The Designer tool will allow users to draw on posters, invitations, postcards, and other templates, primarily for sharing on social media, which is also one of the most common ways Canva is used. The app will also include OpenAI's DALL-E 2 artificial intelligence image generating software, the development of which Microsoft helped fund.
The focus for Designer is on individual customers, but Microsoft may later target businesses, Office's biggest market.
By adding the Teams communication platform, Whiteboard collaboration app, and Power Platform app-developer to the bundle, Microsoft has been attempting to expand the applications of its Office subscription package, and Designer may be the next step in that expansion.
While Canva's co-founder and operating chief, Cliff Obrecht, says that the online design tool is "not competing against Microsoft", the site has steadily added alternatives to some of Office's key features. In 2021, Canva began offering a slide program similar to PowerPoint, and last month it acquired a document editing tool that could serve as an alternative to Word.
According to Obrecht, Canva's top competitor is actually Adobe, which may not be a sentiment Adobe shares. This January, Adobe's vice president of investor relations, Jonathan Vaas, called Canva the place "where beginners get started before they come to Adobe."
With its new Designer tool, Microsoft may also begin to challenge Adobe's position, but the software company says its partnership with Adobe isn't changing.
"Adobe remains our key, at-scale strategic partner and this new consumer design application does not change our engagement with Adobe in any way," Microsoft said in a statement.
Users can join a wait-list for a free Designer preview online today, but it isn't generally available yet. Once the app is launched, Microsoft says it will offer a free subscription tier, as well as premium tiers for Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family subscription holders.
Along with Designer, Microsoft is also adding an image generation tool called Image Creator, which will also be powered by DALLE-2.
Microsoft and OpenAI have been working together to improve the functionality of the image creation interface. This has included removing the most explicit and violent images from DALL-E's training data, as well as adjusting the tool to produce more diverse outputs.
"It's important, with early technologies like DALL-E 2, to acknowledge that this is new, and we expect it to continue to evolve and improve," said Microsoft CVP of modern life, search and devices, Liat Ben-Zur. "We take our commitment to responsible AI seriously ... We will not allow users to generate violent content, we may distort people's faces and won't show text strings used as input."
Microsoft says that Image Creator will be free, but that it will be rolled out using a "measured approach" to prevent misuse. Some AI creation tools have produced objectionable images, including pornographic deepfakes and graphic violence. These tools have also been shown to perpetuate the biases of our communities; for example, the prompt "CEO" may return primarily white men.