Windows 11’s controversial Recall feature hasn’t just been ditched from Copilot+ PCs – Microsoft’s reportedly stripped it out of test builds of the OS

Microsoft has seemingly pulled its Recall feature – the AI-powered search that screenshots your PC activity and has caused controversy aplenty – not just from Copilot+ PCs at launch, but now from Windows 11 test builds, too.

If you cast your mind back to a week ago, June 14, Microsoft came forth with an announcement that Recall had been withdrawn from Copilot+ PCs, where it was supposed to be in ‘preview’ at launch, and would instead be available to preview in the “Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks.”

In other words, Windows test builds – but of course, the mention of the ‘coming weeks’ suggests that testing of the feature won’t happen immediately in the Canary channel (or other preview channels for that matter).

Still, as Tom’s Hardware observes, Recall functionality was present in build 26236 in the Canary channel – with well-known leaker Albacore uncovering new pieces of functionality – and then, on the day of the launch of Copilot+ PCs, that build had its rollout paused by Microsoft.

Following that, build 26241 emerged in Canary testing, and as Tom’s makes clear, it has no sign of the Recall feature – it has all been stripped out.


Analysis: Recall won’t be ready until it’s ready – and that’s a good thing

Really, then, this is to be expected. As we noted above, Microsoft has said Recall is going into testing, but only in the coming weeks, hinting it’s still a little way off reaching that point. But it’s still interesting to see that Microsoft has stripped it out completely in the Canary channel, after pausing the preview build which had the feature (albeit with changes discovered by Albacore that were hidden in the background).

To us, this indicates that it might be a bit more of a long haul than Microsoft suggests for Recall actually going live even in test builds of Windows 11. But frankly – if this turns out to be the case – we think that’s something to be grateful for, being very much of the opinion that Recall likely isn’t remotely ready yet.

If Microsoft is taking the time to pull it completely, and really get the Recall house in order, before deploying it to Windows 11 testers, that’s a good sign. It’s a kingpin AI feature for Copilot+ PCs, after all, so Microsoft needs to get Recall right, and if that takes time, all well and good as far as we’re concerned.

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Microsoft quietly updates controversial Windows 11 Recall feature – but not with the changes that are really needed

Microsoft’s flagship AI feature for Copilot+ PCs, Recall, has been through the wringer lately, and at the risk of sounding like a hater – rightfully so.

In case you missed it, Recall takes screenshots every few seconds, building up a library of images you can search via AI, but the feature has some serious issues on the privacy front, to the point that the launch of Recall was pulled and banished back to the Windows Insider Program for further testing.

However, that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from quietly adding new features to Recall as the tech giant runs damage control around this whole controversy.

As discovered by well-known leaker Albacore, writing for Tom’s Hardware (via Neowin), there are a few new chunky bits of functionality hidden away in the latest Windows 11 preview build (in the Canary channel).

One of those is ‘screenray’ which is a utility that’ll pop up to analyze what’s currently on the screen. It’s summoned via a keyboard shortcut and allows the user to get extra information from Copilot about anything present on-screen, or access a translation for something in a foreign language.

Windows Recall screenshot

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware )

While we have a limited understanding of the exact nature of this new tool, it does seem similar to the Reader feature in Safari that Apple introduced during WWDC – which leverages Apple Intelligence to scan a web page and translate, summarize, or add insight to whatever content is currently being browsed. Of course, Windows 11’s Recall tool is available across your entire system, not just in a browser.

Alongside this, Microsoft has implemented a revamped homepage design for Windows 11’s Recall feature. This means that when you fire up Recall, instead of being presented with a new snapshot, you get a grid of recent snapshots (there’s still a button to allow you to create a new snapshot – this just doesn’t happen by default anymore).

Also new is a ‘Topic’ section that organizes snapshots by themes, so you can group together related screenshots (for, say, Spotify) to make for easier searching.

Windows Recall screenshot

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware )

Finally, Windows Recall also has better integration with Copilot in this new preview build. Clicking on a snapshot will produce a drop-down menu with context-sensitive choices, so you can get Copilot to copy something, open it in an app, or if it’s an image, find pictures in the same vein, or create a similar image. All the standard Copilot options, essentially.

While these new additions to the controversial feature seem useful, I’m finding it hard to get past how bizarre the whole feature feels in the first place. I’m sure I won’t be the only one, either, and with all the concerns raised about Recall in recent times, Microsoft has a lot of work to do. It’ll definitely take a lot more to get me on board than a homepage redesign and this new screenray functionality.

For now, Windows Recall lives in the Windows Insider Program, where it’ll be tinkered with and tested for quite some time, most likely, before Microsoft dares try to launch it again. Whatever happens, when the feature hits release, Microsoft needs to make sure it gets things right this time around, and that means working on privacy and security as an absolute priority.

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Windows 11’s Recall feature could pack a handy time-saving web search ability that might be less controversial (for a change)

Windows 11’s Recall feature has been causing controversy recently, so much so that Microsoft has actually halted the feature in its tracks (for now) – but a new discovery won’t fan any of those particular flames. In fact, it could well prove useful for those who eventually take the plunge with the now-delayed AI-powered functionality.

As discovered in the new preview build 26236 for Windows 11 (in the Canary channel) by regular leaker @PhantomofEarth on X, the new addition to Recall – which is still hidden in testing – is a ‘Search the web’ option.

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To recap, Recall is an AI feature specifically designed for Copilot+ PCs which regularly takes screenshots of the activity on your PC, files them in a library, and makes this searchable via Microsoft’s Copilot AI in Windows.

The new ‘Search the web’ facility allows the user to right-click on any text detected in a screenshot taken by Recall, and it’ll fire up a search on that selected text (in the user’s default search engine, presumably – though we don’t get to see the feature in action).

The ‘Search the web’ option is present in Recall’s right-click menu (in a snapshot) alongside the ‘Copy’ and ‘Open with’ options.

New AI settings in Windows 11

X user @alex290292 commented on @PhantomofEarth’s post with another interesting observation that there are also new AI-related settings in this Windows 11 preview build.

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These are in the Settings app, under ‘Privacy & Security’ where there’s a ‘Generative AI’ panel that allows for the fine-tuning of which apps are allowed to use generative AI capabilities. Apparently, you’ll also be able to review the last seven days of activity to see which apps requested to use generative AI.

To be able to see all of this for yourself, you’ll have to install the preview build and use a Windows configuration tool (ViVeTool) to enable ‘hidden’ Windows 11 features – not something we’d recommend for anyone but a keen enthusiast who’s comfortable with tinkering around in test builds.

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Calm down, Adobe tells fans – Photoshop’s new small print isn’t as controversial as it looks

Adobe has been under fire lately, having been called out for its “shocking dismissal of photography” by the American Society of Media Photographers for some tone-deaf Photoshop ads it ran a few weeks ago. And now the software giant has been forced to defend itself again, after a social media outcry over some new Photoshop terms and conditions that started rolling out this week.

Over the past few days, a number of high-profile Photoshop users have expressed their dismay on X (formerly Twitter) about a new 'Updated Terms of Use' pop-up that they've been forced to accept. The new small print contains some seemingly alarming lines, including one that states “we may access your content through both automated and manual methods, such as for content review”.

Adobe has now defended the new conditions in a new blog post. In short, Adobe claims that the slightly ambiguous legalese in its new small print has created an unnecessary furore, and that nothing has fundamentally changed. The two key takeaways are that Adobe says it “does not train Firefly Gen AI models on customer content” and that it will “never assume ownership of a customer's work”.

On the latter point, Adobe explains that apps like Photoshop need to access our cloud-based content in order to “perform the functions they are designed and used for”, like opening and editing files. The new terms and conditions also only impact cloud-based files, with the small print stating that “we [Adobe] don’t analyze content processed or stored locally on your device”.

Adobe does also admit that its new small print could have been explained better, and also stated that “we will be clarifying the Terms of Use acceptance customers see when opening applications”. But while the statement should help to allay some fears, other concerns will likely remain.

One of the main points raised on social media was concern about what Adobe's content review processes mean for work that's under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Adobe says in its statement that for work stored in the cloud, Adobe “may use technologies and other processes, including escalation for manual (human) review, to screen for certain types of illegal content”.

That may not completely settle the privacy concerns of some Adobe users, then, although those issues are arguably applicable to using cloud storage in general, rather than Adobe specifically.

A crisis of trust?

An image of a waterfall being expanded using Adobe's Generative Fill tool

(Image credit: Adobe)

This Adobe incident is another example of how the aggressive expansion of cloud-based services and AI tools is contributing to a crisis of trust between tech giants and software users – in some cases, understandably so.

On one hand, the convenience of cloud storage has been a massive boon for creatives – particularly for those with remote teams spread across the world – and AI tools like Generative Fill in Photoshop can also be big time-savers. 

But they can also come at a cost, and it remains the case that the only way to ensure true privacy is store your work locally rather than in the cloud. For many Photoshop users, that won't be an issue, but the furore will still no doubt see some looking for the best Photoshop alternatives that don't have such a big cloud component.

As for AI tools, Adobe remains the self-appointed torch-bearer for 'ethical' AI that isn't trained on copyrighted works, though it's landed in some controversies. For example, last month the estate of legendary photography Ansel Adams accused Adobe on Threads of selling AI-created imitations of his work.

In fairness to Adobe, it removed the work and stated that it “goes against our Generative AI content policy”. But it again shows the delicate balancing act that the likes of Adobe are now in between rolling out powerful new AI-powered tools and retaining the trust of both users and creatives.

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Microsoft defends controversial Windows 11 Recall feature – but in a feeble, unconvincing manner

Windows 11’s Recall feature – set to be a cornerstone ability for Copilot+ PCs, allowing for a supercharged AI-powered search of the activity history of the system – continues to stir controversy, and Microsoft’s recent defense of the functionality won’t likely soothe the nerves of anyone.

Or at least that’s our feeling following The Register picking up on comments that came from Jaime Teevan, chief scientist and technical fellow at Microsoft Research, in an interview at an AI conference with Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab.

Brynjolfsson observed that after Recall was revealed by Microsoft, there was a “backlash against all the privacy challenges around that.”

To recap briefly, in case you missed the concerns flying around about this feature, it sits in Windows 11 and takes regular screenshots of everything you’re doing. Those grabs can be searched by AI at a later date, so you can find out all manner of useful info – and there’s no doubting it’s useful.

The worry is that Recall represents a double-edged sword, with the convenience of a super-powerful search of all your PC usage history on one side, and the specter of all that data falling into the hands of a hacker on the other. To say there are lots of security and privacy concerns with how the AI feature is implemented would be a massive understatement.

Brynjolfsson then encouraged Teevan to address these issues, saying: “So, talk about both the pluses and minuses of using all that data and some of the risks that creates and also some of the opportunities.”

A balanced question, but Teevan elected to ignore the ‘minuses’ part of the equation entirely, and talk only in vague and evasive terms. She said: “Yeah, and so it’s a great question, Erik. This has come up throughout the morning as well – the importance of data. And this AI revolution that we’re in right now is really changing the way we understand data.”

She moved on to talk about businesses using data, before addressing the consumer angle as follows: “And as individuals too, we have important data, the data that we interact with all the time, and there’s an opportunity to start thinking about how to do that and to start thinking about what it means to be able to capture and use that. But of course we are rethinking what data means and how we use it, how we value it, how it gets used.”

A waffly and not very helpful response, frankly.

Undeterred, Brynjolfsson tried a specific angle to try and draw Microsoft Research’s chief scientist to actually comment meaningfully on all the concerns raised around Recall.

He asked: “Is it stored locally? [meaning the Recall data] So suppose I activate Recall, and I don’t know if I can, but when you have something like that available, I would be worried about all my personal files going up into the cloud, Microsoft, or whatever. Do you have it kept locally?”

It’s an easy reply in this case, though, as Microsoft has already made it clear that the data is only stored locally.

Teevan indicated that’s the case again: “Yeah, yeah, so this is a foundational thing that we as a company care a lot about is actually the protection of data. So Recall is a feature which captures information. It’s a local Windows functionality, nothing goes into the cloud, everything’s stored locally.”

Man using a laptop in office

(Image credit: Unsplash / Anthony Riera)

Analysis: Never mind thinking, we need some action

Obviously, that’s good to hear, but as noted, we’ve heard it before. And sadly, that was your lot. Tougher questions weren’t raised, and Teevan certainly didn’t take any opportunity to proactively tackle some of the flak fired at Recall in recent times.

The message, vague as it was, consisted of ‘thinking’ about how we capture and use data, but with Recall about to launch in Copilot+ PCs later this month, it’s a bit late to still be thinking. Isn’t it? These devices are on the cusp of release, and Recall will be used in a very real way across some (or many) of these new machines, with some of the mentioned worries around how it could go wrong also being very real.

As The Register points out, some folks are fretting about legal implications – that lawyers could leverage Recall data on a PC against someone (possibly accessing all kinds of past messaging, even those that are of the auto-delete-after-reading variety). A privacy watchdog is already investigating the feature before its release. And security experts are throwing red flags left, right and center frankly, with some major worrying underway about how Recall could make it a breeze for hackers to steal a ton of sensitive data, apparently very easily and quickly, if your PC is unfortunately compromised.

Aside from all this, our main beef is with the setup of a Copilot+ PC and how it falls short with Recall. The method of running the feature past a Windows 11 user during setup feels clunky, and like it’s crafted to allow for people to leave it on by default, more than likely (if they don’t understand what’s being asked of them, which may be the case with less tech-savvy users).

There are lots of questions here, and Microsoft is failing to address them as far as we’ve seen. ‘It’s all kept local and everything will be fine’ is glossing over myriad issues here.

While at this point, it seems unlikely that the Recall data tanker can change course meaningfully – we’re that close to launch – we can hope that at the very least, Microsoft deals with the issues around setup. This needs to be far more transparent, and Recall needs to be off in our opinion, by default, unless a Copilot+ PC user makes a fully informed decision to turn it on.

The way the feature’s setup is dealt with right now just isn’t good enough, and that’s a failing underpinning all the other concerns here – a root problem that needs to be tackled, and hopefully will be. Fingers firmly crossed. We've contacted Microsoft for a comment.

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Microsoft’s controversial Recall feature for Windows 11 could already be in legal hot water

Microsoft’s announcements around Build 2024 have certainly grabbed some attention, but none more so on the controversy front than the AI-powered ‘Recall’ feature in Windows 11

Recall has been stirring up strong opinions left, right and center since its revelation, and now it appears to be under the microscope of the ICO, a UK-based privacy watchdog.

The worries expressed widely online are focused on how this feature may affect privacy for those who have it, which won’t be all Windows 11 users, we should note – just Copilot+ PC owners who have the necessary hardware goods in terms of a powerful NPU.

For those who missed it, what Recall does is record your PC usage, very literally in terms of taking screenshots of your active windows every couple of seconds. This then allow you to exercise powerful natural language-based search capabilities to rifle through your past PC usage, not just in terms of text but also visual search – with AI locating what you need by going through that huge library of screen grabs.

You can doubtless see the kind of privacy concerns that might be sparked by this constant stream of screenshots going on in the background, but the pushback and reaction has got serious very quickly.

Sky News spotted that in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees data privacy and related regulations, is already cautious about the Recall capability.

Indeed, following all the uproar around Recall, the ICO is investigating the feature, and told Sky: “We are making enquiries with Microsoft to understand the safeguards in place to protect user privacy.”

A laptop with a security lock displayed

(Image credit: iStock)

Safety first

It’s a good question, of course – so what safeguards are in place here to protect Windows 11 users?

For starters, Recall happens locally, so everything is stored on the PC, and nothing is sent online to the cloud or Microsoft’s servers – so there’s no risk of having data intercepted (or a third-party data breach leaking the private details of how you use your Windows 11 machine).

Microsoft has underlined that it doesn’t have access to any of this data, and it won’t be used to train its AI.

Furthermore, the company pointed out that you can manually delete snapshots, or adjust the timeframe they’re kept for – or pause, or turn off Recall entirely if you don’t want it. It’s also possible to block certain apps or websites from being used by Recall, so effectively there’s a lot of fine-grained control here.

However, will Windows 11 users be bothered to exercise that control and properly set up Recall? Well, that’s one worry, and another is that while it’s all well and good to say everything stays on the device, we have to firstly trust that’s the case – and it’s all watertight – and secondly, what if your PC is compromised by malware, or stolen. Then what?

Hackers or thieves could potentially have access to your Recall library of screenshots, which may contain confidential information, openly available to see, such as your bank or card details, or visible passwords, or, well, anything that has happened on your PC (that you haven’t marked out of bounds using Windows 11’s settings for Recall).

As Muhammad Yahya Patel, who is lead security engineer at Check Point, put it: “It is a one-shot attack for criminals, like a grab and go, but with Recall they will essentially have everything in a single location [your screenshot database] … Imagine the goldmine of information that will be stored on a machine, and what threat actors can do with it.”

Unhappy laptop user

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

More questions than answers?

So, there are definitely still some major concerns and question marks here, and it’s going to be pretty interesting to see what the ICO makes of Microsoft’s big AI play for Windows 11 to supercharge search.

We’ve already discussed other thorny areas around Recall – such as Windows 11 Home users apparently not benefiting from encryption for the data used by the feature, and what type of encryption is in place for Windows 11 Pro (or business) users anyway?

In that article, we also go over the precautions you can take to make Recall as secure as possible, but really, the best bet for the paranoid might be – simply turn it off and don’t use it. And maybe Microsoft wonders what all the fuss is about from naysayers, and why they don’t just take that approach.

But for the less tech-savvy, who might not even realize what Recall is, or that it’s turned on by default, it could be a risky feature – particularly considering these are the people who are most prone to getting hit by malware or hacked.

With that in mind, shouldn’t the first sensible security step be to have Recall off by default? So that it’s only turned on by those who know what it’s for, and want it? Let’s see what the ICO makes of Microsoft’s ‘default on’ approach, too.

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Bereft ChatGPT fans start petition to bring back controversial ‘Sky’ chatbot voice

OpenAI has pulled ChatGPT's popular 'Sky' chatbot voice after Scarlett Johansson expressed her “disbelief” at how “eerily similar” it sounded to her own. But fans of the controversial voice in the ChatGPT app aren't happy – and have now started a petition to bring it back.

The Sky voice, which is one of several that are available in the ChatGPT app for iOS and Android, is no longer available after OpenAI stated yesterday on X (formerly Twitter) that it'd had hit pause in order to address “questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT”.

Those questions became very pointed yesterday when Johansson wrote a fiery statement given to NPR that she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman would “pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine” after she had apparently twice declined licensing her voice for the ChatGPT assistant.

OpenAI has rejected those accusations, stating in a blog post that “Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.” But pressure from Johansson's lawyers, which NPR reports are demanding answers, has forced OpenAI to suspend the voice – and fans aren't happy.

In a fascinating example of how attached some are already becoming to AI chatbots, a popular Reddit thread titled 'Petition to bring Sky voice back' includes a link to a Change petition, which currently has over 300 signatures.

In fairness, many of the Reddit comments and signatures predate Johansson's statement and OpenAI's reasoning for pulling the Sky voice option in the ChatGPT app. And it now looks increasingly likely that the voice won't simply be paused but instead put on indefinite hiatus.

But the thread is still an interesting, and mildly terrifying, glimpse of where we're headed with convincing AI chatbot voices, whether they're licensed from famous actresses or not. One comment from Redditor JohnDango states that “she was the only bot I spoke to that had a 'realness' about her that made it feel like a real step beyond chatbot,” while GaneshLookALike noted mournfully that “Sky was full of warmth and compassion.”

That voice, which we also found to be one of ChatGPT's most convincing options, is now on the backburner while the case rumbles on. 

What next for ChatGPT's Sky voice?

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It doesn't sound like ChatGPT's 'Sky' voice is going to return anytime soon. In her statement shared with NPR, Scarlett Johansson said she'd been “forced to hire legal counsel” and send letters to OpenAI asking how the voice had been made. OpenAI's blog post looks like its response to those questions, though it remains to be seen whether that's enough to keep the lawyers at bay.

Johansson understandably sounds determined to pursue the issue, adding in her statement to NPR that “in a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity.” 

While there's no suggestion that OpenAI cloned Johansson's voice, the company did reveal in March that it had developed a new voice synthesizer that could apparently copy a voice from just 15 seconds of audio. That tool was never released to the public due to concerns about how it might be misused, with OpenAI stating that it was investigating the “responsible deployment of synthetic voices”.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman also didn't exactly help his company's cause by simply posting “her” on X (formerly Twitter) on the eve of the launch of its GPT-4o model, which included the new voice mode that it demoed. That looks like a thinly-veiled reference to Spike Jonze's movie Her, about a man who develops a relationship with an AI virtual assistant Samantha, which was voiced by none other than Scarlett Johansson.

For now, then, it looks like fans of the ChatGPT app will need to make do with the other voices – including Breeze, Cove, Ember and Juniper – while this fascinating case rumbles on. This also shouldn't effect the rollout of GPT-4o's impressive new conversational voice powers, which OpenAI says it will be rolling out “in alpha within ChatGPT Plus in the coming weeks”.

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Microsoft is mulling a change for widgets in Windows 11 that could prove controversial

Microsoft has deployed a new preview build of Windows 11 to the Canary channel (which is the earliest testing outlet) and it does some work on the widgets panel that could be divisive.

This is build 26200 and there’s only a handful of changes applied here, two of which pertain to widgets.

The main thrust of innovation here is Microsoft’s new idea to allow developers to send notifications from their widgets to the taskbar button. In other words, when something happens with a widget that you might want to see, it’ll be waving at you from the taskbar to let you know.

Of course, not everyone will want their widget button in the taskbar to act in this way, and fortunately, Microsoft has included an option to turn off this behavior.

It’s also worth noting that this is a limited rollout to begin with, and indeed, most people won’t see these widget notifications yet – only those in the European Economic Area (EEA) are getting this feature in testing. Of course, that rollout could be made broader down the line, depending on feedback.

Another tweak related to this in build 26200 is that Microsoft is changing said widgets button to make the icons on the taskbar clearer.

Elsewhere on the taskbar, another icon is changing, this time the energy saver icon which resides in the system tray (on the far right). A few months back this was changed in testing to look different for desktop PCs plugged into a power socket, but now Microsoft has decided to revert it to the old look (a leaf icon).

Finally, Microsoft notes that there is an odd known issue with this preview build – and others, in the Dev and Beta channels, too – whereby Copilot is auto-launching itself after the PC is rebooted.

The software giant explains this is not related to the automatic launch on boot behavior that has been tested in preview builds before, the rollout of which has now stopped, apparently, since March (though we heard it has been restarted elsewhere).

This is a separate glitch, then, and Microsoft says it hopes to have a fix implemented soon. Meanwhile, greater visibility for Copilot is something the company is certainly driving forward with, to no one’s surprise.


Analysis: A livelier taskbar won’t be everyone’s preferred beverage

Are notifications for widgets intrusive? Well, yes they could certainly be regarded in that way, but as noted, as long as the option is provided to turn them off, it’s not too big a deal. If you want them, you can have them – if not, hit that off switch. Fair enough.

Many people likely won’t want their widgets effectively waving their hands at them from the taskbar, whenever something new pops up with a widget in the panel. This taskbar-based hand-waving appears to be a direction Microsoft is exploring in more depth, though. We’ve also recently seen an idea where the Copilot button runs an animation with its icon to draw your attention to the fact that the AI can help with something you’re doing on the desktop.

This only relates to copying text or image files currently – again, in testing – but in this case, there’s no way to turn it off.

All this could possibly point to a taskbar which is considerably livelier and more animated in the future, perhaps – and again, that’s not something everyone will appreciate.

If this is the path we’re going down for the taskbar as we head towards next-gen Windows (which might be Windows 12), hopefully Microsoft will also give Windows users enough granular control over the bar’s highlighting features and animations so they can be dialed back suitably.

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Microsoft pushes ahead with controversial move in Windows 11 – having Copilot appear immediately after startup

Remember that Microsoft was previously testing an idea whereby Copilot automatically launches by default when Windows 11 first boots?

Well, Microsoft is pushing ahead with rolling out this feature more broadly, and some of the Windows Insiders who test preview builds aren’t too happy about this.

A quick bit of background here: The functionality to enable Copilot to appear on the desktop when Windows 11 first starts up was brought in with preview releases of Windows 11 back in January.

However, this only happened on a very limited basis with testers in the Dev channel initially, but now Microsoft is expanding the rollout of the feature, as MS Power User noticed – as did various testers posting on X (formerly Twitter).

Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager on the Windows Insider team, addressed some of the eyebrows being raised on X, noting that Microsoft had previously released this feature in build 23615 and that it had been temporarily disabled – but was now back in build 26100 from last week.

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LeBlanc then spoke to the Windows team and returned with another post to clarify that in fact the rollout of this Copilot functionality was actually re-enabled back in February in both Canary and Dev channels, but that what’s happening now is that the deployment of the feature is being expanded.

Whatever the case, it’s clear Microsoft is pushing forward with this concept of having Copilot appear on the desktop when you first turn on your PC.

However, as before, this is only happening for certain users depending on the type of monitor they have – meaning those with a display big enough to handle the Copilot panel appearing in this way. That means a monitor with at least a 27-inch screen and a pixel width of 1920 (with Full HD resolution being 1920 x 1080, of course).


Analysis: The risk of feather ruffling

Clearly enough, this is one of those features which is set to ruffle more than a few feathers. Making it so that Copilot is right there by default on the desktop from the get-go will obviously increase the visibility of the AI for Microsoft, and the amount of usage it gets thereafter.

Presumably that’s the idea, but the equally obvious risk is that having Copilot operate in a more in-your-face manner when the Windows 11 PC boots up is going to provoke the ire of some users.

That said, Microsoft is limiting it to larger monitors, and there is a switch to turn off this feature in Settings, and we can reasonably assume that’ll be carried through to release – if this Copilot auto-boot idea makes it through testing to finished builds of Windows 11, and it may not. Depending on feedback, Microsoft might end up abandoning it.

However, the feature progressing to a wider rollout seems to suggest that it will be a keeper for Microsoft. We’ll know for sure if it turns up in the Beta channel, and the Release Preview channel after that – at the latter point, it’s almost certainly going to make the cut for release.

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Elon Musk brings controversial AI chatbot Grok to more X users in bid to halt exodus

Premium subscribers of all tiers for the X social media platform will soon gain access to its generative AI chatbot, Grok. Previously, the chatbot was only accessible to users who subscribed to the most expensive subscription tier, Premium+,  for $ 16 a month (approximately £12 or AU$ 25). That’s set to change, with X’s owner Elon Musk announcing the expansion of availability to the large language model (LLM) to Basic Tier and Premium Tier X users in a post. 

Grok has been made open-source, reportedly to allow researchers and developers to leverage Grok’s capabilities for their own projects and research. If you’re interested in checking out its code, you can check out the Grok-1 repository on GitHub. It’s the first major offering from Musk’s own AI venture, xAI

As Dev Technosys, a mobile app and web development company, explains, Grok is Musk’s head-on challenge to ChatGPT, with the billionaire boasting that it beat ChatGPT 3.5 on multiple benchmarks. Musk describes the chatbot as having “a focus on deep understanding and humor,” and replying to questions with a “rebellious streak.” The model is trained on a massive dataset of text and code, including real-time text from X posts (which is what Musk points to as giving the bot a unique advantage), and text data scraped from across the web such as Wikipedia articles and academic papers.

Some industry observers think that this could be a push to boost X subscriber numbers, as analysis performed by Sensor Tower and reported by NBC indicates that visitors to the platform and user retention have been dropping. This has seemingly spooked many advertisers and hit the platform’s revenues, with apparently 75 of the top 100 US advertisers cutting X from their ad budgets entirely from October 2022 onwards. 

It does look like Musk is hoping that an exclusive perk like access to such a well-informed and entertaining chatbot as Grok will convince people to become subscribers, and to keep those who are already subscribed. 

Man wearing glasses, sitting at a table and using a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock/fizkes)

The Elon-Musk led ChatGPT that never was

Earlier this year, Musk leveled a lawsuit against what is undoubtedly Grok’s largest competitor and the current industry leader in generative AI, OpenAI. He was an early investor in the company but departed after disagreements about several aspects, including the mission and vision for OpenAI, as well as control and equity in the company. Now, Musk asserts that OpenAI has diverted from its non-profit goals and is prioritizing corporate profits, particularly for Microsoft (a key investor and collaborator), above its other objectives –  violating a contract called the ‘Founding Agreement.’

According to Musk, the Founding Agreement laid down specific principles and commitments that OpenAI had agreed to follow. OpenAI has responded to this accusation by denying such a contract, or any similar agreement, existed with Musk at all. Its overall response to the lawsuit so far has been dismissive, characterizing it as ‘frivolous’ and alleging that Musk is driven by his own business interests. 

Apparently, it was established from early on by OpenAI that the company would transition into being a for-profit organization, as it wouldn’t be able to raise the funds necessary to build the sorts of things it was planning to as a non-profit company. OpenAI claims Musk was not only aware of these plans and was consulted when they were being made, but that he was seeking to have majority equity in OpenAI, wanted to control the board of directors at the time, and wanted to assume the position of CEO. 

Elon Musk wearing a suit and walking in New York

(Image credit: Shutterstock/photosince)

Elon Musk's Grok gambit

Musk didn’t give an exact date for Grok’s wider rollout, but according to Tech Crunch, it’s due sometime at the end of this week. Having seen what Musk considers funny, many people are morbidly curious about what sort of artificial intelligence Grok offers. One other aspect of Grok that might concern (or please, depending on your point of view) people is that it will respond to queries and topics that have been made off-limits for the most part with other chatbots, including controversial political ideas and conspiracy theories. 

The sourcing from X in real-time is one unique advantage that Grok has, although before Musk’s takeover, this would have arguably been a much bigger prize.

Despite my misgivings, Grok does give users another option of chatbot to choose from, and more competition in this emerging field could spur on more innovation as companies battle to win users.

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