If Windows Copilot launches this week, it needs to be much better than the beta

On Thursday Microsoft is holding a press event in which it’s expected to announce the full Windows Copilot launch. If the Windows Copilot preview is anything to go by, it might be best to lower your expectations.

Microsoft announced Windows Copilot back in May. Here’s a reminder of the features we were promised in the launch video:

I’ve been testing the Windows Copilot preview in the latest beta of Windows 11, and it’s a long way from what Microsoft promised in that video.

Before we go any further, a couple of caveats. Beta software isn’t the finished product, and Microsoft will improve Windows Copilot by the time it releases the Windows 11 23H2 update later this year. But it must make a huge number of last-minute improvements before Windows Copilot fulfils its potential.

Windows Copilot launch – what’s missing?

Microsoft touted Windows Copilot as a fully integrated AI assistant that can tweak settings, read documents and interact with apps that are installed on your PC. The beta experience is very different.

For example, the first question posed in the demo video is: “How can I adjust my system to get work done?” Windows Copilot suggests built-in Windows features such as Focus Sessions and Dark Theme.

Yet, when I ask that exact same question in the preview, it simply produces a list of anodyne productivity tips such as “use task management tools” and “establish a routine”.

The beta of Windows Copilot can provide shortcuts to system settings, but it often gets them wrong. I entered “turn down screen brightness” into Windows Copilot and it replied by opening the Manage Windows Device settings. That is, the settings you use to add/remove peripherals such as Bluetooth mice and keyboards. It then offered to turn on Windows Dark Mode. The former is completely irrelevant, while the latter is potentially appropriate but doesn’t solve the (very basic) problem.

Likewise, my plea to “put laptop in airplane mode” resulted in a suggestion to “turn on Do Not Disturb Mode”. These are two very different things and a potential breach of airline rules.

In the video, we see the user casually dragging and dropping a PDF document into the Windows Copilot panel for the AI to interact with. That’s not possible in the preview.

Likewise, interaction with installed apps is currently non-existent. “Works with all your apps” is the boast in the video, before the user asks “what’s great music to work to?” The AI then suggests a selection of Spotify playlists that can be opened with a click. Well, I’ve got Spotify installed on my test machine, but when I enter that exact same question, all I get is a series of links to YouTube playlists. Potentially useful, but not what was promised.

Similarly, the demo video shows someone being diverted to Adobe Express to design a business logo before they drag and drop the resulting logo back into the AI assistant and share it with colleagues on Teams. In my tests, Windows Copilot isn’t even aware of Adobe Express and punts you towards the web service Looka instead.

Enter Windows 12?

Right now, Windows Copilot is little more than a shortcut to the Bing chatbot that we’ve all been using for months. It’s a long way short of the fully integrated, all-knowing AI app that Microsoft suggested it would be in that May video.

Perhaps Microsoft is toying with us. Maybe the full version of Windows Copilot will launch with all the features it promised when the Windows 11 23H2 update arrives. There’s probably at least another month before the update is rolled out for general release.

On the other hand, perhaps Microsoft has discovered that integrating an AI assistant into Windows 11 is harder than it thought and that it needs a more fundamental rewrite of the codebase to make it happen.

In which case, could Thursday’s event see the announcement of Windows 12 – the first version of Windows to have AI built in from the ground up? Stranger things have happened.

Whatever unfolds, don’t expect Microsoft to announce an imminent rollout of its Microsoft 365 Copilot service. (Read our full guide to Microsoft 365 Copilot here.) That is still in early testing with a few hundred of the company’s most loyal companies, and we don’t expect it to be released until next year.

More on Microsoft Copilot

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Barry Collins

Barry has 20 years of experience working on national newspapers, websites and magazines. He was editor of PC Pro and is co-editor and co-owner of BigTechQuestion.com. He has published a number of articles on TechFinitive covering data, innovation and cybersecurity.