Microsoft has been betting big on AI over the last few years. But if you haven’t had much use for features like the company’s new Windows Copilot AI assistant, it’s been pretty easy to ignore.

It’s going to be a little harder soon though, because Microsoft has been working with PC makers to include a dedicated Copilot key on laptop and desktop keyboards.

This obviously isn’t the first time we’ve seen an operating system-specific key added to Windows keyboards. Most PC keyboards already have a dedicated Windows key, which you can use to bring up the Start Menu (and which comes in handy for a few other shortcuts such as Win + A to bring up Quick Settings or Win + left/right arrow to snap a Window to the side of the screen).

But the Windows key has been a thing for three decades and serves a number of functions. The Copilot key is brand new and, at the risk of coming across as old-man-shaking-his-fist, I’m not sure anyone was really asking for a dedicated key for invoking Copilot. Because while Microsoft really wants you to tap into its AI assistant for “personalized AI experiences from Windows,” I think a lot of people don’t want or need that from an operating system… which many see as just the thing that allows them to run the applications and games they need.

That said, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in a few years I’ll be hitting that key all the time to get brief summaries of web pages, help compose email messages, access Windows settings more quickly, use text prompts to generate images, music, or video, or chat with Microsoft’s AI assistant. But I’m still not sure I’d sacrifice an existing key on the keyboard to do that – especially at a time when Windows Copilot isn’t even available globally yet (using the button in countries where Copilot hasn’t launched will just bring up a Windows Search menu).

Anyway, time will tell whether the Copilot key is here to stay or if it’ll disappear in a generation or two. But don’t be surprised if a lot of the new PCs announced in the coming months have the new key.

Dell XPS 14 with dedicated Copilot key

Microsoft says new devices with Copilot keys should be available beginning in late February, 2024, and PC makers are already starting to introduce models with the key. The Dell XPS 13, 14, and 16 laptops have Copilot keys, and many of the laptops announced during CES 2024 will probably have them too.

And, of course, Microsoft says we’ll see the key on the company’s next-gen Surface devices as well.

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  1. why do this crap as i do not want or need it i am happy to do things quite easliy without it.

    1. Yeah, we’ll see how that works this time, if it plays out any different than screen notches, physical keyboards, and headphone jacks on phones, or almost every laptop turning into a macbook lookalike with no extra rows, small key travel, reduced ports, and no mouse buttons.

  2. I need this like a key for NFTs. Another needless innovation/initiative driven by seeking profit rather than user need, and it will be abandoned after a generation or two. Hopefully.

  3. Microsoft sure tries hard to drive masses of people away from their operating system. It is hard to believe engineers can be so dumb. Thye are completely dumb when it comes to PEOPLE. Yes, HUMAN BEINGS.

  4. It is a pure evil idea, to mess with the keyboard. You probably think I am kidding. Microsoft sure tries hard to drive masses of people away from their operating system. It is hard to believe engineers can be so dumb. Thye are completely dumb when it comes to PEOPLE. Yes, HUMAN BEINGS.

  5. Not ready. I’ve read over the years, people gripe about things Microsoft does. “I’m leaving Windows and going to linux!!” they say with every new version of Windows that comes out.

    But honestly? I wont be installing Windows 12. I know Microsoft is betting big on A.I., but it’s not something I want. If I want A.I., I run Llama 2 models locally. I have complete control over it and privacy.

    It upsets me that Microsoft is cramming this down everyone’s throats, instead of giving us options. Instead of having to use their winget program to uninstall all their crapware (like the MS Store, Photos, Cortana, etc), just give us an option to download it if we want it.

    I’m refusing to install the latest security update for Windows 11, because they decided to roll up Copilot into that security update, which really ticks me off.

    I used linux for years, then installed Server 2019, then installed 11, and they work great. But Windows 12? Yeah, no thanks….

    Just give us options, Microsoft. Let us choose what we want instead of forcing things upon us. That’s all that I (and many others) ask from you. Let us decide what we want on our computers.

    ( I know that will never happen ). I truly miss the days when Gates and Ballmer were at the helm. Those were the best Windows days IMHO.

    Windows 12 I will not install. Hopefully, if things go right, my Legion will last me another decade. Server and 11 both run beautifully on it, and is all I need.

    TBH, I hope their A.I. bet falls flat on its face. But that’s me. As for a dedicated key on new keyboards just for A.I., I think that’s just stupid.

    1. P.S. I’ve done a fair amount of Microsoft griping myself over the years. I’m the first to admit that. But this move by Microsoft pushing A.I. onto everyone, honestly gives me pause.

      And Brad, in your reply to Some Guy, I think you’re pretty spot-on with your assessment.

  6. AI will get obsolete, cause people’s brains will degrade so much, they won’t be capable pressing a button.
    Though, I don’t know what will happen to people.

    1. Sometimes it seems like the endgame the powers that be have in mind for civilization, is just a bunch of starving, dirt-eating, poverty stricken, unintelligent people beating each other up all the time, not mentally capable of building the infrastructure they live on or the tools they use. The machines that organize it all and their masters, the few intelligent people left, are kept at a safe distance.
      They may be ruling over a world of garbage, but at least no ideas will ever threaten them again, so it was worth it, right?

  7. I used copilot the other day to help me build a struct in C filled with all the Morse code in it for a lookup table and was impressed. I embrace our AI overlords.

  8. Besides the Windows key, I seem to recall a few other Microsoft-specific keys that have been added/removed over the years. Like the “Office” key. There is also a somewhat more generic “Menu” key that I believe was originally Microsoft-specific.

    I’m curious what the key code for this new key will be. I can’t find any mention of what key code the old “Office” key used, wonder if they will just reuse that one, or assign it a never-before-used one.

    In any event, if you don’t like it, you can always remap it in Windows (unfortunately only on a system-wide basis, not per-user).

    1. I’m expecting that it will just map to a keyboard command. They could assign, for example, windows+something to launch Copilot and make this key send the keycodes for both so you only have to press one key. Doing that means they also have a key command for people who have normal keyboards. It’s pretty common for laptop keyboards to have such useless things on their function key row. For example, I’ve had a computer which had a dedicated key to simulate windows+F and open the feedback tool, and my Framework keyboard has one configured to press windows+P for secondary display settings. This will probably be like that.

  9. I opened two tabs with stories covering this news. Now I’m glad I read this one first. Great commentary.

  10. They are REALLY getting desperate to get as many people as possible onto this thing.
    This hasn’t been mentioned here, but a couple days ago Microsoft renamed Edge on Android into “AI Browser”. Meanwhile I look up how to disable this in group policy and Microsoft’s documentation insists that your organization WILL be using copilot and the only reason you’re not is because you’re not ready (you stupid luddites). It won’t surprise me if disabling that will be restricted to Windows Enterprise/Education editions like the Store is. I don’t know what they’re planning, but people are worth so little as it is I can’t imagine it being anything that’s overall good for humanity even if it does make share values go up.

    1. My most generous take is that they really think AI is the future and that by incorporating it into the operating system as soon as possible, they can make Windows stand out from macOS, ChromeOS, and desktop GNU/Linux distros.

      More realistically, like Google, Microsoft is trying to hook you on its version of AI as soon as possible so that you don’t end up thinking of the operating system itself as irrelevant. This is in keeping with the company’s move to push more and more of its online services into the Edge web browser and the operating system itself (hello Teams taskbar icon that nobody asked for).

      And ultimately… it could be a way to generate revenue beyond what the company can make by licensing its OS to PC makers. Because even with a growing number of chip makers integrating NPUs into their laptop and desktop processors, a lot of this AI stuff is still hosted in the cloud, which means that if it does become a must-have feature, it’s likely that customers are going to end up paying with attention (ads) or money (subscriptions).

      But right now… it still feels like a very optional, half-baked feature that’s getting a dedicated key on the keyboard.

      1. I could be a bit more generous than that actually. Namely because (I’ve been told) Copilot can do things like copy a certain item of data from a bunch of variably-formatted PDFs into a neat little table in Excel, or do OCR, which does in fact boost productivity and there aren’t a lot of good alternative solutions you don’t have to pay money for. Because of those little things like that, it could be hard to actually justify disabling in a business context, unless the machine handles data subject to export controls.
        I don’t think NPUs are particularly relevant here actually. It’s not like neural applications require an NPU to do anything, they can and probably do use the GPU to handle it, the NPU seems more about boosting efficiency and response times even further. I’m starting to think in fact that offloading neural processing to your devices saves service providers money compared to running millions of sessions of the same neural application in a server, given how many applications like auto-caption, speech to text, text to speech, OCR, translation, Apple’s attempt at on-device scanning for illegal content pre-upload, and a lot of what Siri does have been moving to the phones. So the NPU just helps that go more smoothly. You’re still running mystery meat code linked to an ad company.

        But nothing changes the facts that so many people are already struggling with no purpose, worth, or agency in life (and getting no help because it was always their own damn fault somehow, wasn’t it), are way more socially isolated than is healthy, and the more productive the service is, the more people the service can displace, making all those problems worse for the displaced.