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Published : Apr 26, 2023
Apr 2023
Assess ? Worth exploring with the goal of understanding how it will affect your enterprise.

GitHub Copilot is an AI coding assistant, created by a collaboration between Microsoft and OpenAI. It uses machine learning models to generate suggestions based on the context of what a developer is working on. It features strong IDE integration and uses an existing codebase and editor context to create suggestions. Despite being billed as "your AI pair programmer" we would not call what it does "pairing" — we'd probably describe it as a kind of supercharged, context-sensitive Stack Overflow. When it correctly predicts what a developer is trying to do, it can be a powerful tool for getting stuff done. Like all LLM-based AIs, though, it has a tendency to hallucinate the use of plausible but nonexistent APIs and may introduce bugs through slightly faulty algorithms. We've had success generating code at the line, block and method level, as well as creating tests or infrastructure configurations. Interestingly, it works best when you use good naming practices, so it encourages more readable code.

AI tool capabilities are advancing rapidly, and we think it's sensible for organizations to try them. Some sales pitches for Copilot have claimed very high efficiency gains, but we remain skeptical: after all, writing code isn't the only thing that developers spend time on, and it's notoriously difficult to measure developer productivity in the first place. That said, Copilot is a fairly inexpensive tool; if it offers any productivity gain at all, it's probably worth it. Copilot X — in preview as of this writing — offers additional functionality and integration within a software creation workflow. Copilot has a "for business" offering, which provides more clarity around intellectual property issues as well as the ability to manage tool features centrally across an organization. We think these features are critical for enterprise adoption.

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