Microsoft Adds OpenAI's GPT-3 to Power Apps

Microsoft announced plans to integrate OpenAI's GPT-3 natural language (NL) model with its Power Apps product suite at its annual Build developer conference last week, the first of which will be the Power Apps Studio drag-and-drop "canvas" app designer. That update will be available by the end of June, the company says.

Speaking to conference attendees online, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the GPT-3 integration will ease coding efforts by automatically generating Power Fx formulas based on natural language input. (Power Fx is the low-code language for expressing logic across the Microsoft Power Platform.)

"If you can describe what you want to do in natural language, GPT-3 will generate a list of the most relevant formula for you to choose from," he said. "The code writes itself."

GPT-3 is the largest language model in the world, comprising a massive 175 billion training parameters. The model is pre-trained on the Common Crawl data set, a corpus of almost a trillion words scraped from the Web. It's also trained on Azure’s AI supercomputer, which Microsoft built in collaboration with OpenAI.

OpenAI was originally founded as a non-profit open-source organization by a group of investors that included Tesla founder Elon Musk. Today it comprises two entities: the non-profit OpenAI Inc. and the for-profit OpenAI LP. Microsoft, which is OpenAI's cloud services provider, invested $1 billion in the company last year.

Nadella also talked about his company's plans to build new intelligent apps based on AI and Azure-hosted data via hyperscale SQL, PostgresSQL, and Azure Cosmos DB, as well as the Microsoft Synapse data warehouse solution. Specifically, Microsoft announced:

•        Azure Cosmos DB serverless is now generally available for all APIs.
•        Azure Cosmos DB integrated cache is now in preview.
•        Always Encrypted for Azure Cosmos DB is now in preview.
•        Azure Cosmos DB role-based access control (RBAC) is now generally available.

That last addition, based on Azure Active Directory, gives IT departments security controls over which personnel have Cosmos DB access rights. Microsoft also announced a preview of an Azure SQL Database ledger capability, which "provides cryptographic verification for sensitive records." 

Pytorch Enterprise on Azure was also highlighted during Nadella's keynote. Pytorch is the open-source machine learning library. Microsoft provides commercial support for "a more reliable production experience for organizations using Pytorch for their data science work." Pytorch Enterprise on Azure is currently available on Azure Machine Learning and Data Science Virtual Machines, and will be available soon on Azure Synapse Analytics, the company says.

Microsoft is delivering these and other developer-focused offerings with an eye toward the digital transformations organizations will be making over the next 10 years, Nadella said.

This keynote was a sort of visionary pep talk for developers, and Nadella dropped some encouraging job stats along the way. For example, he predicted that the tech sector as a percentage of total gross domestic product will double from 5 percent to 10 percent by 2030. He characterized developers as "first responders" in supporting vaccine development and noted that they often worked remotely to provide that support. 

"Over the past 12 months, the percentage of developer job postings that were remote increased 8 times year over year," Nadella said. He also suggested that developer job growth was not a pure software company phenomenon but has been increasing within companies more generally.

"Over the past two years, the number of developers [working in] non-tech companies have grown faster than [in] our tech companies," Nadella said. He cited the automobile industry as one example, claiming that "there were more software engineers than mechanical engineers hired over the last year" in that industry.

Opportunities for developers are emerging as "the physical and digital worlds converge," he said, adding that there will be a need for "more ubiquitous and decentralized compute power." Large AI models will be key to that evolution, he said, but he added a note of caution.

"The design and development process itself must prioritize privacy, cybersecurity, digital safety, and responsible AI across everything we do," he said. "No one will want technology that rapidly scales but breaks the world around us."

Windows 10 is used by more than 1.3 billion people, Nadella said, and it serves as a kind of "dev box." The next generation of Windows 10 will increase opportunities for developers, and it'll be coming "soon, he added.

"Soon we will share one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators," Nadella said. "I've been self-hosting it over the past several months and I've been credibly excited about the next generation of Windows."

In May, Microsoft announced that its emerging Windows 10X operating system, originally designed for dual-screen devices, would not be released as planned. Instead, parts of it were put into other Windows products. It's not clear if Nadella was referring to this Windows integration or to something else. Possibly he was referring to advancements with Project Reunion, still in preview. Project Reunion is Microsoft's latest effort at unifying the Windows developer model, which is currently split between Win32 and the Universal Windows Platform approaches.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.