New Windows Insider Build brings AI features to non NPU PCs

The Windows Insider team have released Windows 11 Build 26040 to Insiders in the Canary Channel, which is the first new build for this channel in 2024.

This build is full with improvements and fixes, but the main call out feature of this build is the addition of support for Voice Clarity on PCs that do not have dedicated NPUs. Until now, this was a feature that had been exclusive to select Surface devices with NPUs, but Microsoft are now making this available across all Windows 11 devices.

Voice Clarity uses advanced AI powered audio processing to help your voice be heard more clearly on online calls, and voice recordings even in noisy environments or when you move around the room. Voice Clarity also improves the quality of the voices you hear, making them sound more natural and realistic using a combination of echo cancelling, background noise suppression and removal of reverberation all in real-time.

Note: My understanding is that this new native OS based Voice Clarity will only activate "when the OEM device does not offer Communications Mode processing.". This means that if your device already has a noise-reduction technology (such as the Surface Pro 9) compatible with Communications Signal Processing Mode, the Windows 11 software-based Voice Clarity will not be activated and it will instead use the technology enabled by the NPU. 

Other changes in Canary build 26040

Other noticeable changes in this build include:

  • Changes to the Windows Setup experience with a cleaner and more modern experience.
  • Improvements to the screen casting services
  • Moving of the Copilot in Windows button to the right side of the Taskbar making it easier to access and closer to where the Copilot pane opens.
  • Support for USB 80Gbps has been added to support the new devices shipping with the newest Intel Core 14th Gen HX-series mobile processors.
  • A New Task Manager icon – that matches the design language of Windows 11. There’s new option to show the GPU temperature in the Performance tab.

Read the full Windows Insider Blog

Full releases notes for the latest Canary Build can be found here, along with release notes for the Dev and Beta builds which also had new builds this week.

Windows 11 PCs to get Copilot key as Microsoft embeds AI in Windows.

Windows Keyboard with Copilot Button

Microsoft today, 4th Jan 2024, announced that Copilot in Windows is coming out of preview. They also announced the next significant step forward for Copilot in Windows and the future of the AI Powered PC. Microsoft say that the future of Windows, Silicon and Copilot, are the next stage of enabling the significant shift towards “a more personal and intelligent computing future where AI will be seamlessly woven into Windows from the system to the silicon, to the hardware“.

The next technology shift, driven by AI innovation is continuing to grow exponentially and is posed to fundamentally change the way we use and access technology forever.

“From reinventing the way people search with Copilot in Bing, and unlocking productivity with Copilot for Microsoft 365, to reimagining how people get things done on the PC with Copilot in Windows”.

Yusuf Mehdi | Chief Marketing Officer | Microsoft


Microsoft, in their blog, talk about 2023 being the year of the birth of Generative AI, with 2024 being the year of the AI Powered PC.

The AI Powered PC

As significant as the introduction of the Windows Key was in the 1990s, the introduction of a new Copilot key will be the first significant change (in over 30 years) that is coming to the Windows PC keyboard starting with new devices shipping this year.

The Copilot key, which will sit near the space bar and replace the right ALT-GR key on most keyboards, will invoke the Copilot in Windows experience to make it seamless for people to engage Copilot in their day-to-day work or lives and is designed to make it easier for everyone to be part of the AI transformation more easily.

AI – from Chip to the Cloud

In same way Microsoft approaches security – Chip, OS and Cloud, they are taking the same approach with AI. Starting with their own NPUs in Surface and now across their eco system OEM partners, Microsoft say that there is huge momentum from AMD, Intel and Qualcomm, all of whom have launched dedicated NPUs to unlock the power of edge AI processing in their latest chipsets and with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just round the corner, we expect to see many new innovation and advances coming from Microsoft and the rest of the Windows OEMs this year. This powerful combinations and advances coming to Windows OS, their Copilot Cloud system and advances in NPUs, the next twelve months seem very exciting.

Microsoft say they are committed to the pace of development in Copilot and Windows and are positioning Windows to be “the destination for the best AI experiences”. This combined with the development of their AI Cloud Services and the new local processing made possible by new hardware and silicon, will allow Windows to be an “operating system that blurs the lines between local and cloud processing“. The year ahead promises to be nothing short of extraordinary!

Note: Copilot in Windows is being rolled out gradually to Windows Insiders in select global markets. The initial markets for the Copilot in Windows preview include North America, United Kingdom and parts of Asia and South America. It will come additional markets over time.

Microsoft Surface first?

It’s unknown at the moment what OEMs will start to ship devices with the new Copilot key, but according to leaks and social media, Microsoft is rumoured to be launching updates to the Surface Pro Surface Laptop family this year and these will ship with the new Copilot key.


If you want to lean more.

Read the full article from the Windows Blog.

Read more about Copilot in Windows on my blog here.

Copilot for Windows is now available for Windows 11 Insiders


The latest Windows 11 preview build, which is now available to Insiders in the Dev Channel, ships with the first “beta” version of Windows Copilot, which is powered by the same AI technology that Bing Chat uses. 

Microsoft initially annouced Windows Copilot last month at Build, and said it would be available in preview from June. In today’s Dev build (23493), Windows Copilot is available to preview, and is expected to roll out to all users later this calendar year.

Using Windows Copilot

Windows Copilot can be launched from the Taskbar and appears as a sidebar app that is docked to the right of your screen. Windows Copilot can do pretty much everything Bing Chat does, but also brings new experiences specifically for Windows 11. Whilst limited in this initial release, Windows Copilot supports commands such as:

  • “Change to dark mode.”
  • “Turn on do not disturb.”
  • “Take a screenshot”
  • “Summarise this website” (which uses an active tab in Microsoft Edge)
  • “Write a story about a dog who lives on the moon.”
  • “Make me a picture of a serene koi fishpond with lily pads
Windows Copilot Beta

As you can see in the above screenshot, Windows Copilot does not appear on top of apps, but is instead docked to the right side of the screen so that you can use it without it getting in the way. This builds on Windows 11`s ability to work with other apps side-by-side.

As it stands today, the side bar is really just Edge running in a window, rather than a full native Windows App, and it just look just like (since it is) BingChat. Hopefully over time, this will be polished to look a bit more Windows 11 like, rather than just BingChat in a sidebar… But this is an initial release…

Asking a command like “Take a screenshot”, not only gives instructions on how to perform that task, Copilot also opens or performs the relevant task for me. Like I say, these are simple interactions in this initial release.

Windows Copilot in action.

Feedback: I’d like the option to be able to turn off the confirmation unless Copilot isn’t sure of my command, this would make Copilot more streamlined and mean I dont have to confirm. Maybe show me how to open or peform the action (that is useful) but do the task first!

Current Limitations

This initial version of Windows Copilot preview is missing a few of the things that were annouced last month, including third-party application support. There’s also still only a handful of settings and tasks it can perform – the aim of this beta is of course to get user feedback from the Windows Insider community (it’s far from ready for general availability).

Windows Copilot also requires you to be using Microsoft Edge (version 115 or higher). Edge is required since Windows Copilot is an extension of Microsoft Edge and uses WebView2 to display the chat window inside the Windows Copilot sidebar. It’s essentially BingChat currently, but again, it’s early days and this far from ready for mainstream release (it’s an early preview).

Microsoft said that Windows Copilot’s first preview doesn’t have everything shown at their Build conference. It cannot be used to try third-party plugins from OpenAI or modify advanced Windows Settings…. Yet!

They have said that new features or “actions” will be added over time as Microsoft continues to work on the update.

Availability

Copilot in Windows in preview is being rolled out gradually to Windows Insiders in select global markets. The initial markets for the Copilot in Windows preview include North America, United Kingdom and parts of Asia and South America. It is Microsoft’s intention to add additional markets over time.


I will be attempting a hands on video with the new Windows Copilot soon. In the meantime, check out more on this in the official Microsoft Blog.

Windows 11 22H2 Config update rolling out to Release Preview Ring.

Windows 11 version 22H2, has started it’s rollout and of a huge configuration change, which brings loads of changes. After initially being released to Beta and Dev Windows Insiders, it is now rolling out to the Release Preview Channel with build number 22621.1926.

As well as the usual security updates and performace tweaks, the key changes and updates in tbis update include:

  • NEW Quick access to your Microsoft account information with notification badging
  • NEW redesigned in-app voice command help page
  • NEW ability to authenticate across Microsoft clouds
  • NEW Live captions languages added
  • NEW text selection and editing options in voice access commands
  • NEW VPN status icon in system tray
  • NEW ability to copy 2FA code information
  • NEW Multi-app kiosk mode
  • NEW USB4 settings page
  • NEW Live Kernal Dump collection in Task Manager
  • IMPROVEMENTS to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
  • IMPROVEMENTS to Voice access with command support for a number of English dialects
  • IMPROVEMENTS to several simplified Chinese fonts and the IME
  • IMPROVED System Tray setting for adding seconds on the clock
  • IMPROVED sharing of files from File Explorer to Outlook
  • IMPROVED touch keyboard display settings
  • IMPROVED search within Settings
  • IMPROVED search suggestions
  • IMPROVED performance for high report rate mice
  • CHANGE to PRT SCR button which now opens Snipping Tool by default
  • CHANGE to the limit for Multitasking tabs to twenty

You can check out the full Microsoft Blog here

Goodbye Cortana…hello Windows Copilot

Logo of Microsoft Cortana

While not especially surprising given its lack of attention, Microsoft has quietly announced that it “will no longer support Cortana in Windows as a standalone app,” starting in late 2023 as we see the introduction of Windows Copilot which was announced at Microsoft Build last month.

Originally launching in 2014 for Windows and Windows Phone, Cortana was poised to be be the “the next big thing,” – a personal assistant to rival Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, that could look up things, take notes, answer questions and even book things in your diary or read your emails. There was even an iOS and Android app and Cortana also made it’s way into Microsoft Teams as an assistant for video conferencing.

Goodbye Cortana

Lack of investment, low consumer demand, and lack of “intelligent speakers” to allow Cortana to be heard. In 2020, Microsoft announced a new vision for Cortana instead positioning it as part of their “vision to deliver transformational AI-powered experiences in Microsoft 365 through Cortana, your personal productivity assistant for Microsoft Office and Teams“.

Earlier this year Microsoft announced they were dropping support for Cortana as an app on Apple iOS and Android and as of late 2023 it the final nail in the coffin will be it evicted from the Windows OS as well. I expect Cortana on Teams Rooms to be replaced by Copilot in Teams at some point though at this moment in time, Microsoft have said that “This change only impacts Cortana in Windows, and your productivity assistant, Cortana, will continue to be available in Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Microsoft Teams display, and Microsoft Teams rooms.”

This year (and it’s only June), we have see the advent of Bing Chat (which is powered by ChatGPT- 4), voice access for Windows 11, Cortana’s voice functionality has all but now been replaced, as has its future.

Microsoft’s advice for anyone that still uses the Cortana app in Windows is to use something else!!

“We know that this change [removal or Cortana] may affect some of the ways you work in Windows, so we want to help you transition smoothly to the new options. Instead of clicking the Cortana icon and launching the app to begin using voice, now you can use voice and satisfy your productivity needs through different tools”.

Microsoft

Introducing Windows Copilot

At Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that a preview version of Windows Copilot would be coming to Windows Insiders later this June (most likley for the US first, before rolling out to other regions).

Windows Copilot will centralised AI assistance across Windows. In conjunction with Bing Chat and both first and third-party plugins, it will enable people to interface with Windows and Windows apps and services using Copilot chat, rather trying to find what app to use, find settings or work out how to do something.

More on Windows Copilot in my previous blog post.

Copilot to be a core part of Windows 11.

Yesterday at Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that is making its’ inevitable step in the future of Windows – making AI an integral part of Windows 11 with Windows Copilot.

In the (to be expected) incredible sizzle video from Microsoft (see below), we saw how the new Windows Copilot tool will live within the Windows sidebar and will be able to offer contextual actions and suggestions based on what’s currently on screen. The user will also be able to ask natural language questions and Copilot will respond much like Bing Chat does.

Microsoft said initial previews of Windows Copilot will begin as soon as next month with Windows Insiders and Windows MVPs.

It will see Microsoft AI becoming front and centre across more than 1.4 billion Windows users in the coming months.

What will Windows Copilot be able to do?

Microsoft say the Copilot will make all Windows users Power Users. It can be used to accomplish tasks within the OS such as turning on or off wireless, changing between light and dark mode, changing projection mode etc, all without having to fumble around trying to find the specific setting. Windows Copilot will also function as a true AI assistant, summarising documents, opening apps, and even sending documents via email. In short – Windows Copilot is the Cortana that never was.

Microsoft Windows Copilot Announcement Video

Initially, Windows Copilot will launch as a text-only tool, but in the announcement, Microsoft’s envisions that it will evolving into something you can interact with in other ways, like voice – like Cortana once did #RIPCortana.

Extensibility and Third-Party Apps

As was another common theme at Build2023, Windows Copilot, just like Bing Chat, will also support the same third-party plugins that OpenAI’s ChaptGPT uses. This is huge, since it means that in time, any application developer will be able to easily connect their applications and services to Windows Copilot, which is vital for Windows Copilot to not just be limited to its stock apps and Operating System functions.

This means that users will soon be able use Copilot to perform cross-application tasks. For example, it could review and shorten a document, create a Spotify playlist or share a recent photo to your social media platforms or an email all through a single prompt.


AI is going to be the single largest driver of innovation for Windows in the years to come… It’s going to change the way you work, change your interaction models to make it easier. It’s going to understand so much about what you need.”

Panos Panay | Chief Product Officer & CVP | Microsoft.

One thing I will say is that by bringing AI front and center of the Windows 11 operating system, (as they will be doing with Office apps and services, I honestly believe this has the potential to totally change the landscape of how we use and interface with our apps and devices.

What about Security and Privacy

We don’t currently know where the AI processing for Windows Copilot take-place will. It is conceivable that this max be a blend of local processing and within Microsoft’s data centres. We also do not yet know if you must be connected/online to the internet for Windows Copilot to work.

From a privacy perspective, we also do not yet have information about whether things like chat history will be preserved, or if there will be a “private mode”. More I am sure will be made available in coming weeks and once it starts being tested with Windows Insiders next month.

I would image also, that the initial Windows Insiders preview will only be available to the US, as is usually the case when these previews first hit.

Microsoft says Windows Copilot will be available in a preview version for Windows 11 users in June. The feature will then roll out some time later this year.

Will it Cost?

We expect this to be “included” within the Windows 11 license for consumers. Less is known about commercial customers at this point.

What do you think?

I’d love to know your thoughts and feedback. What do you think about the flood gates of AI being injected into every application we use. Is it too soon? What are the potential issues?

Windows 11 beta 22624 previews new widgets experience.

Microsoft has released Windows 11 Insider builds ( 22621.1680 and 22624.1680) with fixes and new features. Build 22624.1680 gets fixes and new features whereas 22621.1680 just gets fixes this time round. The full release notes are here.

Evolved Widgets Board

Microsoft say they are starting to revamp the widget board  experience (based on user feedback).

Image showing updated widgets board in Windows 11 beta build 22624

This includes a larger (dynamic) canvas (3-columns if supported by the device) and introduction of new zones to provide quick access to new glanceable widgets from their apps and services. Users will also be able to take a high-value break with their personalised feed which will more personalised and customised that the current version.

Feedback request

As always (and an ask from the Windows Insider community and Dev team is) “please file your feedback” on the new experience using the Feedback Hub (🪟 + F, Desktop Experience, Widgets).

Microsoft re-innovates the Windows Insider program

The Windows Insider program, which launched 9 years ago in 2014, was first used to gain early public feedback on the final stages of the development of Windows 10, is currently undergoing a huge restructure in terms of how testing will be carried out with Windows Insiders including a new “Canary Channel” for testers who want to be at the very forefront of trying the newest Windows features.

New Windows Insider Builds | Image (c) Microsoft

Why the changes? Well, Microsoft now update Windows 11 a little at a time (though moment updates). These will consist of collections of quality and feature updates that will be bundled together and released a few times a year. More extensive changes (those which update the kernel and core underlying OS) will be confined to annual “feature updates”. This is expected to now be the foundation for future changes to Windows.

This blog summarises the key changes. For the verbose version, checkout the official Windows Insider Blog

The “new” Insider Rings

Canary Channel

The existing “Dev” channel, will soon (this month) be renamed to the “Canary” channel in which the newest and more experimental changes and features will be showcased for feedback.

The Canary channel will enable Windows Insiders to gain the earliest access to new builds with minimal validation and little. This build will not be recommended for daily drivers as users are likley to be testing builds that could be unstable, not working correctly and less tested that’ll those in the current Dev Channel.

These will be builds in the 25000 series.

The Dev Channel

The new “Dev Channel” will now be a half way house between the existing Dev and Beta channels. Insiders in this channel will continue to be able to test early features that may never make it to the stable version (release) of the Windows operating system. They will be better tested, will have the level of documentation and build notes that Insiders have become accustomed too and will be more stable.t

These will be builds in the 23000 series.

Beta and Release Channels

The Beta and Release Preview channels are not currently being changes. The Beta channel will remain more stable than the Dev channel, and Microsoft say that features in this build are likely to make it into future final release builds of Windows.

Beta builds will be in the 22000 series.

Getting on the right Channel

The restructuring of the Windows Insider Channels will require some choices to be made.

Anyone / any device currently on the Dev channel will be automatically moved to the Canary channel, where they will continue to receive Windows updates with build numbers in the 25000s range. These will be less stable that the current Dev channel.

Windows Insider Channel Selector (in setting -> Windows Update)



Anyone wanting to move to the new Dev channel (to obtain the 23000 series builds) will require to initiate a clean build (rebuild) of their device and to then re-enrol their device on the new Dev Channel.

Users on the Beta and Release Preview channel will not need to do anything thought they will be able to move to the new Dev channel without needing to reinstall the OS.

My 5 years as a Microsoft MVP

This week I was delighted to be re-awarded as a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for the 5th year running, but what does it mean and why am so thrilled to be rewarded?

What are MVPs?

Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, are “technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community”. They are always on the “bleeding edge” and have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies. MVPs have deep knowledge of Microsoft products and services, while also being able to bring together diverse platforms, products and solutions, to solve real world problems. MVPs make up a global community of over 4,000 technical experts and community leaders across 90 countries/regions and are driven by their passion, community spirit, and quest for knowledge. Above all and in addition to this, part of the “role” of the MVPs is our passion and desire to help others. For Microsoft, this is what sets MVPs apart, through formal product feedback, community events, forums, blogs, reviews etc and of course through social channels our mission is to drive awareness, adoption, constructive feedback, ideas and suggestions to help continually improve Microsoft products and services.

What is the MVP Award?

For more than two decades, the Microsoft MVP Award has been Microsofts’ way of saying thank you to community leaders within in their MVP catagory. The contributions MVPs make to the community, ranging from speaking engagements, to social media posts, to writing books, to helping others in online communities, have incredible impact.

As MVPs, we receive a number of technical benefits from Microsoft to help be the best at supporting our passion for technology and innovation. Key benefits to MVPs include early access to Microsoft products, direct communication channels with our product teams and an invitation to the Global MVP Summit, an exclusive annual event hosted in our global HQ in Redmond. They also have a very close relationship with the local Microsoft teams in their area, who are there to support and empower MVPs to address needs and opportunities in the local ecosystem. Other benefits include an executive recognition letter, a Visual Studio technical subscription, and an Office 365 subscription.

The Windows Insider Most Valuable Professional

The Windows Insider Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award recognises people who are passionate about Windows and are positive Windows advocates within their communities. Like other MVPs, we can be found across the globe and are driven by a passion for flighting Insider Preview builds and filing feedback to help improve the current and future generations of Windows, contributing to the technical community through forums, chats with the Windows product team and creating how-to content with the goal of helping others achieve more and making Windows the OS of choice for every person and every organisation.

I have been a Windows Insider for 11 years and seen the development and evolution of Windows 10 and Windows 11 and Windows Insiders are now looking at what comes next after the current release (Windows 11 22H2) release. As new devices and new form factors are being tested, I’m excited by what 2023 and beyond will bring to Windows.

Can I nominate someone to be an MVP?

You can!

If you know someone who is outstanding and passionate around Microsoft technology and think they should be recognised as an MVP, you can nominate them (or yourself) here: https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/Nomination/nominate-an-mvp

What I plan to do more of in 2023

As I look forward to 2023, the main topics of interest, content and testing for me that I will explore, showcase and blog will include:

  • Continuing to test, drive and promote some of the awesome accessibly features that span across the Windows 11 OS
  • Tracking and reporting on Windows Insider and production releases, updates, issues and fixes for Windows 11 and Windows vNext
  • Evalusations and reviews of the latest Microsoft hardware such as the Surface devices, accessiblity devices and peripherals building for Windows 11 and Windows 365
  • Dive deeper into Security features across Windows consumer, professional and enterprise editions and into the realms of Windows 365 (Cloud PC) and Microsoft 365
  • Report on my other observations and ruminations on Windows technology, changes and developments and do my best to respond to comments or asks from the community,
  • Increase my contributions to the windows communities and in-person events.

Find out more about the Windows Insider Program

To find out more about the Windows Insider Program and to get involved, visit the following pages.

Windows 11 Build 22621.169 is rolling out for Release Preview Channel Insiders

After Microsoft released the Windows 11 22H2 update to the Release Preview channel back in June, they have now started to roll out a new cumulative update for Windows Insiders that are running the Windows 11 build 22621 in the Release Preview channel. As you’d expect, this update is mainly focussed on essential bug fixes as we get closer to the formal 22H2 release.

You can visit the official blog site for the full list of changes here.

The major changes / fixes in this build include

  • Fixing the issue which stopped OneDrive working correctly via the file explorer shell
  • Adding support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 in the Windows client and server LDAP implementations.
  • Fixed an issue with Edge sandbox mode.

How to Join the Windows Insider programme

For instructions on how to join the Windows Insider Program and join your device to the Release Preview Channel, click here.