Windows 11 is turning into Windows 12 right in front of us

Person sitting and using an HP computer with Windows 11.

Windows 12 is already upon us. Microsoft hasn’t released the new operating system yet, or even formally announced it, but Microsoft’s September 2023 event made it clear that recent updates to Windows 11 are laying the foundation for the next iteration of the OS.

A significant portion of the presentation focused on the upcoming AI assistant that is set to “revolutionize” the way you use Windows. A new update is now available for Windows 11 that adds Copilot to the OS. Copilot is said to be an everyday AI companion that provides assistance by uniquely integrating information from the internet, your work-related data, and your current PC tasks. It offers a range of AI features to numerous default apps by collecting data from your calendar, email, documents, and more to assist in quick text and email composition.

It also has the capability to provide real-time suggestions within apps like Outlook and incorporate context from Bing Mobile and Edge on your smartphone. The interesting bit is that the AI extends into the Windows operating system, where users will be able to control various aspects of their desktop experience. For instance, you could quickly enable dark mode, launch an app to play your favorite music playlist, or check for upcoming Windows updates using voice or text commands.

Introducing Copilot in Windows 11, new AI tools, and more

And there are more AI-powered features coming to Windows 11, including updates to several apps. Paint will now offer features like background removal, layers, and Cocreator for generative AI-based creativity. There are also new enhancements for the Snipping Tool, which will offer new methods for capturing screen content, including text extraction and sound capture for video creation. Best of all, Notepad will now automatically save your session state and restore open tabs and unsaved content. Even File Explorer is getting a modernized look, including a Gallery for easy photo access. Other notable features include new AI-equipped Clipchamp features, updates to Outlook, accessibility improvements, and a new Windows Backup feature.

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The foundation of the future

Judging by how the upcoming update is all about AI,  it won’t be surprising to see it being the driving force for Windows 12, or whatever Microsoft decides to call the next version of Windows. Reports suggest that Microsoft will release the next major of version of Windows in 2024, and AI will be the central feature of the modernized OS.

Microsoft September launch demo.

We’re already seeing that transition in action, and we have been for months. Earlier this year, the company announced a fresh version of Bing Chat that eventually made its way to the Edge web browser (and told us it wanted to be human). The company also announced Copilot for Microsoft 365, which can basically help in creating documents, scanning and summarizing emails, making presentations, and more.

Microsoft is strategically pacing the gradual introduction of AI-powered tools and features within the Windows ecosystem. That’s actually an important way to familiarize users with new features and capabilities, especially if the company wants to avoid the backlash it received during the transition from Windows 10 to 11.

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Past mistakes

Windows 11 had a shaky launch as Microsoft aimed to enhance security by mandating Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 encryption technology. This left PC users frustrated, especially those with motherboards that didn’t support TPM 2.0 despite having components exceeding the minimum requirements. Then there were issues in terms of performance, specifically for gamers, a fair share of bugs, and UI changes that are still quite irritating for legacy Windows users. The controversies have resulted in slow adoption of Windows 11, which continues to lag behind with a market share of 23.17% as of August 2023. In contrast, Windows 10 sits on top with a 71.94% market share worldwide.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks on stage during the Microsoft September event.
Jacob Roach / Winkeys

It is too early to say whether the fusion of AI with Windows can turn things around for Microsoft. But it is clear that the company is confident and betting big on it. During the September event, CEO Satya Nadella stated how Copilot is essentially a new category of computing and can potentially change the way all of us work and engage with computers. “This is as significant as the PC was to the ’80s, the Web in the ’90s, mobile in the 2000s, cloud in the 2010s,” he said.

Well, we hope he is right.

We’ve been here before

It is not the first time that we have seen Microsoft introduce a virtual assistant to Windows. In 2015, Cortana made its debut on Windows 10, harnessing the Bing search engine’s capabilities to execute tasks ranging from setting reminders and notifying users about upcoming meetings to launching applications and delivering search results. It had both text and voice support. with the ability to recognize audio commands. Regrettably, Cortana’s journey was short-lived as it struggled to compete with Google, Amazon, and Apple. Microsoft has removed Cortana from all major platforms and recently announced that support for the standalone Cortana app on Windows will cease in late 2023, paving the way for Copilot to step into the spotlight.

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I have some reservations about the new Copilot AI assistant, and I’m not the only one. While it appears practical and, dare I say, useful, I have grown accustomed to the way Windows operates. Certainly, there are days when troubleshooting random errors consumes hours of my time. Yet, for the most part, my mind and muscles have become attuned to navigating Windows PC in a particular manner. This revolution in computing sheds a lot of legacy baggage, for better and worse.

It’s clear that’s the direction that we’re headed in, though. Even a few years after release, Windows 11 is a wildly different OS than when we first used it. With the introduction of Copilot, Microsoft’s big AI push is starting to finally form, setting up the future of Windows 12 (or whatever name we see) that’s expected to surface some time next year.

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