Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot, a tool that can represent the next line of code and sometimes entire functions, is now available to all developers – at a price.
GitHub Copilot translates natural language into code and provides developers with a range of suggestions ranging from standard code to complex algorithms. Released in June last year as a free technical preview for 1.2 million developers, the tool is now available to GitHub’s entire community of more than 83 million users, according to GitHub.
The code completion tool, available as an extension to JetBrains IDEs, Neovim, Visual Studio, and Visual Studio Code, joins a growing list of competitors. While AI bots like Copilot continue to follow the trend, further advancements in AI technology could make code completion less relevant in the future, according to industry experts.
“This is a new realm of ‘code completion’ and I’m really excited about it,” said Chris Riley, senior manager of developer relations at marketing technology company HubSpot. “Besides the cool factor, in theory this will help improve the quality of the application and potentially support standards and better coding practices.”
Chris RileySenior Manager of Developer Relations, HubSpot
Developers should be careful when using Copilot, though, because it learns from other developers’ code — and people tend to make mistakes, said Yura Abharian, senior software engineer at Serve softan IT services and consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.
GitHub Copilot licenses, currently only available to individual users, cost $10 per month or $100 per year. However, students who have registered for GitHub’s Global Campus Program and administrators of popular open source GitHub projects — identified when a user navigates to the GitHub Copilot subscription page — can still use the tool for free. An enterprise edition is planned for later this year, said Thomas Dohmke, GitHub’s CEO, in a blog post†
Riley isn’t put off by the price tag. “$100 a year seems like an almost trivial price.”
Developer code completion tools are trending – for now
The list of bots that can write code and increase developer productivity, such as: kiteDeepMind’s Alphacode, IBM’s Project CodeNet — is getting longer every month, said Diego Lo Giudice, vice president and chief analyst at Forrester Research.
The trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. “Almost all development tools will include an AI bot by the end of 2022,” Forrester Research said in its… Software Development Forecast Report for 2022†
But some developers are not convinced that the trend is justified. AI currently cannot match humans in solving a wide variety of tasks at once, and this is exactly what programming needs, said Leonid Ivankin, an Android developer at MTS Group, a mobile telephony company.
While the idea of code completion tools looks appealing, he tried a similar solution from Codota — now called tabnin — but it didn’t work, he said.
“The AI presented me with a large chunk of code that was close to what was needed, but it had to be heavily modified and corrected each time,” Ivankin said.
However, the field of automated code completion tools is advancing, said Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at RobustCloud. More companies are developing tools to translate developer intent into code, which will make products like GitHub Copilot less relevant in the future, he said.
This article was updated after its first publication.