Windows 11 gets AI with "Windows Copilot

Windows[German]At the Microsoft BUILD 2023 developer conference, there was also an announcement that "artificial intelligence" is to enter Windows. Specifically, Microsoft wants to integrate its AI technology "Windows Copilot" into the Windows 11 client operating system. Microsoft boss Satya Nadella promises that every Windows user will mutate into a "power user" – whatever that means. What does this announcement on Microsoft's part mean?


Windows Copilot for Windows 11

The announcement that Windows Copilot will be integrated into Windows was, after all, made by Microsoft at the BUILD 2023 developer conference. The following tweet from Microsoft boss Satya Nadella picks up on this and promises that every Windows user will mutate into a "power user".

However, Windows specifically stands for Windows 11, as is made clear in the article Bringing the power of AI to Windows 11 – unlocking a new era of productivity for customers and developers with Windows Copilot and Dev Home from May 23, 2023. Panoy Panay has outlined what Microsoft is specifically planning with the AI integration in Windows 11 in the following key points:

  • The AI solution Windows Copilot is to be integrated into Windows 11 to provide central AI support there to help people get things done in Windows 11.
  • The Bing chat plugins are to make their way into Windows. This is to allow developers to integrate their apps with Windows Copilot. The nebulous promise to provide better service to users and increase engagement with native Windows apps.
  • It will also introduce new AI features and experiences to the Microsoft Store on Windows.
  • Microsoft also is planning a Dev Home, a platform to help any developer become more productive on Windows.

It all culminates in the announcement of a new hybrid AI loop to support AI development across platforms from Azure to the Windows client with new silicon support from AMD, Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm. This likely refers to the use of AI chips in future computers that use chipsets from the aforementioned manufacturers.

Presentation AI in Windows 11

This all sounds rather nebulous and non-committal. What should happen in Windows 11 concretely in terms of Windows Copilot. Windows Copilot is supposed to support the user (together with Bing Chat and third-party plugins) in taking the right actions to perform a certain task. The central point is a button in the taskbar, which can be used to call up Windows Copilot.


Windows Copilot vorgestellt
Windows Copilot introduced, Screenshot YouTube

The above YouTube video gives a quick overview of how Microsoft envisions the AI support in Windows 11 via Windows Copilot (just click the image to play the video). If the user selects the button, a wizard opens in a sidebar, in whose text fields one should enter a question. Windows Copilot then makes suggestions on how to proceed.

Seitenleiste von Windows Copilot
Windows Copilot sidebar, source: Microsoft.

According to Microsoft, the Windows Copilot sidebar is supposed to make every user a power user and help take action, customize your settings, and make seamless connections between applications. The only thing that comes to Microsoft's mind is that the Copilot will help users better use things they love about Windows, like copy/paste, Snap Assist, Snipping Tool, personalization. For example, users should not only be able to copy and paste, but also ask Windows Copilot to rewrite, summarize or explain such pasted content.

At this point, I personally already get ad-hoc into a conflict of goals. The idea of "loving things about a Windows" is quite crude for me. The operating system should work for me and run stable- I have never really used the snipping tool. Maybe the flowery paraphrase "loving things about a Windows" is due to the cultural gap between an old European citizen and the naïve view of some young

Microsoft says that, just like with Bing Chat Windows Copilot, the user can ask a range of questions. This could range from simple to complex. If you want to call your family in Cyprus (I've never thought of this before), you can quickly check the local time to make sure you're not calling in the middle of the night. Well, off the top of my head, it occurs to me that most people already have a good sense of when the right time is for recurring contacts.

Another example Microsoft cites is when someone wants to plan a trip to visit family in Cyprus, they can ask Windows Copilot to find flights and accommodations for their family for the winter vacations. Somewhat spontaneously, "you do that in a travel booking site on the web" crossed my mind coupled with the question "what does that have to do with an operating system?"

Microsoft is touting that the Bing and ChatGPT plugins in Windows Copilot will not only give users access to advanced AI features and experiences. It will also open up new opportunities for developers to support users via these features. In the article, this was combined with Microsoft's advertisement for developers to "jump on the AI bandwagon".

Windows Copilot will be available as a preview for Windows 11 starting in June 2023. Stay tuned and sign up here to receive updates from the team, says the Microsoft post…. Further in the post, Microsoft goes into detail about the opportunities that will be available to developers in the future.

I have some questions

If I sit back, one thought is: "Maybe this is really an approach to help the ordinary Windows user". However, at least for me, a lot of questions arise, which can be described as "Guys, we have a solution, find the problem for it".

Just a view from the practice: When I think about how awkward I find it working on small notebook screens – there is never enough space for two windows side by side to operate comfortably there. Now add a CoPilot sidebar to the desktop makes working absurd. I still remember the sidebar from Windows 8.1 – annoying to have to search for the features in the fade-in sidebar. Some will remeber the "the clippy wizard from Office is back" The annoying clippy window was always hanging somewhere in the wrong place on the screen and rarely did anything to improve things. Clippy was immediately hidden whenever possible. But not everyone may feel that way.

Another thought revolves around Bill Gates' promise of "information at your fingertips" on the personal computer. We've had these devices for about 40 years now, and most people have grown up with technology. And now we need AI to operate the functions of Windows? What's going wrong.

From my (old-school) point of view, I also have doubts as to whether Microsoft 's masterminds are still in line with what really concerns people in the field. When I look at how I have been using an operating system for 40 years, 99% of the time it is a recurring task. There is a browser window or a data explorer window that is opened to perform a task. Then there's Word, a few more programs for graphics, PDF viewing, and mail, all accessible via desktop shortcuts.

Throw in my experience looking "over the shoulder of several collared workers" over the last few decades, the typical clerk's workstation starts an application in the morning, and then the clerc spend the whole day in that program (e.g. accounting software, medical software, etc.). Often there are the buttons to call a mail program, a browser or something similar. Thus Windows is actually only vehicle to launch the application … but maybe the working world of today's generation of clerks looks different.

Where it "gets tricky", I admit, is the "customize any setting in Windows or Office" point. What I used to know intuitively through frequent use becomes a challenge with the constant changes to the "as a service" approach. Either I have to use search in the settings. Or I quickly query a search engine. So here a problem was created by the developers at Microsoft, which I somehow didn't have before. But this may be a personal problem.

The overview given above also raises the question of whether Microsoft is well-advised in the long term by pushing ahead with the AI approach. It is currently a hype topic and the "pig is being driven through the village". Redmond's management has been dominating the debate for what feels like half a year with its "daring" steps. But the discussions around the topic of AI and ChatGPT show that the topic is highly controversial. When even Sam Altmann from OpenAI calls for regulation of AI and does not classify his technology as ready for use, Microsoft's "move" becomes a risky bet.

Of course, the whole thing will have to be "financed": In other words, the manufacturers' investments will have to be recouped – and the computing power consumed by the presumed AI features will have to come from somewhere. From this point of view, jumping on the AI bandwagon for features that may not be absolutely necessary seems more like a step backward. It's like thinking "bigger, higher and faster", but don't care about environment and climate change. The idea that we want to be CO2-neutral by 2050 falls by the wayside if you consider that an AI search query requires 10 times the energy consumption of a conventional query.

Of course, the question of how Windows Copilot and all this AI stuff will affect us from a legal perspective is also open. We already have a huge discussion here in Germany/Europe about whether Microsoft products like Office 365, Microsoft 365, or Windows 10/11 are compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The German data protection authorities have repeatedly stated that it is not possible to use them in compliance with the GDPR because it is unclear what personal data is being leaked.

If I take this thought further, Microsoft shoots itself offside with Windows CoPilot. Because there, the transfer of personal data is once again raised to a new level. First companies (e.g. Apple, Samsung) forbid employees to use ChatGPT, because confidential internal information of the company could be leaked to the outside. And the first reports came to my attention the other days, where software was presented that is supposed to "stop the outflow of information through AI models".

If Google does not offer its BARD in the EU for DSGVO reasons, and companies as well as private individuals are rather reserved about the topic of AI, Microsoft is going out on a limb with this step. At this point, I don't dare to judge whether this is smart or merely inane, but I expect many more discussions and problems in the coming years. The questions raised would have to be answered convincingly if this is to be a sure success.

Similiar articles:
CES AMD talk by Panoy Panay: Windows, let your future be AI
Microsoft plans according to a report, to add ChatGPT-4 features to Office

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