Windows 11 gets AI in the form of Copilot - and this could go either way

Not Cortana, not Clippy, meet Copilot, Microsoft's big plan to infuse Windows 11 with AI - but the software giant needs to tread carefully here.

2 minutes & 18 seconds read time

Microsoft has made a big revelation at its Build conference, with the software giant putting an AI assistant front and center in Windows 11.

Copilot is the name of the AI, which can be invoked by clicking its icon on the taskbar, then it pops up in a side panel, ready to assist with whatever it is you happen to be doing.

Or, in the usual style, you can simply ask the AI questions. Such as how you can adjust your system to focus on getting some work done, an example Microsoft gives, in reply to which Copilot suggests using Windows 11's focus timer feature and switching to the operating system's dark theme.

The AI goes further than mere suggestions, though, and then offers to actually turn on the relevant features for you - assuming you respond in the affirmative, they're immediately brought into play.

Copilot can perform a bunch of other tricks. Select a document file, say, a business plan, and you can get the AI to summarize it for you there and then.

Copy some text from a document, and rather than just simply pasting it, you can have the AI rewrite it before dropping the text into something else.

Chuck in a bunch of plug-ins for Copilot, including Bing (of course) and ChatGPT, and you have what seems like a pretty potent infusion of AI chops for Windows 11.

Copilot could be great - or not-so-great

Looking at the presentation material - see the above YouTube clip - Copilot does seem genuinely useful and slick, particularly for those who aren't so familiar with the ins-and-outs of Windows.

The reality, of course, could well be different from the marketing bumph, and that's where Microsoft needs to be careful. With AI's capacity to make mistakes, what we don't want to see is not-so-helpful recommendations that the less tech-savvy might take to heart, ending up with features unnecessarily turned on.

Or more dangerously, suggestions from Copilot that tread the line between help and advertising, something we've seen quite a bit of in testing from Microsoft of late - and in some cases, with the release version of Windows 11. We're talking about 'badging' Start menu recommendations primarily, prodding you to use OneDrive for backups, or to set up a Microsoft account.

It'll be intriguing to try Copilot, of course, and we won't have to wait all that long, at least not to experience the AI in testing. Microsoft plans to make Windows Copilot available in preview builds of Windows 11 in June, so that could mean we see this feature land for release later in 2023 (with the big 23H2 update, perhaps).

Mind you, with the amount of testing needed in this case, we wouldn't bank on it. Bringing AI fully into Windows 11 is a big gambit for Microsoft, and not one the software giant can afford to get wrong. First impressions are very much going to last, and doubtless lessons will have (hopefully) been learned from the launch of Bing AI, complete with the chatbot misfiring spectacularly in some cases.


Darren has written for numerous magazines and websites in the technology world for almost 30 years, including TechRadar, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Computeractive, and many more. He worked on his first magazine (PC Home) long before Google and most of the rest of the web existed. In his spare time, he can be found gaming, going to the gym, and writing books (his debut novel – ‘I Know What You Did Last Supper’ – was published by Hachette UK in 2013).

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