Meta Quest 3’s next update steals the Vision Pro’s best productivity feature… kinda

The Meta Quest 3 looks set to be taking yet another step towards being an Apple Vision Pro that doesn’t cost $ 3,499 / £3,499 / AU$ 5,999, by taking yet another feature from the Apple headset for itself.

This time it's a new window layout style, though it’s not really fair to say Meta is stealing this idea from Apple, merely improving its current approach. Rather than simply having three 2D apps docked side by side in fixed positions (which is what is currently possible on the Meta Quest 3 and other Meta headsets), you can now have three windows that are freely placeable anywhere in your virtual home office, and another three docked – making a total of six.

The experimental setting has been unlocked as part of the HoizonOS v67 update which is currently in beta for members of the Meta Quest Public Test Channel. Clips of people testing it out also show users switching the windows between curved and flat, as well as a feature that can lower the brightness of 2D environments – though this doesn’t work if you’re using the windows in mixed reality with passthrough.

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While this does bring the Quest 3 closer to matching the Vision Pro’s approach to 2D apps in a 3D space, it’s not quite one-to-one yet. The biggest difference is if you stray too far from a window it returns to its default docked position on the Quest 3 – whereas on Vision Pro you can leave windows in their custom floating positions indefinitely like they’re real objects.

That said, it’s also worth noting the Meta Quest 3 only costs $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99, so it’s forgiven for not being a direct copy.

A closing gap

The Apple Vision Pro will always be better than the Meta Quest 3 on a technical level with its vastly better displays and chipset. But Apple hasn’t done enough to leverage its advantages in ways that matter, but that was probably always going to be the case.

The Vision Pro with its eye-tracking, laptop-level power, focus on less active XR experiences, and approach to hand-tracking offers app developers a vast array of tools to create interesting software for the device. 

However, what makes the headset unique is also its downfall – it’s too dissimilar to its rivals. If you make a VR app that takes full advantage of the Vision Pro it probably won’t be well suited to other platforms (and vice versa). So if you’re weighing up your options, making a non-Vision Pro app just makes more financial sense as it can run on more popular platforms; that is, unless Apple is offering some kind of financial incentive.

A Meta Quest 3 user throwing a giant die onto a virtual medieval tabletop game board full of castles, wizards and knights

Demeo is great, but the Apple Vision Pro needed more than this (Image credit: Meta)

Some classic VR games and apps have started to get Vision Pro ports, but they are in small numbers and have trickled in months after the headset launched and the hype has died down.

Instead, most of the apps that it can run are XR versions of iPad and Mac apps which begs the question of what you really gain from buying a Vision Pro – especially as you likely already have those other gadgets, or could buy them for less than the cost of Apple’s headset.

Meta on the other hand has continued to fund exciting exclusive apps – we’re getting a bonafide Batman: Arkham game to name a recent example. At the same time, it's rolling out monthly major software updates that have only narrowed the gap between the Vision Pro and Quest 3.

We’ll have to wait and see how things continue the rest of the year and beyond, but my advice remains the same as it always has: if you want to try VR then get a Quest 3 or Quest 2 – there’s no good reason to get a Vision Pro instead.

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Claude’s big update makes it the best ChatGPT rival so far – and you can try it for free

Anthropic's Claude AI chatbot has long been one of the best ChatGPT alternatives and now a big update has taken it to another level – including beating OpenAI's GPT-4o model in some industry standard benchmark tests.

Like Google Gemini, Claude is a family of three different AI models. The new Claude 3.5 Sonnet (which takes the baton from Claude 3 Sonnet) is the company's mid-tier AI model, sitting in between the Claude 3 Haiku (for smaller tasks) and the larger 'Opus' model, which is more like GPT-4.

This new Sonnet model now powers the browser-based and the Claude iOS app, both of which you can use right now for free. Like ChatGPT, there are Pro and Team subscriptions available for Claude that let you use it more intensely, but the free version gives you a taste of what it can do.

So what's new in Claude 3.5 Sonnet? The big improvements are its ability to handle vision-based tasks – for example, creating charts or transcribing handwritten notes – with Anthropic calling it “our strongest vision model yet”. The company also says that Sonnet “shows a marked improvement in grasping nuance, humor, and complex instructions”.

The upgraded Claude is also simply faster and smarter than before, edging out ChatGPT's latest GPT-4o model across many benchmarks, according to Anthropic. That includes setting new benchmark high scores for “graduate-level reasoning”, “undergraduate-level knowledge” and “coding proficiency”.

This means Claude could be a powerful new sidekick if you need help with creative writing, creating presentations and coding – particularly as it now has a new 'Artifacts' side window to help with refining its creations.

Ultimate homework assistant?

Another handy new feature in Claude 3.5 Sonnet is its so-called 'Artifacts' side window, which lets you see and tweak its visual creations without having to scroll back and forth through the chat.

For example, if you ask it to create a text document, graph or website design, these will appear in a separate window alongside your conversation. You can see an example of that in action in the video above, which shows off Claude's potential for creating graphs and presentations.

So how does this all compare to ChatGPT? One thing Claude doesn't have is a voice or audio powers – it's purely a text-based AI assistant. So if you're looking to chat casually with an AI assistant to brainstorm ideas, then ChatGPT remains the best AI tool around.

But Claude 3.5 Sonnet is undoubtedly a powerful new rival for text-based tasks and coding, edging out GPT-4o in benchmarks and giving us an increasingly well-rounded new option for both creative tasks and coding. 

The headline AI battle might be ChatGPT vs Google Gemini vs Meta AI, but if you want a fast, smart AI sidekick to help with a variety of tasks, then it's well worth taking Claude 3.5 Sonnet for a spin in its browser version or iOS app.

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Report: Amazon might ask you to pay for the best Alexa

Amazon has spent a good portion of 2024 working on an upgrade for Alexa. Rumors from last month said the tech giant sought to implement AI tech into their assistant allowing it to compete with the likes of ChatGPT. 

Now, as part of a new report, Reuters recently spoke to “eight current and former employees who worked on Alexa,” giving insight into what the future update could bring. These sources claim that the project, “known internally as Banyan,” consists of two versions of Alexa.

The first voice assistant, and Amazon’s main focus, is called “Remarkable Alexa.” This is supposed to be the more intelligent of the two with generative AI features. According to Reuters, it would be capable of performing multiple tasks from a single prompt, such as writing a brief email and ordering delivery. 

The insiders say Amazon also seeks to improve the smart assistant’s conversational skills. You won’t have to repeat the name “Alexa” repeatedly while giving instructions, for example.

Remarkable Alexa will apparently be able to automatically create Routines without direct input from a user since it’ll pay attention to your daily routine. For example, if the assistant hears your alarm clock going off in the morning, it’ll turn on your coffee machine. “Amazon is also aiming to supercharge” home automation, reportedly.

Reuters’ sources state Alexa will connect to “smart devices” that can be controlled via voice commands. In another given example, you could instruct the AI to “turn the porch lights on every day at 8 pm.” The report says customers will need to purchase “additional Alexa-enabled devices” to make house-wide control possible.

Potential pricing

Be aware that the new Alexa will not be a free upgrade. Amazon plans to launch Remarkable Alexa as a monthly add-on to Prime memberships, although the pricing is still in the air as it could cost either $ 5 or $ 10. With a Prime subscription, people could be looking at a total of $ 19.99 to $ 24.99 a month. 

It’s worth noting the sources were critical of the extra charge, wondering if people were willing to pay for something that is already free. What’s more, there may not be a special “tie-in with Amazon’s $ 139-per-year Prime membership.” 

There’s very little information about the second version of Alexa. All that is known is it’ll serve as a replacement for “Classic Alexa,” which is the current version, and will also be powered by artificial intelligence.


Reuters claims there is a lot of internal pressure at Amazon HQ to get the Alexa revamp right. Their sources say the project “represents a ‘desperate attempt’ to revitalize the service.” Alexa has never turned a profit in all its years, and its status in the industry has been kneecapped by the rise of generative AI.

Amazon is pushing employees to launch Remarkable Alexa sometime in August, but don’t get too attached to that release window. The launch window, as well as the final pricing, could change, or the project could be canceled at any time. It all depends on how well development progresses moving forward.

As with every leak, take this information with a grain of salt. Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Alexa speakers for 2024.

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Microsoft dumps Windows 11 Recall feature from Copilot+ PCs at launch – an embarrassing turn of events, but ultimately for the best

In a very surprising move – albeit the right one, in our books – Microsoft has pulled the rug on its big Recall feature, so it now won’t launch as planned with Copliot+ PCs.

Microsoft just issued an update on Recall (hat tip to Tom’s Hardware) as follows: “Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks.

“Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon.”

To recap briefly, Recall is the feature which constantly takes screenshots of the activity on the host PC, allowing the user to search these leveraging AI (Copilot), offering an undoubtedly powerfully ramped up search experience.

But there have been issues aplenty raised around Recall before its (now canceled) launch, and much controversy stirred by those who have fudged their Windows 11 installation to enable and test the feature.

So, as noted in Microsoft’s statement, the expectation was very much that Recall would be live next week, when Copilot+ PCs finally emerge blinking in the sunlight, but that will no longer be the case.

Instead, Microsoft is going to have the Recall preview made available to testers in early builds of Windows 11 in the “coming weeks,” and there’s the second major admission here. That makes it sound like testers won’t be getting the feature to play with next week, let alone buyers of Copilot+ PCs, and it may be some weeks before it arrives in whatever preview channel Microsoft deploys Recall.

In short, Microsoft isn’t sure whether Recall will even be ready for testing any time soon.

Person with a laptop

(Image credit: / ImYanis)

Analysis: A major setback, but still the right decision

This has all been a bit of a fiasco, frankly. Microsoft announced Recall with a big fanfare for Copilot+ PCs, then proceeded to batten down the hatches as flak and doubts were fired at the feature left, right, and center. Defensiveness and evasion gave way to big changes being implemented for Recall to shore up security in the light of all the negative feedback, and also ensuring it’s turned off by default (something we argued strongly for).

Now, even after that, it’s been canned for the time being, at least for Copilot+ PCs. It’s not a good look, is it? It feels like Microsoft has been taken aback by all the salvoes fired at Recall by security researchers, rushed to implement some hefty changes, realized that there isn’t time to do all this properly – Copilot+ PCs are almost upon us – so put the full launch on ice to go back to testing.

There’s no doubting that this will be damaging to Copilot+ PCs to some extent. These are AI PCs, after all, and Windows 11’s key feature for them was Recall – there is other AI functionality for these devices, but nothing on the same scale. Just look at Dell’s Copilot+ PC web page, and how it’s built around Recall – it’s the key piece of the AI puzzle, and now it’s missing.

However, we’re glad Microsoft has taken the PR hit here, as it were, and pulled Recall, rather than putting its head down and trying to forge through with the feature. That would have proved even more damaging, most likely, so we understand, and approve of this move in the end.

Honestly, though, we don’t think Recall – given that it’s a sensitive and tricky piece of AI functionality with all those privacy and security aspects – should be pushed out to finished versions of Windows as a ‘preview’ at all. This should be done, dusted, tight and secure, before leaving testing – shouldn’t it?

Speaking of tight and secure, this is especially bad timing for Microsoft, given that Apple Intelligence was just unveiled, with the rival AI offering looking super-sharp on the privacy front, while Copilot appears to be stumbling about from blunder to blunder for the moment. Again, it’s not a good look, made much worse by Apple’s confident and professional revelation of its AI rival for Macs and iDevices (though we should note, we need to see Apple’s promises in action, not just words, before we get carried away with any comparisons).

Still, awkward days for Microsoft, but we’re hoping the company can now take the time to get things right with Recall. In fact, we’d argue it must take the time to do so, or risk blemishes on the Copilot brand that’ll quite probably cause lasting damage in terms of public perception.

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Nvidia’s new G-Assist AI could just be the best party member for hardcore PC gamers

What started as an April Fool’s prank from 2017 might actually become real tech. During Computex 2024, Nvidia revealed a tech demo for Project G-Assist, an AI assistant that can enhance how people play video games. 

The old joke was that the AI could play games for you with the push of a button. This new version isn’t as capable as its fantasy counterpart, but can still help you with your playthrough. According to the announcement post, G-Assist can answer questions about how to complete quests, find items, or help with how to beat tough bosses. 

To activate the AI, you'll simply press a hotkey or utter a wake phase. A window will appear on the screen. From there, you can type in a text prompt or speak it via microphone.

Nvidia states that G-Assist is contextually aware. Through visual models, it can provide recommendations on what a player should do next just by looking at the screen. It may suggest crafting a certain gear for your character or avoiding an on-screen enemy. The information it’ll provide depends on what you’re playing. For role-playing games, it can tell you about the lore of the surrounding world. If you’re playing a first-person shooter, G-Assist will recommend the best loadouts.

Nvidia G-Assist on PC

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Granted, all the AI's tidbits can be admittedly found through a simple Google search. It’s not like G-Assist has access to a secret treasure trove of knowledge. The main draw here is you don’t have to leave your game. A ton of important data is all a button press away. 

The source of a game’s information has us curious. Nvidia says each output will provide “context-sensitive links,” directing you to extra resources online, such as official community wikis. Whether or not that’ll include unofficial sources, like YouTube videos, remains to be seen.

Computer tune up

Besides the playthrough helper, the assistant also has a feature we think hardcore gamers will appreciate called Performance Tuning. Activating this allows the AI to “evaluate your system’s configuration… and instantly tune it for an optimal experience.” It could, for example, decide to undervolt a graphics card to increase power efficiency, enable a “safe GPU overclock,” and turn on Nvidia Reflex to reduce latency, among other things.

Nvidia G-Assist - Performance Tuning feature

(Image credit: Nvidia)

G-Assist even tracks your computer’s performance as you play, letting you know about key statistics, from a game's current frame rate to latency spikes. The corner window displays a graphical readout of a certain stat within a certain time frame. It depends on what you ask the assistant.

What’s more, the AI suggests actions you can take to improve a computer's overall performance or explain certain features. For instance, DLAA (deep-learning anti-aliasing) and DLSS (deep-learning super sampling) are a pair of graphical software that Nvidia made to improve a video game's visual fidelity. The average person may have a difficult time understanding the differences between them and what exactly they do. G-Assist can help down break tricky concepts to better educate people.

The AI is shaping itself up to be yet another killer app from Nvidia. It’s definitely something we want to try out ourselves on our favorite titles. At time of this writing, G-Assist is being exhibited at Computex. It’s unknown if and when it’ll launch or if there will be beta at some point.

TechRadar did reach out to Nvidia asking if it plans to release a public beta and if it’ll expand to non-gaming apps soon. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best gaming PCs for 2024 if you're in the market.

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Tim Cook explains why Apple’s generative AI could be the best on smartphones – and he might have a point

It’s an open secret that Apple is going to unveil a whole host of new artificial intelligence (AI) software features in the coming weeks, with major overhauls planned for iOS 18, macOS 15, and more. But it’s not just new features that Apple is hoping to hype up – it’s the way in which those AI tools are put to use.

Tim Cook has just let slip that Apple’s generative AI will have some major “advantages” over its rivals. While the Apple CEO didn’t explain exactly what Apple’s generative AI will entail (we can expect to hear about that at WWDC in June), what he did say makes a whole lot of sense.

Speaking on Apple’s latest earnings call yesterday, Cook said: “We believe in the transformative power and promise of AI, and we believe we have advantages that will differentiate us in this new era, including Apple’s unique combination of seamless hardware, software, and services integration, groundbreaking Apple silicon with our industry-leading neural engines, and our unwavering focus on privacy, which underpins everything we create.”

Cook also said Apple is making “significant investments” in generative AI, and that he has “some very exciting things” to unveil in the near future. “We continue to feel very bullish about our opportunity in generative AI,” he added.

Why Tim Cook might be right


(Image credit: Unsplash [Omid Armin])

There are plenty of reasons why Apple’s AI implementation could be an improvement over what's come before it, not least of which is Apple’s strong track record when it comes to privacy. The company often prefers to encrypt data and run tasks on your device, rather than sending anything to the cloud, which helps ensure that it can’t be accessed by nefarious third parties – and when it comes to AI, it looks like this approach might play out again.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, for example, has reported that Apple’s upcoming AI features will work entirely on your device, thereby continuing Apple’s commitment to privacy, amid concerns that the rapid development of AI is putting security and privacy at risk. If successful, it could also be a more ethical approach to AI than that employed by Apple’s rivals.

In addition, the fact that Apple creates both the hardware and software in its products allows them to be seamlessly integrated in ways most of its competitors can’t match. It also means devices can be designed with specific use cases in mind that rely on hardware and software working together, rather than Apple having to rely on outside manufacturers to play ball. When it comes to AI, that could result in all kinds of benefits, from performance improvements to new app features.

We’ll find out for sure in the coming weeks. Apple is hosting an iPad event on May 7, which reports have suggested Apple might use to hint at upcoming AI capabilities. Beyond that, the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) lands on June 10, where Apple is expected to devote significant energy to its AI efforts. Watch this space.

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Samsung’s best customization app for Galaxy phones is now on Google Play

Samsung’s Good Lock app has recently been spotted on the Google Play Store hinting at a wider release. Good Lock, if you’re not familiar with it, is a customization app exclusive to Galaxy smartphones. It allows users to decorate various aspects of their device with the help of “modules”. These modules can be used to apply new themes, change the lock screen, revamp the keyboard, and more. The software has been around since 2016 and is a favorite among Samsung enthusiasts.

Initially spotted by several users on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), Good Lock on the Play Store is currently sitting in Early Access. You can’t even find the app on the digital storefront unless you have a direct link to the listing page. Reports state you can only download the software on a Galaxy phone. 9To5Google in their coverage says you’ll see a line of text informing you that your device is not compatible if you try this.

It appears the app doesn’t work with jailbroken hardware either. We managed to download Good Lock on our jailbroken tablet, but when we tried to launch it, the app immediately crashed. The instability is probably due to the fact that Good Lock on Google Play is still under development.

Missing modules

No one knows if the Google Play version of Good Lock will have all of the same modules as the one found on the Galaxy Store. However, it’ll at least house one – One Hand Operation Plus. This module lets you create custom gesture controls. For example, a long swipe to the right launches the Quick Tools menu while swiping diagonally to the upper right opens the notification panel. Judging by the fact One Hand Operation has its own listing page, modules may be separate downloads.

At the time of this writing, it’s unknown when Good Lock will exit Early Access. Samsung may be doing some testing before committing to a formal launch. If it does come out soon, we could see more Galaxy Store-exclusive apps make their way to the Play Store. There aren’t many exclusive options, although there are a few such as Samsung’s Edge Panels and Camera Assistant.

We reached out to the tech giant asking when the app will become widely available and if it plans to expand its availability to non-Galaxy phones. They most likely won’t allow this, but you never know.

Until then, check out TechRadar's list of the best Samsung phones for 2024.

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The 8 best games in the Meta Quest April Mega Sale that you should buy right now

If you're looking to add some new titles to your Meta Quest 3 library then look no further than the Meta Quest April Mega Sale.

From now until April 28 at 11:59 PM PT (April 29 at 07:59 AM BST) you can pick up a whole host of VR games and apps at a bargain price. There are lots of fantastic option to choose from, but I've selected eight deals worth considering.

If you want to find more suggestions you can check out our best VR games list.

Walkabout Mini Golf

If I’m doing a VR game roundup, I’m going to include Walkabout Mini Golf because it’s without a doubt my favorite VR experience. I think you should buy this game at full price so while it’s discounted it’s a no-brainer.

The courses are varied and gorgeous, the mechanics feel true to life, and it offers a superb multiplier experience to boot. But honestly just stop reading this and go buy it if you haven’t already (then come back and keep reading for more suggestions).

Dungeons Of Eternity

Dungeons of Eternity is an action-packed dungeon crawler with an addictive combination of excellent physics-based combat with a satisfying gameplay loop that has you exploring, well, dungeons filled with monsters.

What really takes this game up a level is its multiplayer mode. Just grab a few friends and you can tackle the hordes of terrors together – and you might get a little fitter in the process as this was one of a personal trainer's recommended VR titles for people looking to try VR fitness.

What's even better is that this is a big discount, so it's a great time to finally try Dungeons of Eternity if you haven't already.

The Last Clockwinder

This VR puzzle game is my favorite for people after a more serious experience – combining an intriguing tale of mystery with a host of engaging mechanics.

Your goal is to restore the Clocktower’s gardens to grow different fruits using a small army of robots that mimic your movements – all while you search for the missing Clockwinder. Simply record an action and an automaton will spawn to recreate what you did on a loop; by chaining these robots you’ll create complex sequences to solve the various puzzles in your way.

What makes The Last Clockwinder fun for puzzle fans like myself is that while each mission can be completed using as many robots as you can spawn, there are in-game challenges and rewards encouraging you to be as efficient as possible. 

This means novices can always find a solution, but experts will have a real challenge finding an optimal solution – which often requires precise movements and out-of-the-box thinking.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

This VR multiplayer game is a perfect choice for people who want to enjoy VR together but only have one headset. 

One player – the person in VR – can see a complex bomb with various puzzle modules that must be solved in order to deactivate it. The other player (or players) can see a complex manual – much of which may be irrelevant to the virtual bomb you’re trying to defuse. By working together the duo must defuse the explosive before a timer runs out or making too many mistakes.

It’s chaotic, it’s fun, and right now it’s on sale for a great price.

I Expect You To Die Collection

If you’ve ever wanted to be James Bond – though at times you may feel more like Austin Powers – then this virtual escape room series is what you need. Brimming with all the spy tropes under the sun (complete with kickass theme songs I have in my playlist) this game series is an absolute delight to play through – it’s one of those VR games everyone should play.

This double pack includes the first and second games at a discounted price, but if you already own one or both you can pick up all three games in the series individually for a lower-than-normal price:

The Light Brigade

This VR shooter roguelike has you fighting through a dark world of corrupted soldiers and monsters. If you fail – and you will – you can retry your mission but be careful as the dungeon you’re adventuring through will have a different layout every time you enter.

The Light Brigade is adrenaline-inducing in all the right ways, with semi-realistic World War I-era weapons to handle, a diverse range of formidable foes, and a great selection of classes you can switch between – each with a unique style of gameplay. As you progress, you can upgrade your soldier’s abilities to make future runs a little easier.

I adore The Light Brigade – every time I boot it up I binge it for hours on end – and at this price, it’s a certified must-play.

Among Us VR

I love social deduction games – be they board games like Secret Hitler and Coup, or video games like Town of Salem and Among Us – and this VR version is an absolute riot.

The first-person perspective and proximity chat make the experience feel way more immersive (read: it’s a lot scarier being a crewmate), and meetings are a lot more engaging compared to using the flat game’s text-chat option – though chat-only VR lobbies are available.

For only $ 7.49 / £5.99 Among Us VR is a steal that you should definitely pick up.

Assassin’s Creed Nexus

This is the only game on this list I haven’t played – ignoring an early-access demo I tried when I first gave the Meta Quest 3 a whirl – but I’ve heard great things about it and it’s been on my to-play list for some time.

Nexus lets you play as the series’ most iconic Assassins in VR recreations of iconic locations from the original games. I’ve been told that at times it can be a little janky, but the combat and parkour experience are good enough for it to stick the landing on helping you live out your dream of joining the Brotherhood.

This isn’t the biggest discount in the world, but considering this is a pricey game to begin with we’ll take any discount we can get.

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Microsoft pinches one of the best macOS features for Windows 11 – here are three other ideas it should steal from Apple

It looks like Windows 11 could be getting a new device management feature that will seem a bit familiar to anyone who has ever used Apple’s rival macOS Sonoma operating system for Macs and MacBooks.

As MSPoweruser reports, an early build of an upcoming Windows 11 update adds a new ‘Linked devices’ window within the Settings app, giving users an overview of all the devices, such as laptops and Xbox consoles, that are signed into their Microsoft account.

From that window, it looks like users will then be able to manage each device from a single screen.

Apple-like convenience

You may be surprised how many devices you’ve linked to your Microsoft account, especially if you have several laptops. Signing in to your smartphone and connecting it to your Windows 11 device via the handy Phone Link app and using your Microsoft account to sign up to other services could also mean your ‘Linked devices’ list is actually longer than you might have expected.

It's always important to keep track of the devices you sign into – especially if you are planning on selling or giving away a device. Currently, there’s no easy way to see all the devices signed into your Microsoft account in Windows 11 – instead you need to go to the Microsoft account website. It’s not the most intuitive website, and having this information displayed in a much clearer way within Windows 11 is a good move in my view. However, as MSPoweruser points out, at the moment some tasks you want to perform with the devices will still need to be done through the website.

It's (very) early days with this feature, however, as it is currently only available with the beta build 22635.3495, which is only available to people signed up to the Windows 11 Insiders program. By the time this feature rolls out to all Windows 11 users, more tasks should hopefully be integrated directly into Windows, rather than having to go to the website.

This addition adds a level of Apple-like convenience to Windows 11 – something the operating system often lacks. As I’ve said many times before, Windows 11 can sometimes feel like a jumbled mess of new and legacy operating systems – and that means it fails to offer a coherent experience.

Meanwhile, Apple’s macOS certainly isn’t perfect, but it does integrate your various devices much better than Windows 11. Of course, Apple being Apple, this works best if all your other devices are Apple products as well, and due to the huge range of manufacturers who make Windows 11 products, Microsoft hasn’t got this luxury.

This new feature, however, is certainly welcome and brings Windows 11 a step closer to the kind of easy device management that Apple is known for. If Microsoft has indeed taken inspiration from its archnemesis, then I’m certainly not complaining. In fact, here are some other Apple features I wouldn’t mind Microsoft copying:

1. Make the Start menu more like the Launchpad

Windows 11 Start menu

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Now, a few years ago the idea that I might one day suggest that Microsoft change the iconic Windows Start menu to be more like the Launchpad of macOS would have been laughable. Since its debut in Windows 95, I’ve always preferred the start menu – it was easy to find the app you wanted to launch, and it confined to the bottom-left-hand corner of the screen, it didn’t feel intrusive, unlike the full-screen Launchpad.

In fact, when Microsoft dropped the Start menu in Windows 8 for a much more Launchpad-like fullscreen Start screen, I – like many other Windows users – was horrified.

However, while the Start menu has returned in Windows 10 and Windows 11, Microsoft has seemingly done its hardest to make me avoid the once-essential part of the operating system.

Stuffing apps and widgets that I don’t want or use into the Start menu makes it harder to find what I actually want – and it looks like it’s set to get worse as Microsoft is apparently considering putting adverts for suggested Microsoft Store apps into the ‘Recommended’ section of the Start menu.

macOS launchpad

(Image credit: Apple)

More unnecessary bloat means it’s harder to find the apps I actually want to use, and ironically it means I open up the Start menu less and less these days. The fact that in Windows 11 the Start menu now pops up right in the middle of my desktop means it can feel just as obnoxious as Launchpad (unless I change the settings to put the Start menu back in the left-hand corner).

It’s got to the point where I prefer using Launchpad. Sure, I still don’t like that it takes over my entire screen, but there are no adverts, notifications to try more services, and few pre-installed apps in there. Instead, it just shows me the apps I have installed, letting me find and open them up quickly.

2. Make the Taskbar more like the Dock

Windows 11 2022 Update taskbar

(Image credit: Sofia Wyciślik-Wilson)

This is another suggestion I can hardly believe I’m making in 2024, but the sad fact is that despite the macOS Dock coming after the Windows Taskbar set the… er… bar… Microsoft’s tinkering has ended up making Windows 11’s version of the Taskbar a lot less useful.

At first glance, the centering of the app icons suggests that Microsoft has already taken inspiration from the macOS Dock – but if that’s the case, then it’s learned the wrong lesson.

The macOS Dock is a more elegant solution to quickly opening up your favorite apps, while also switching between open windows – but not because it sits at the centre of your screen. As with the Launchpad, the Dock is mercifully free from clutter, while the Taskbar can look cluttered by comparison.

By default, as well as icons for your apps, the Windows 11 Taskbar also shows the Search bar (which often features graphics), weather warning, notifications, and the new Copilot icon, many of which I never use.

macOS sonoma

(Image credit: Future)

Also, while the Dock sits in the center of the screen, the Taskbar stretches across the entire screen, and while the app icons and Start menu appear in the center, the weather icons appear on the far left, while notifications, time and date, Copilot and volume controls are shoved to opposite side. This means the Taskbar in Windows 11 feels cluttered, whilst also having lots of wasted space.

Worst of all, Microsoft has dropped a lot of functionality from the Windows 11 Taskbar compared to previous versions of Windows – including the ability to drag and drop apps onto the Taskbar to pin them so they always appear there, or to drag and drop files onto an app’s Taskbar icon to open up the file in the app.

It’s a curious move that has perplexed a lot of Windows 11 users, and I would like Microsoft to take inspiration from both macOS and past versions of Windows to create a modern Taskbar that’s elegant, powerful, and simple to use.

3. Make Microsoft Store more like the App Store (that is, make it more useful)

Microsoft Store

(Image credit: Microsoft)

This last point is probably one that Microsoft would love, but ever since the introduction of the Windows Store with Windows 8, the company has struggled to make a case for what is now called the Microsoft Store.

Much like the App Store in macOS, the Microsoft Store offers a way to find and install apps. It should be easy and safe (as all apps in the store are tested to ensure they don’t include malware) – yet while the App Store in macOS feels like a useful, maybe even essential, part of the operating system, the Microsoft Store is easily ignored.

Microsoft must look at the money Apple rakes in through the App Store with seething jealousy. So what can Microsoft learn from Apple’s implementation?

For a start, the App Store looks cleaner and feels more curated. The Microsoft Store certainly looks better than in the past, but it’s still not the easiest when it comes to finding things you want (there’s a bit of a theme developing here). It also feels slow and laggy compared to the App Store.

App Store data collection

(Image credit: Apple)

Microsoft has also struggled to get developers to make bespoke versions of their applications for the Microsoft Store, which means it feels a bit sparser than the App Store. It also means that some versions of apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store lack the features of the same app downloaded from a website. It also leads to strange inconsistencies, such as the app being a paid-for app in the Microsoft Store – but it’s free to download from the official website.

Probably the biggest problem for Microsoft when it comes to this is that the App Store has been such an integral part of macOS for so long that users think nothing of using it to install new apps. They will also trust Apple’s recommendations for new apps.

Microsoft doesn’t have that kind of reverence from its users, and Windows users have mainly grown up with using the internet to find and download applications, preferring the freedom of picking where to download the app from, and where to install it – even if it brings certain risks.

It’s hard to see how Microsoft can change a lot of that, but by making the Microsoft Store more useful, easier to navigate and with a much wider app selection, it could help make it more popular with its customers.

Apple – and macOS – is far from perfect, and there are lots of things that Windows 11 does better than macOS, but if Microsoft is in the mood for taking tips from its fruit-themed competitor, the above suggestions would be very welcome indeed.

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Best Buy is giving its customer assistance an AI boost – but with a human touch

Best Buy is taking the plunge and incorporating AI-powered shopping tools for its customers, announcing today on its website that it’s partnered with Google Cloud and the consulting firm Accenture to bring users AI-powered customer assistance. The retailer claims that this move will enable it to give customers “even more personalized, best-in-class tech support experiences.”

Customers can expect a self-service support option when they visit and shop on, when using Best Buy’s app, or when they call Best Buy’s customer support line (presumably through a conventional automated selection system). When customers make use of one of these, they’ll be able to interact with Best Buy’s new AI-powered virtual assistant, which it expects to debut in late summer 2024. 

These new customer support tools are part of Best Buy’s efforts to offer customers the most tech-forward ways of getting the assistance they need, expanding that it’s making use of Google Cloud’s AI capabilities, including Vertex AI (a Google Cloud machine learning platform), and Google’s new Gemini generative AI models

Inside of a Best Buy, an every day scene at the customer service section with people milling around

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Icatnews)

What the generative AI will help Best Buy do

The retailer explains that the virtual assistant will enable customers to troubleshoot product issues easily, manage their order deliveries and scheduling (including the ability to make changes), manage subscriptions they have from Best Buy such as software and Geek Squad, and navigate their My Best Buy memberships (Best Buy’s customer loyalty program). 

Many people, myself included, find it very frustrating when trying to interact with automated customer service tools, and thankfully it looks like Best Buy is at least somewhat aware of this. It writes: “We also know that sometimes customers prefer speaking with an actual person to get the support they need.”

It follows this up by explaining that Best Buy customer care agents will be equipped with a suite of tools aided by generative AI to assist agents when they’re dealing with customers over the phone. Best Buy details that these tools are designed to help agents assess real-time conversations with customers, and suggest recommendations that might be useful in the moment. The tools will also summarize conversations, collecting and using information gathered during the call to hopefully reduce the chances of individual customer service issues being repeated, as well as detecting the sentiment expressed by the customer.

A close up on a woman working at a computer, wearing a headset and smiling

(Image credit: Shutterstock/OPOLJA)

The wider implications of this change

There are legions of AI-powered assistance tools being developed for employees everywhere at this point, with Best Buy also discussing an assistant that makes it easier for employees to find product guides and company resources. The retailer states that its aim in developing tools like these is to be able to help customers more efficiently.

We’ve seen implementations of similar practices by other, smaller retailers, but Best Buy is one of the first companies of this scale to adopt an AI-first approach. While many companies already use automated customer service tools in some form, Best Buy is joining a limited cohort that make such explicit use of AI-assisted customer service technologies. 

I’ve had positive and negative experiences when dealing with automated customer service, and when you’re particularly stressed out, I don’t see the addition of machine learning as much of a consolation. I am glad that employees will also see a boost behind the scenes with additional tools to help them help customers, and I’m glad that it sounds like customers will still be able to speak to an actual person – I just hope it’s not too difficult to get through to a human and it’ll be open to feedback about its new strategy. 

My gut reaction is that this is a bold move that could be met unenthusiastically by customers, but I appreciate that Best Buy is being forthright about it. If it works, we could see it spread to more retailers big and small, and generative-AI-aided assistance might be well on its way to becoming the industry norm. If not, hopefully, retailers will be wise enough to listen to customer sentiment and understand that there are still some jobs that you simply need a human for.


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