Microsoft will release a new standalone app called Microsoft Designer, tapping into the larger trend of bringing advanced graphic design capabilities to the masses.
Designer capitalizes on Microsoft’s partnership with research lab OpenAI to integrate DALL-E 2, which uses AI to generate images based on text descriptions.
Acknowledging the inherent risks of abuse of DALL-E 2, Microsoft says it has been working on its own and with OpenAI in an attempt to prevent the feature from delivering “inappropriate results,” such as explicit sexual and violent content; from reinforcing stereotypes; or from being otherwise misused.
Microsoft announced Designer as part of a larger product unveiling that also includes updated versions of several Microsoft Surface devices, and new accessories.
In addition, Microsoft said it will release an Image Creator feature for its Bing search engine, also using DALL-E 2.
The new Designer app is the latest step in Microsoft’s attempt to keep its productivity software business growing, more than a decade after shifting its Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint) from traditional software licensing to a subscription-based software-as-a-service model with the 2011 launch of what was then known as Office 365.
Office apps and related services, including the Microsoft Teams communication and collaboration service, generated $44.8 billion in revenue in Microsoft’s 2022 fiscal year, up more than 12% year-over-year, ahead of Windows but behind Microsoft Azure and server products in overall revenue for the year.
Designer grew out of a PowerPoint feature of the same name, and uses a similar approach, with a “design ideas” capability that offers different suggestions for laying out content.
Platforms and rollout: Microsoft will offer Designer as a free Windows app, and as part of the Personal and Family editions of the Microsoft 365 software suite, with additional features. Microsoft will also integrate Designer into its Edge browser, which is available on Apple’s macOS and other platforms.
Initially, however, the company says it will release the app as a free web preview, without the full feature set, in advance of general availability at a future date not yet announced.
Microsoft’s plan for keeping DALL-E 2 from being misused includes blocking text submissions dealing with what the company considers sensitive topics.
The company says it has also developed technology that helps to surface more diverse images, seeking to counteract potential bias in the data used to train the AI algorithms.
However, Microsoft suggests that the approach isn’t foolproof. “This is an area we are actively working to address and continuously improve,” writes Liat Ben-Zur, Microsoft corporate vice president of Modern Life, Search & Devices, in a post announcing the new Designer app.
The company invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019 in a deal that included rights to commercialize the lab’s creations. Microsoft has previously rolled out products based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 natural language processing technology.