The next major update to Windows 11 is coming next week, and it will bring some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in a while.

When the update to Windows 11 22H2 update arrives on September 26, 2023 it will bring a new design for File Explorer, all those new MS Paint features we’ve seen the company show off recently, and native support for RAR and 7-zip archive files, among other things. But one of the biggest changes is the inclusion of Microsoft’s AI-powered Copilot service.

Microsoft first unveiled Windows Copilot in May, and the company has been rolling out preview versions to members of the Windows Insider Preview program since earlier this summer.

But now the company is bringing it to all users, promising that you’ll be able to use it to pull together data from across different Microsoft apps and services including the Edge web browser, Office suite, and Bing search engine.

For example, Copilot can:

  • Get a brief summary of an email message or list of text messages, and which might be the highest priority
  • Snap a picture of an item and then have Copilot open a browser window that will take you to the website for a store where you can buy that thing
  • Use data from your phone’s text messages to grab flight information and then find things to do at your travel destination
  • Bing’s Image Creator tool, which already lets you generate images from text-based prompts, is getting an upgrade to the Dall-E 3 model soon, bringing support for more realistic pictures

Microsoft says users will be able to invoke Copilot by clicking an icon on their computer or using a voice prompt. In other words, it’s the new Cortana… but powered by new generative AI models, it should be better at understanding natural language and responding in kind.

Of course, it also sounds like it’s going to be most useful if you’re willing to put all of your data in Microsoft’s hands, using the company’s Bing search engine, Edge web browser, Office suite of apps, and smartphone apps to keep your data synchronized between devices. I suspect most folks who just want their operating system to blend into the background so they can use third-party apps won’t find Copilot much more useful than Cortana or Clippy.

But there are a few other interesting features coming to Windows 11 with the 23H2 update, including Windows Ink Anywhere, which allows users with a stylus-enabled device to use their pen in any text input box. And if you are using Copilot, you can also use the pen to highlight things like math problems to have Copilot solve them for you.

Other new features include a new Dynamic Lighting feature in the Windows Settings app, which allows gamers and other users to control lighting effects for keyboards, mice, game controllers, and other hardware that has RGB lighting, a new Volume Mixer that lets you quickly change audio output targets and volumes for specific apps from the taskbar flyout window, and support for copying text from an image you grab using the Windows Snipping Tool.

The Notepad app also automatically saves your data when you close it, so you can pick up where you left off next time you open it, since all text, tabs, and other information will be restored. And the Photos app includes new features like background blur and improved search features.

via Microsoft, Engadget (1)(2), The Verge, and xda-developers

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  1. “Use data from your phone’s text messages to grab flight information and then find things to do at your travel destination (that those places paid one of microsoft’s ad customers for promotion)” yeah, that’s not creepy at all! Microsoft isn’t your friend. They are a huge conglomerate, too big, too detached from humanity, and too hateful, for them to have good intentions for you.
    Just look at how they’re baking this in as a windows feature instead of keeping it as a web service, so it can get more data from you.
    And I don’t mean that Siri and Google Assistant are any better about stuff like that. I mean DO NOT LET THIS IN. If they see a need to compete for your attention this way and have to pay Open AI to do it, they will, and what are the odds the government will do anything to break up the effective monopoly. The fossils in congress can propose all the uninformed “AI safety” regulatory nonsense they want, Open AI knows it’ll only affect stuff like Stable Diffusion and Llama, their competition, and with their models OPEN to no one, they can switch from their boring, milquetoast output to something horrendous with the same user interface (e.g. windows copilot) at any time, if they think the results will be worth it.
    I don’t have much hope for people turning it off though. It is, or will be on and listening and bugging you and terrifying you with what it talks about by default, like so many other windows features I have to turn off. Maybe most people will wish it could just go off into the background, but even the concept of “turn windows co-pilot (or any other feature) off” is alien to them. They’ll probably say they can ignore it, just like they say they always ignore ads. But they really don’t. Sometimes they’ll click on something, or regurgitate a fake headline, and that alone meant copilot had power over them in that moment. People are NOT evolved to handle social interactions over the internet, and it’s already driving everyone crazy, AI will only make it worse. Heck, I don’t think people are sufficiently evolved to even handle TV. And if they won’t turn that off, what hope do we have?

    1. Agreed. I am hoping Linux becomes viable in the next 10 years for gaming and music production, because MS will keep making things worse. They aren’t capable of doing otherwise.

      1. You can now, if you’re willing to put in some effort when you install things.
        A better question to ask is if Web Environment Integrity is going to make accessing websites that you need to access to participate in society, like anything behind Cloudflare (70+% of websites with a known reverse proxy), from Linux, an impossibility.
        Well, since it’s in Chromium and thus all forks of it after very little debate, mostly opposed, all discussion of it is limited to people who supported it, and the internet has just shrugged its shoulders and quit talking about something that could kill desktop Linux, I can only assume that we’ve got only a few years after 2025 when Windows 10 support ends and ALL windows machines that still have browser support will have TPM 2.0 enabled, that the switches will go on, and it’ll become more and more impossible to browse the web from Linux.