Microsoft Corp. is bringing its Bing search engine to OpenAI Inc.’s ChatGPT, further tightening ties with the artificial intelligence startup in a bid to challenge Google.

Bing will be part of the premium ChatGPT Plus service starting Tuesday, Microsoft said, and the search engine will come to the regular version of the chatbot soon. Using Bing lets customers get up-to-the-minute information, whereas ChatGPT has been trained only on data through Sept. 20, 2021.

Microsoft is OpenAI’s biggest investor and a key partner, giving it an edge in the race to weave artificial intelligence into more software products. The startup, whose chatbot became a viral hit in the past year, has helped Microsoft attract customers to a cloud-based service that lets its Azure clients use OpenAI products. Azure OpenAI now has 4,500 customers, including Volvo AB, Ikea, Mercedes-Benz Group AG and Shell Plc. That’s up from 2,500 customers at the end of last quarter. 

Microsoft unveiled the Bing ChatGPT update Tuesday at a developer conference in Seattle. Earlier this month, OpenAI started adding web browsing as an optional capability to its paid Plus tier. That relied partly on Bing, though the arrangement wasn’t disclosed at the time.

Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has been refocusing Microsoft’s products around AI programs called copilots — assistants that help users perform tasks in Bing and Office, as well as security and finance software, based on OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology. The software maker is trying to boost sales, attract more cloud-computing business and better compete with Google in search. So far, the OpenAI partnership has helped Microsoft position itself at the forefront of a rapidly churning market for new types of AI tools.

With the proliferation of AI-generated information, Microsoft said it will watermark such content so people know it’s not human-made. The company also said it will make those same tools available to developers to use.

“We’re giving you a bunch of amazing media provenance tools that will help users understand when they are seeing generated content or not,” Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott told attendees at the conference. Scott didn’t elaborate on the technological underpinnings of these tools, except to say that they are “cryptographic” watermarks. 

Microsoft also is letting outside software developers and companies write programs that tie into its OpenAI-based artificial intelligence software. As part of that push, Instacart Inc., Redfin Corp., Zillow Group Inc. and Kayak Software Corp. will work with Bing’s AI, Microsoft said. Adobe Inc. and Atlassian Corp., meanwhile, will release features for Microsoft’s corporate AI software that can be used with the Office suite. 

In order to let other companies write features and programs that make use of these AI products, OpenAI is allowing them to develop so-called plugins to work with ChatGPT. Microsoft said Tuesday that it will use a similar model. Companies and programmers can use the same plugins across ChatGPT and Microsoft’s own consumer and corporate AI software. 

About 50 software makers, including ServiceNow Inc., are developing these sorts of plugins for Microsoft’s corporate AI assistant. Called Microsoft 365 Copilot, the software is being tested with hundreds of customers. By the time it’s released to everyone, Microsoft pledges to have thousands of plugins for the corporate software. 

On Tuesday, the Redmond, Washington-based company also discussed a new copilot, this one for Windows 11, starting with a preview version in June. 

Windows Copilot will be accessible from a button on the computer screen’s taskbar, which opens a side panel that customers can use as an assistant. It will help them take actions like copying and pasting text, as well as rewriting, summarizing and explaining content. Windows users can also ask it questions as they do with the Bing AI chat.