft 365 Copilot is available now. Learn more about Microsoft 365 Copilot, what it is, how it works, and how to use it, as well as its features, price, and more.
  • Zoom hopes to continue its growth by expanding into more product categories and capitalizing on more cloud migrations to come. This article includes a link to a short video discussion regarding Zoom between Dave Michels and Zeus Kerravala.