Your laptop can become more intelligent and intuitive thanks to Microsoft Copilot.
Prepare for a significant transformation in your Windows laptop experience.Microsoft’s Pete Kyriacou, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Devices, has described it as the dawn of a new era, drawing parallels with the early days of the Internet. This statement followed the keynote presentation at Microsoft’s AI and Surface event held on Thursday.
At this event, Microsoft introduced a groundbreaking tool called Copilot, which functions as a systemwide digital assistant with AI capabilities. This AI chatbot-like helper is designed to assist with a wide range of tasks, from managing your PC’s settings to helping you discover the perfect playlist. Copilot is set to work seamlessly across various applications, including Bing and Edge, and it’s scheduled for release in the next Windows 11 update on September 26.
In 2023, Microsoft, much like Google, has been aggressively expanding its AI initiatives, partly due to the overnight success of ChatGPT, an online chatbot backed by Microsoft. The integration of such AI technology into Windows is significant because it provides a glimpse into how laptop usage could evolve.
While Microsoft has experimented with virtual assistants in the past, previous attempts have fallen behind those of its competitors. However, Pete Kyriacou is optimistic about Copilot’s prospects. New agents like Copilot possess contextual awareness, allowing them to be more proactive compared to traditional voice-activated virtual assistants that have been prevalent over the last decade.
According to StatCounter, as of August 2023, Microsoft’s Windows operating system holds a substantial 69% share of the global desktop OS market. Consequently, Microsoft’s decisions regarding the direction of Windows carry significant weight.
Similar to how touch screens became a standard feature on many premium Windows laptops following the rise of mobile devices, AI is poised to play a more prominent role in future laptops, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft’s recent event showcased various demonstrations highlighting the increasing integration of AI into Windows, with Copilot serving as a central figure. The company claims that Copilot will draw information from the web, your communications, and your devices to offer a more personalized and efficient assistant.
Carmen Zlateff, Vice President of Windows, demonstrated how Copilot could take a list of recommended points of interest in New York City from an email and calculate the walking time to each location. Copilot proactively appeared as soon as she highlighted the text. Additionally, she showcased Copilot’s compatibility with different input methods, such as a stylus, making it easier to ask questions involving symbols, including mathematical equations.
During a hands-on demonstration, Copilot exhibited its ability to understand various input methods. For instance, a Microsoft representative pasted a photo of a meal into the Copilot interface and typed the query, “How do I cook this?” The virtual assistant swiftly provided cooking instructions. However, it faced difficulty when the question was phrased as, “How do I make this?” It is worth noting that the effectiveness of the current tool requires further evaluation, and Microsoft plans to launch an improved version later this month.
Furthermore, Copilot will leverage contextual information from sources like your text messages to provide answers. In one example, Copilot responded to a question about an upcoming flight based on a text message. It also allows users to send text messages directly through the assistant.
Copilot’s capabilities extend to aiding in the navigation of your PC, eliminating the need for users to navigate through settings menus. For instance, on the demo floor, a company representative simply typed the command “Snap my windows” into Copilot’s text field to organize the various open apps on the device.
Microsoft’s AI ambitions extend beyond just software. The newly unveiled Surface Laptop Studio 2, introduced at Thursday’s event, stands out as the first Windows device equipped with an Intel neural chip. According to Kyriacou, this chip serves various purposes, such as keeping you centered in a video call and creating the illusion of maintaining eye contact, a feature integrated into Microsoft’s suite of Windows Studio Effects.
While similar capabilities exist in laptops and even Apple’s iPads, the inclusion of a dedicated AI chip is expected to enhance performance and prevent these features from placing excessive demands on your computer, as noted by Kyriacou.
Microsoft’s vision is not entirely unique. Google also introduced a range of AI-powered productivity features at its I/O conference in May, aiming to assist with tasks like image generation, document summarization, and automated email composition.
Although Apple may not promote its AI efforts as vigorously as Microsoft and Google, AI technology has undoubtedly played an increasingly significant role in its product offerings in recent years. This is evident in certain MacOS features, such as the new presenter overlay mode for video calls in MacOS Sonoma, which are exclusive to computers powered by Apple’s own silicon.
As discussions regarding regulation of AI-related products gain traction in Capitol Hill, major tech companies like Microsoft are likely to face greater scrutiny. The effectiveness of Copilot, for instance, relies on access to a substantial amount of user information, including texts, emails, and behavioral patterns, which could lead to concerns and opposition.
In the short term, however, Microsoft’s primary objective is to enhance the intuitiveness and user-friendliness of Windows laptops. As Kyriacou pointed out, Copilot’s capabilities encompass reasoning over handwritten notes, screen clippings, selections within Outlook, and even data that may not be currently visible on the screen.