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Windows Copilot AI is the new Start button, says Microsoft CEO

Microsoft Copilot im neuen Windows 11-UpdateImage: Microsoft

We may not know how Microsoft will redesign Windows 12, but we do know how Microsoft is thinking about it: The company is putting AI first, to the point where Windows Copilot could be the new Start button.

During the announcement of the rather shocking performance claims surrounding Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and its Oryon CPU, Qualcomm chief executive Cristiano Amon sat down for a pre-recorded video chat with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. The two have worked closely together to enable Windows on Arm to run on Snapdragon-powered PCs, and now to spur the creation of software that takes advantage of the neural processing units (NPUs) being integrated into modern computers.

For Nadella and Microsoft, the centerpiece of AI is Copilot, which either runs on Windows or in various apps like Microsoft 365. “And so in some sense, there is a new generation of AI PCs that I think are getting created,” Nadella said. “So the work we’re doing together, you know, it’s sort of going to bring together these experiences that cannot be done without sort of a new system architecture.”

Nadella didn’t have the time to spell out what he meant here, but it’s possible that he was talking about the next Windows iteration, which would logically be called Windows 12. So far, the only reports we’ve had is that it could be very modular — and, with all of the work Microsoft has done on AI, heavily tilted toward Microsoft’s AI technologies.

And that’s what Nadella talked about next.

“The Copilot is like the Start button,” Nadella said Tuesday. “It becomes the orchestrator of all your app experiences. So for example, I just go there and express my intent and it either navigates me to an application or it brings the application to the Copilot, so it helps me learn, query and create — and completely changes, I think, the user habits.”

That’s a fairly telling statement. We know that people will “search” for Web sites that they already know, simply using the URL bar in a Web browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge as a navigational tool. So, too, do people search within Windows for a given app, rather than finding it in the Start menu.

Nadella seems to think that users will do the same with Copilot — but maybe they won’t even ask it to open an app. The notion of “intent” leaves open the possibility that a user is searching for an app, or simply is asking for something like “a way to edit a photo” or “help me with financial planning.” Maybe Copilot is a way to launch apps. Maybe it’s a way to suggest apps.

Either way, Nadella seems to think that Copilot is a richer way of asking Windows to help you do what you want to do, rather than searching for a list of apps. Could it replace the iconic Windows Start button some day? We’ll see what the future holds.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

Finland’s ‘Windows95man’ is taking Eurovision by stormMicrosoft’s Copilot AI is stealing one of Midjourney’s best featuresMore workers are using AI, but they’re ashamed to admit it

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