The Impact of Copilot Chat
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 26 July 2023

All GitHub Copilot for Business users now have access to a limited GitHub Copilot Chat beta, bringing the power of conversational coding right to the IDE. What impact can we expect on developer productivity?

Copilot Chatsq

Copilot Chat is a major component of Copilot X, GitHub’s vision for the future that was announced by GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke at this year's Microsoft developer conference, Build 2023. The idea is that GitHub Copilot will be boosted by AI-powered features to provide developers with tools that will help them with all aspects of their workflow, from writing code to reviewing pull requests to fixing security vulnerabilities. 

Copilot Chat was immediately available to attendees at Build but the rest of us had to request access. Now, while still a "limited beta", it is available to all GitHub Enterprise subscribers using Visual Studio and VS Code. After a free trial period the additional cost is just $10 per month or $100 per year.

Announcing its expanded availability on the GitHub blog, Mario Rodriguez writes:

GitHub Copilot Chat isn’t just a chat window. It’s contextually aware of the code a developer has typed or what error messages are shown. And that context is key—unlike a general purpose generative AI chat assistant, GitHub Copilot Chat is designed for developers and fits right into the IDE.

He goes on to explain that this: 

turns GitHub Copilot into a context-aware conversational assistant right in the IDE, allowing developers to execute some of the most complex tasks with simple prompts. Every developer on your team, from the least to the most experienced, will be able to build entire applications or debug vast arrays of code in a matter of minutes instead of a matter of days.

Here it a sample of how it works: 

I reported on an early empirical study done by GitHub to gauge the Copilot's impact, see GitHub Copilot Provides Productivity Boost which revealed that 88% of developers surveyed reported they were more productive and an empirical study revealed developers were 55% faster coding with Copilot than without it.

GitHub has continued to collect data from developers and a paper with the title "Sea Change in Software Development: Economic and Productivity Analysis of the AI-Powered Developer Lifecycle" was made available on arXiv last month. It reports that:

Less than a year after its general availability, GitHub Copilot is turbocharging developers writing software.

This finding is based on an analysis of a large sample of GitHub Copilot users (n = 934,533) which claimed that: 

On average, users accept nearly 30% of code suggestions and report increased productivity from these acceptances.

Supplementary findings were that this productivity impact increases with time and the benefits are greatest for less experienced users.

Using the 30% productivity enhancement, and assuming a global workforce of 45 million developers in 2030 the paper argues that generative AI could add an additional 15 million “effective developers” to worldwide capacity in that timeframe, concluding:

"This will have a major impact and help meet accelerating software demand, contributing as much as $1.5 trillion USD to the global economy." 

This paper is about the impact of Copilot before the introduction of Copilot Chat, which in turn is just the next step in the evolution of Copilot X with a range of AI-powered features that are intended to free developers from tedious and repetitive tasks so we can anticipate a much more significant productivity boost in the future.

According to Mario Rodriguez:

"As we prepare to bring the entirety of GitHub Copilot X to general availability, we believe every developer could be made 10 times more productive. This means 10 days of work, done in one day. 10 hours of work, done in one hour. 10 minutes of work, done with a single prompt command. This will allow your developers to amplify their truest self-expression. And it will help a new generation of developers learn and build at the speed of thought."    

Copilot Chatsq

More Information

GitHub Copilot Chat beta now available for every organization

Introducing GitHub Copilot X 

The economic impact of the AI-powered developer lifecycle


Related Articles

GitHub Copilot Provides Productivity Boost

GitHub Copilot Released

GitHub Copilot - Your Programming Pal

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 October 2023 )