I was surprised that of all the announcements at the annual Microsoft roll-out, the thing that excited me the most wasn't hardware, but the new additions to Microsoft 365. Content creation means a lot more than it did when Microsoft Office was first announced by Bill Gates in 1988. Recognizing that communication goes far beyond word-processing and spreadsheets, this year's collection of Microsoft 365 programs focuses on integrating multi-media and graphics into the suite with Microsoft Designer, Microsoft Create, and Microsoft ClipChamp. Most intriguing of all is that DALL∙E 2 technology will be incorporated into the suite and also into Image Creator from Microsoft Bing.
As described today, the creative apps appear to take direct aim at apps like Canva that are largely used by those of us who are not graphic artists, but want to create social media posts, invitations, digital postcards, and the like, quickly and tastefully. As in similar products on the market, Microsoft Designer will lean heavily on templates that simplify the route to good looking, persuasive graphics. But, in a I'll-take-your-idea-and-raise-it move, Microsoft Designer will be built on top of DALL∙E 2 artificial intelligence. As described by Microsoft, you'll type in the sort of thing you'd like to create and the program will generate a starting point for you.
The extent to which DALL∙E 2 graphic generation will be directly incorporated was not fully documented in the announcement. Currently DALL∙E 2 monetizes its program by requiring users to purchase credits that are expended when new art is created. Microsoft's initial announcement did not reveal whether the DALL∙E 2 code being incorporated will duplicate the features in the stand-alone version, nor whether there would be additional charges for image creation.
Microsoft announced that it will be filtering content; removing violent and sexual images from the database used to generate content. Some will see this as censorship, others as moderation. We will have to see how stifling its promise of "integrated techniques that further help to prevent misuse including additional query blocking on sensitive topics" is to content creators. Artists tend to chafe against restrictions and censorship. It is clear that Microsoft sees that there are social implications to using artificial intelligence in the way they have planned. It promises to work to resolve training bias that may exist in the program and will attempt to deliver "diverse images" in its results.
According to the release, the Designer App will initially be rolled out as a "preview" and new features will be blended in as the product evolves. Once the app is ready for general availability, it will be available both as a free app and with more premium features available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers.
Interestingly, Microsoft plans to integrate Designer into Edge so that you won't have to leave your browser to create web-based designs.
Beyond Designer, Microsoft will create a web-site called Microsoft Create, live today, as a "launch pad" for creating videos, graphic designs, and presentation. It promises training videos, articles, and templates. It is still too early to know to what extent Microsoft plans to market it against Adobe's 20 billion dollar acquisition of Figma.com, but it is clear that Microsoft doesn't intend to get left behind as media-creation continues to evolve from beyond text to graphics and video.
To that end Microsoft also announced that ClipChamp, the video editing platform it rolled out in the spring, is now the in-box editor for Windows 11. The initial roll-out of ClipChamp limited output resolution unless the user paid a monthly fee. That policy was quickly changed so that both the premium and free editions can export at 1080p. By making ClipChamp a bundled video edition app within Windows, many of the premium features will be available as part of the Office 365 Personal and Family Subscribers.