Frustrations are being aired about Windows 11’s new Copilot app – but here’s why we’re not worried (just yet)

Microsoft is seemingly going backwards with Copilot in Windows 11, and things certainly don’t look great in testing for the AI assistant right now.

Windows Latest spearheads a complaint – echoed elsewhere by other denizens of various forums and social media outlets – that the latest incarnation of Copilot sees Microsoft ‘downgrading’ the AI to a “Microsoft Edge-based web wrapper” (we’ll come back to that point shortly).

To take a step back for a moment, this is all part of Microsoft’s recent move – announced in May 2024, and implemented in June – to switch Copilot from being an assistant anchored to a side panel (on the right) to a full app experience (a window you can move around the desktop, resize and so on, like a normal app basically).

As Windows Latest points out, in the latest update for Windows 11 (in testing), changes that are rolling out to some users turn Copilot into a basic web app – although in fact, Copilot has always been a web app (even when in its previous incarnation as a locked side panel, before the standalone app idea came about).

What the tech site is really complaining about is how basic and transparent Copilot’s nature really is in this freshly deployed take. This means the Copilot window shows Edge menus and options, and just opens in an Edge tab – and you can even open any old website in the Copilot app with a bit of fudging and a few clicks here and there. And all that feels rather disappointing and basic, of course.

Acer Swift laptop showing the Copilot key

(Image credit: Future / James Holland)

Analysis: Strip it back, then build it up

We get the criticism here, although as noted, all that’s really happening is that Copilot is being more obviously exposed for what it is – a simple web app that basically just pipes you through to the same AI chatbot experience you get with the Copilot website.

However, there is a twist here – namely that the extra options Copilot offered for manipulating Windows 11 settings in some respects (in the pre-standalone app days) have reportedly been ditched. Not that these abilities were any great shakes to begin with – they’ve always been fairly limited – but still, it does feel like a step back to see them vanish.

Ultimately, this leaves the new Copilot experience in Windows 11 feeling very disjointed and not at all well integrated into the OS – just slapped on top, really. However, we do have to remember that this is still in testing.

Stripping features back in preview can be expected – even if it isn’t a pretty sight right now, presumably Microsoft is going to build it back up, make the new Copilot app more seamless, and reintroduce those powers related to Windows settings. In fact, we’d be shocked if that didn’t happen…

Unless Microsoft does have plans to make Copilot a more basic entity in Windows 11, but that seems very unlikely unless many more future AI powers are going to be forked off exclusively for Copilot+ PCs, perhaps (like Recall – which is another controversial topic in itself).

Time will tell, but eventually, we expect Copilot to become a more well-rounded and seamless app, and crucially, when powerful NPUs become more widespread, the AI assistant will be able to perform a good deal more AI workloads on-device (rather than hooking up to the cloud to get the necessary processing power). That’s when a more fully-fledged app with greater powers to operate locally will likely become a reality.

In its current format, though, which has always been pretty basic, Copilot in Windows 11 doesn’t really need to be any more than a simple web wrapper.

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Windows 11’s Copilot AI just took its first step towards being an indispensable assistant for Android – but Google Gemini hasn’t got anything to worry about yet

Microsoft’s Copilot AI could soon help Windows 11 users deal with texting on their Android smartphone (and much more besides in the future).

Windows Latest noticed that there’s a new plug-in for Copilot (the recently introduced add-ons that bring extra functionality to the AI assistant), which is reportedly rolling out to more people this week. It’s called the ‘Phone’ plug-in – which is succinct and very much to the point.

As you might guess, the plug-in works by leveraging the Phone Link app that connects your mobile to your Windows 11 PC and offers all sorts of nifty features therein.

So, you need to have Phone Link app up and running before you can install the Copilot Phone plug-in. Once that’s done, Windows Latest explains that the abilities you’ll gain include being able to use Copilot to read and send text messages on your Android device (via the PC, of course), or look up contact information.

Right now, the plug-in doesn’t work properly, mind you, but doubtless Microsoft will be ironing out any problems. When Windows Latest tried to initiate a phone call, the plug-in didn’t facilitate this, but did provide the correct contact info, so they could dial themselves.

The fact that this functionality is very basic looking right now means Google will hardly be losing any sleep – and moreover, this isn’t a direct rival for the Gemini AI app anyway, as it works to facilitate managing your Android device on your PC desktop.

Expect far greater powers to come in the future

Microsoft has previously teased the kind of powers Copilot will eventually have when it comes to hooking up your Windows 11 PC and Android phone together. For example, the AI will be able to sift through texts on your phone and extract relevant information (like the time of a dinner reservation, if you’ve made arrangements via text).

Eventually, this plug-in could be really handy, but right now, it’s still in a very early working state as noted.

While it’s for Android only for the time being, the Phone plug-in for Copilot should be coming to iOS as well, as Microsoft caters for iPhones with Phone Link (albeit in a more limited fashion). Still, this isn’t confirmed, but we can’t imagine Microsoft will leave iPhone owners completely out in the cold when it comes to AI features such as this.

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Fed up with Windows 10 search being slow, wonky, or crashing? Microsoft’s fixed search with its latest update

Windows 10 has received a new optional update and it comes with some much-needed fixing to cure problems some users have been experiencing with the search function in the OS.

Windows Latest noticed that in the latest preview update just released for Windows 10 (KB5036979), there’s been some work to improve the search functionality.

Microsoft tells us that: “This update makes some changes to Windows Search. It is now more reliable, and it is easier to find an app after you install it. This update also gives you a personalized app search experience.”

As Windows Latest describes, for some Windows 10 users, search has become a somewhat hit or miss affair particularly around trying to quickly fire up an app. Such as, for example, searching for the ‘Recycle Bin’ and not getting the icon for that returned, but other functions instead.

On social media, there have been a number of reports about wonky search experiences, too, such as this one on Reddit where Windows 10 refused to find a commonly-used app.

In more extreme cases, search is locking up and crashing, which is the pinnacle of irritation for this part of the UI.

Analysis: Wait a little longer

Hopefully, this kind of behavior should be a thing of the past when this update is applied. However, note that this is just an optional update at this point, so it’s officially still in testing – meaning there’s a slight chance the fix may not be fully working. Or that the KB5036979 update might cause unwelcome side-effects elsewhere in Windows 10 (it wouldn’t be the first time, certainly).

The safest bet is to wait it out, let early adopters test this preview update, and install the finished cumulative update when it arrives in May (on Patch Tuesday, which will be May 14).

At least we know this piece of smoothing over is now incoming, so those who’ve been frustrated with iffy search results now know that – with any luck – their woes should soon be over. Or at least, they’ll face spanners in the search works with less regularity.

Elsewhere with this update, Microsoft has also improved the reliability of widgets on the lock screen, with a more “customized experience” and more visuals available, so these should be better all-round, too.

The downside with KB5036979? That’s a new initiative to introduce notifications about your Microsoft Account in the Start menu and Settings app, which will doubtless consist of various prompts to sign up for an account, or to finish that process.

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Windows 11 is getting a controversial Windows 10 feature that some people accuse of being pointless bloat

Good news – Windows 11 users are getting the same additional embellishments for the lock screen that are currently rolling out in testing for Windows 10.

Essentially, these are compact lock screen cards that display various bits of info relating to the weather, finance, traffic, and sports scores. Microsoft is now deploying them in the Release Preview channel for Windows 11 test builds, as reliable Windows leaker PhantomOfEarth noticed on X (formerly Twitter).

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They are currently rolling out in testing, so not everyone will see the cards just yet. As for the functionality itself, it’s the same deal as in Windows 10 – you can either turn off the cards, or turn them on, but you’ll have the lot if they’re enabled.

You can’t pick and choose which cards are shown, and, for example, dump the finance one if you don’t care for it – this is an all-or-nothing scenario.

While PhantomOfEarth pointed out the cards in testing, Windows Latest also picked up on this, claiming that this feature is part of the March 2024 optional update, and it’ll be rolled out fully in next month’s cumulative update as a result. That’ll be for all users of Windows 11, not just testers (if it happens).

Analysis: A better layout, but that’s unlikely to mollify haters

Windows Latest further notes that the cards will be enabled by default when the April cumulative update arrives for Windows 11 (and presumably that’ll be the case for Windows 10 users, too). However, if you hate the idea of these info cards on the lock screen, you can turn off the feature.

What also won’t go down well with some is that clicking the cards opens up more details, but they’re fired up in the Edge browser (and MSN within it). This is another opportunity Microsoft is leveraging to promote Edge in other words (and inevitably it’ll be demanding to be your default browser, from time to time).

The good news for Windows 11 users is that the implementation of the info cards is better, with them being centrally aligned on the lock screen, with the time and date also aligned above. It’s a much neater look than on Windows 10, which seems clunky in comparison, but then Microsoft’s focus is obviously on its newer OS, with worrying about the finer points of layout on the older version of Windows clearly not a priority.

As raised previously when we discussed the Windows 10 incarnation of this lock screen feature, Microsoft will hopefully work on the ability to fine-tune the options in terms of specifying the cards you want, and those you don’t need displayed, rather than being forced to have them all on, or none.

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Google Gemini’s new Calendar capabilities take it one step closer to being your ultimate personal assistant

Google’s new family of artificial intelligence (AI) generative models, Gemini, will soon be able to access events scheduled in Google Calendar on Android phones.

According to 9to5Google, Calendar events were on Gemini Experiences Senior Director of Product Management at Google Jack Krawczyk’s “things to fix ASAP” list for what Google would be working to add to Gemini to make it a better-equipped digital assistant. 

Users who have the Gemini app on an Android device can now expect Gemini to respond to voice or text prompts like “Show me my calendar” and “Do I have any upcoming calendar events?” When 9to5Google tried this the week before, Gemini responded that it couldn’t fulfill those types of requests and queries – which was particularly noticeable as those kinds of requests are pretty commonplace with rival (non-AI) digital assistants such as Siri or Google Assistant. However, when those same prompts were attempted this week, Gemini opened the Google Calendar app and fulfilled the requests. It seems that if users would like to enter a new event using Gemini, you need to tell it something like “Add an event to my calendar,” to which it should then prompt the user to fill out the details manually by using voice commands. 

Google Calendar

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Going all in on Gemini

Google is clearly making progress to set up Gemini as its proprietary all-in-one AI offering (including as a digital assistant, replacing Google Assistant in the future). It’s got quite a few steps before it manages that, with users asking for features like the ability to play music or edit their shopping lists via Gemini. Another significant hurdle for Gemini to clear if it wants to become popular is that it’s only available in the United States for now. 

The race to become the best AI assistant has gotten a little bit more intense recently between Microsoft with Copilot, Google with Gemini, and Amazon with Alexa. Google did recently make some pretty big strides in its ability to compress the larger Gemini models so it could run on mobile devices. The capabilities of these more complex models sound like they can give Gemini’s capabilities a major boost. Google Assistant is pretty widely recognized and this is another feather in Google’s cap. I feel hesitant about placing a bet on any single one of these digital AI assistants, but if Google continues at this pace with Gemini, I think its chances are pretty good.

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ChatGPT is broken again and it’s being even creepier than usual – but OpenAI says there’s nothing to worry about

OpenAI has been enjoying the limelight this week with its incredibly impressive Sora text-to-video tool, but it looks like the allure of AI-generated video might’ve led to its popular chatbot getting sidelined, and now the bot is acting out.

Yes, ChatGPT has gone insane–- or, more accurately, briefly went insane for a short period sometime in the past 48 hours. Users have reported a wild array of confusing and even threatening responses from the bot; some saw it get stuck in a loop of repeating nonsensical text, while others were subjected to invented words and weird monologues in broken Spanish. One user even stated that when asked about a coding problem, ChatGPT replied with an enigmatic statement that ended with a claim that it was ‘in the room’ with them.

Naturally, I checked the free version of ChatGPT straight away, and it seems to be behaving itself again now. It’s unclear at this point whether the problem was only with the paid GPT-4 model or also the free version, but OpenAI has acknowledged the problem, saying that the “issue has been identified” and that its team is “continuing to monitor the situation”. It did not, however, provide an explanation for ChatGPT’s latest tantrum.

This isn’t the first time – and it won’t be the last

ChatGPT has had plenty of blips in the past – when I set out to break it last year, it said some fairly hilarious things – but this one seems to have been a bit more widespread and problematic than past chatbot tomfoolery.

It’s a pertinent reminder that AI tools in general aren’t infallible. We recently saw Air Canada forced to honor a refund after its AI-powered chatbot invented its own policies, and it seems likely that we’re only going to see more of these odd glitches as AI continues to be implemented across the different facets of our society. While these current ChatGPT troubles are relatively harmless, there’s potential for real problems to arise – that Air Canada case feels worryingly like an omen of things to come, and may set a real precedent for human moderation requirements when AI is deployed in business settings.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaking during Microsoft's February 7, 2023 event

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman doesn’t want you (or his shareholders) to worry about ChatGPT. (Image credit: JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

As for exactly why ChatGPT had this little episode, speculation is currently rife. This is a wholly different issue to user complaints of a ‘dumber’ chatbot late last year, and some paying users of GPT-4 have suggested it might be related to the bot’s ‘temperature’.

That’s not a literal term, to be clear: when discussing chatbots, temperature refers to the degree of focus and creative control the AI exerts over the text it produces. A low temperature gives you direct, factual answers with little to no character behind them; a high temperature lets the bot out of the box and can result in more creative – and potentially weirder – responses.

Whatever the cause, it’s good to see that OpenAI appears to have a handle on ChatGPT again. This sort of ‘chatbot hallucination’ is a bad look for the company, considering its status as the spearpoint of AI research, and threatens to undermine users’ trust in the product. After all, who would want to use a chatbot that claims to be living in your walls?

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Yes, Apple Vision Pro is being returned to stores – but this could actually be a good thing

We’ve officially passed the two-week return window for the Apple Vision Pro, which allowed people who purchased the headset on launch day to hand it back. Social media buzz has suggested that the Vision Pro was being returned in droves. However, inside sources suggest this may not be the case – and offer an interesting insight into who is returning their headset, and why. 

In our Apple Vision Pro review, we touched on the positives and negatives of using the device and rounded up our top three reasons why users may end up returning the headset. As Apple’s first attempt at a mixed-reality headset, the product was always going to be rather polarizing. It lacks the backing of familiarity that other Apple products like a new iPhone or MacBook always have at this point. 

Not to mention the fact that the Apple Vision Pro is expensive. Retailing at $ 3,499/ £2,788, AU$ 6349, it’s easy to imagine more than a few returns are down to buyer's remorse – I know I would slink back to the Apple Store as soon as I found even the slightest discomfort or annoyance (or looked at my bank account, frankly). Especially if I couldn’t get my prescription sorted out for the headset or just found it really uncomfortable. 

In fact, AppleInsider reached out to sources within Apple’s retail chain for more info on the headset returns and noted that discomfort is probably one of the biggest concerns when it comes to it. “Most of our returns, by far, are within a day or two. They're the folks that get sick using it,” one source told AppleInsider’s Mike Wuerthele. “The pukers, the folks that get denied by prescription-filling, that kind of thing. They know real quick.”

Influencer investments – gotta get that content!

The second group of people that seem to be making up most of the returns are influencers and YouTubers. Again, the Vision Pro is a product many people want to get their hands on, so it would make sense that online tech ‘gurus’ would want to jump on the trend at launch. 

With the two-week return window offered by Apple, that’s more than enough time to milk the headset for as much content as possible then give it back, and get your money back too. If you’re a tech content creator, it’s easier to look at the Vision Pro as a short-term investment rather than a personal splurge. 

“It's just the f***ing YouTubers so far,” one retail employee told Wuerthele. 

According to AppleInsider's sources, however, the return process isn’t as simple as just boxing the headset up and dropping it off. Each return is accompanied by a detailed, lengthy survey that will allow users to go in-depth on their reason for return and their experience with the product. This is great news in the long run because it could mean any future iterations of the Apple Vision Pro will be designed and built with this feedback in mind – and the Vision Pro is already arguably a public beta for what will presumably eventually become the ‘Apple Vision’.

Beyond AppleInsider's coverage, prolific Apple leaker and Bloomberg writer Mark Gurman has (unsurprisingly) chipped into the discussion surrounding Vision Pro returns. He reported much the same; some people think it's uncomfortable or induces sickness, while for others it's simply too much money. 

Gurman spoke to a Los Angeles professional who bought and returned the headset, who said 'I loved it. It was bananas,' but then went on to explain that he simply hadn't found himself using it that often, and that the price was just too much: “If the price had been $ 1,500 to $ 2,000, I would have kept it just to watch movies, but at essentially four grand, I’ll wait for version two.”

If users are returning it because they’re not using it as much as they thought they would, certain aspects are making them feel nauseous, or the headset is just really uncomfortable on their head, Apple can take this feedback in mind and carry it forward. It’s a common criticism of VR headsets in general, to be fair – perhaps some people just aren’t built for using this type of product?

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Two Windows 11 apps are being ditched – one you might miss, and another you’ve probably forgotten about

Microsoft is dropping two of the core apps which are installed with Windows 11 by default.

As of Windows 11 preview build 26020 (which has just been unleashed in the Canary channel), the WordPad and People apps have been given the elbow.

Although technically, while the People app itself is being dispensed with, that’s because its functionality (or at least much of it) is being transferred to Outlook for Windows, the new default mailbox app for Windows 11 devices (as of the start of 2024).

In short, you’ll still get the People app (contacts) in that mailbox client, but there’ll no longer be an actual People application that can be fired up separately.

WordPad, on the other hand, is being completely dispensed with, or rather it will be when the changes made in this preview build come to the release version of Windows 11.

Going forward from then, any clean installation of Windows 11 won’t have WordPad, and eventually, this app will be removed when users upgrade to a new version of Microsoft’s OS.

You won’t be able to reinstall WordPad once it has gone, either, so this will be a final farewell to the application, which was marked as a deprecated feature back in September 2023.

Also in build 26020, a raft of additions for Voice Access have strengthened Windows 11 on the accessibility front (as seen elsewhere in testing last month).On top of that, Narrator now has natural voices for 10 new locales (in preview), and that includes English (UK) and English (India), as well as the following: Chinese, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Mexico), Japanese, French, Portuguese, German and Korean.

Furthermore, when the energy saver feature is enabled on a desktop PC (a machine that’s plugged in, rather than running on battery), a new icon is present in the system tray (far-right of the taskbar) to indicate it’s running and saving you a bit of power.

For the full list of changes, check out Microsoft’s blog post for the build.

Analysis: Word up

One thing to clarify here is not to confuse WordPad with Notepad, or Microsoft Word for that matter.

Word is the heavyweight word processor in Microsoft 365 (the suite formerly known as Office), and not a default app. Both WordPad and Notepad are currently default apps in Windows 11, but Notepad is staying firmly put – indeed Microsoft is busy improving this piece of software (adding an autosave feature most recently).

Notepad remains a useful and highly streamlined, much-liked app for jotting notes and the like, whereas WordPad is kind of a ‘lite’ version of Word, and as such a bit more complex in nature (but not anything like a full-on effort such as Word).

WordPad sort of falls between stools a little in that respect, and another reason Microsoft may have decided to drop the app is due to potential security risks (or that was a theory floating around last year, when the software was deprecated).

Even so, there are some folks who will miss WordPad, and with no option to reinstall, they’ll just have to look for a different lightweight word processor for Windows 11 – fortunately, we explore some good alternatives right here.

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Figma fans are delighted as the design app escapes being gobbled up by Adobe

After facing pressure from EU regulators, Adobe and design app Figma have agreed to mutually break up, costing the former a lucrative $ 20 billion deal.

Adobe said in a recent statement that the companies are doing this because they cannot find a “clear path to receive [the] necessary regulatory approvals from the European Commission and the UK [CMA]”, or the Competition and Market Authority. It goes on to say they both “strongly disagree” with the findings, however, they believe it’s best for everyone that they put this messy situation behind them. What’s more, Adobe will pay Figma a reverse termination fee which, according to the US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), comes out to $ 1 billion.

So, what happened? Let’s break it down.

Adobe announced plans to purchase its competitor Figma for the aforementioned $ 20 billion back in September 2022 when its own UI (user interface) design platform, Adobe XD, failed. 

This move raised a lot of eyebrows from regulators. The CMA conducted an investigation into the deal earlier this year, claiming the acquisition would’ve resulted in a near-monopoly, stifling innovation in the design space. The organization then gave Adobe an ultimatum: either sell off Figma’s main product, Figma Design, or the purchase will be blocked. Adobe rejected the proposal and decided to end things on its own terms instead of fighting. 

Internet response

The response from the internet has been overwhelmingly positive – ecstatic that the acquisition is dead. On Reddit, you have comments from people breathing a sigh of relief. On TheVerge’s report, one comment exclaims that it's a Christmas miracle. And you see the same thing on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter): a ton of celebration going on. But why? 

There are multiple reasons for this animosity, but in this situation, it’s mainly because they don’t want to see Adobe get any bigger. As a poster on X points out, they already have a “monopoly on almost all design tools” with UI design being the one field they don’t have control over. Had they been allowed to buy Figma, Adobe would essentially have the whole design market in its clutches with no worthy rivals.

Analysis: Cost of doing business

People have also criticized the brand for the cost of their services. Photoshop, for example, costs $ 23 a month, roughly $ 276 for the whole year. However, if you cancel your subscription after 14 days, Adobe will charge you an early termination fee that is 50 percent of the contract’s remaining balance. Designers were worried similar pricing would be forced on Figma’s platform.

This is undoubtedly good news for users who didn’t want Adobe as the new parent company, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Figma CEO Dylan Field wanted the purchase to go through, saying he was “disappointed in the outcome”. It’s entirely possible that some other titan of the industry eventually could pick up Figma without blowback from regulators. Comments on social media say they wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft one day made a bid. It’s certainly possible.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Adobe Photoshop alternatives in 2023.

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