Apple Vision Pro review roundup: here’s what everyone thinks of the Apple headset

The first batch of Apple Vision Pro reviews has dropped, giving us a look at what it’s like to use the headset beyond the 20 to 30-minute demos Apple has run for it previously.

The Vision Pro preorders aren’t set to arrive for weeks after the headset releases on February 2 – and we strongly advise you not to buy one of the preorders being sold on eBay for ridiculously high markups. But if you’ve been on the fence about buying Apple's mixed reality device, now is a good time to find out more about it and decide if it’s worth the $ 3,500 asking price.

Interestingly, a lot of the reviewers seem to be in agreement so far. The capabilities of the headset are apparently superb, with 3D spatial video and the intuitive eye and face-tracking control system being standouts. But the price does feel steep, especially as the Vision Pro is only at its best if you’re already deep in the Apple ecosystem with gadgets and peripherals like a Mac, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Mouse.

Here’s our round-up of all of the full Apple Vision Pro reviews published so far.

Apple Vision Pro reviews

Tom's Guide: “A revolution in progress”

For Mark Spoonauer, the global editor-in-chief of our sister site Tom's Guide, the standout features of the Vision Pro are its eye and hand-tracking interface – which he called “amazing” – and the 3D spatial video playback, which our own Lance Ulanoff called an “immersive trip”.

Design-wise the Vision Pro was also solid, though Spoonauer noted that he had to take regular breaks from wearing the device because of the Vision Pro’s weight. The tethered battery that powers the Vision Pro could also be “annoying at times.”

Some of the software also feels like it's “still in the early stages,” with the App Store missing several notable apps at launch, and Personas (a digital stand-in for Vision Pro wearers) are “a bit unnerving to look at.”

He added that the expensive price limits the headset's initial appeal, though Spoonauer hopes Apple has a lower-cost version on the way as the Vision Pro is “the most innovative Apple product since the original iPhone.”

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Eye and face-tracking “puts the competition to shame” 
  • It’s a “multitasking champ” 
  • Immersive environments full of detail 

The Bad

  • Had to take periodic breaks because of the weight 
  • Very expensive
  • Tethered battery is “annoying” at times

WSJ: “All the characteristics of a first-gen product”

The Wall Street Journal's review is a very real-world summary of the Vision Pro's current strengths and weaknesses, with reporter Joanna Stern wearing it “nearly nonstop” for one of the testing days.

The main takeaway is that the Vision Pro is a very first-gen product that “you’re probably not going to buy”. As the review concludes, “it’s big and heavy, its battery life sucks, there are few great apps and it can be buggy”. 

Okay, so is it actually good at anything yet? Broadly speaking, feeling very sci-fi in a Minority Report sense and also being, as Stern states, “the best mixed-reality headset I’ve ever tried”. That seems to be broadly due to experiences like watching films and or your own home 3-D movies, rather than real-world productivity. 

Stern states in the review that she only “started getting real work done once I paired the Vision Pro with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse”, rather than using the built-in virtual keyboard. In other words, it feels more like a face-mounted iMac than a next-gen computer right now.

While “getting around is intuitive”, there are lots of niggles. For example, “at times, the Vision Pro’s eye tracking didn’t respond to my movements” and Stern had to “charge every two to three hours”. During FaceTime calls, friends and family concluded that the reporter looked “awful” and “frightening”. Like all mixed-reality headsets then, the Vision Pro is very much a work in progress.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Best AR/VR headset so far
  • Intuitive interface
  • Great built-in speakers

The Bad

  • Headset is heavy
  • Virtual keyboard is limited
  • Few great apps

The Verge: “the best consumer headset anyone’s ever made” 

The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel gave the Apple Vision Pro a score of seven out of 10 in its review, calling it “an astounding product” with “a lot of tradeoffs”

App-wise, Patel says it’s “not totally wrong” to call the Vision Pro an iPad for your face. Most of the software that’s currently available are ported over from iPadOS, and most of them work like iPad apps, too. As Patel notes this means the Vision Pro is lacking when it comes to “true AR” software – that is software that has AR elements blend in and interact with the real world like, say, First Encounters on the Meta Quest 3.

Patel adds that the “iPad for your face” comparison continues to the weight of the thing – pointing out that at 600 to 650 grams it's not far from the weight of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (at 682 grams). Wearing the dual loop strap can help, but he says you can’t “reduce the overall sensation of having all that headset on your face.”

The heavy package does come with some impressive specs, however, with an “incredible display,” “convincing” video passthrough, and an M2 and R1 processor for handling any apps you throw at it. But at the end of the day, Patel doesn’t believe that using a computer in the “inherently isolating” world of VR is better than using a regular computer that doesn’t cut you off from the world around you.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Fantastic display
  • Best passthrough on a headset
  • “Stunning” design

The Bad

  • Isolating
  • Tracking “works until it doesn’t”
  • A lot of tradeoffs

CNET: “A mind-blowing look at an unfinished future”

CNET's lengthy Vision Pro review is one of the more misty-eyed ones so far, which isn't surprising given reporter Scott Stein has been writing about mixed reality for over a decade. The conclusions about Apple's headset are familiar though; “parts of it are stunning, others don't feel entirely finished”.

Despite its many impressive moments, CNET concludes that the Vision Pro is “clearly not a device you need to get on board with now”. After only 30 minutes, “the headset feels top-heavy and pushes in on my cheeks a bit”, although it apparently works fine for short sessions.

The apps selection is also very limited right now. While “the App Store shows Vision Pro-optimized apps” the “pickings are slim”. Still, “the closest thing to a killer app the Vision Pro has is its cinema-level video playback” the review concludes. Stein says that The Way of Water looks lovely and “sometimes gives me chills”.

While the Vision Pro is “most advanced blend of mixed reality in a standalone device that I've ever experienced”, it's also blighted by the limitations highlighted by other reviews. These include some inconsistent hand- and eye-tracking, a “limited battery life” and a field of view that “feels a bit smaller than the Meta Quest 3”.

So while the Vision Pro is a “stunning look at the future”, it's also “still essentially an iOS computer inside a mixed reality VR headset”.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Amazing micro-OLED display
  • Blends real and virtual well
  • Personal 3D memories

The Bad

  • Not many apps
  • Interface isn't always perfect
  • Extremely pricey

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Windows 11’s new features won’t be for everyone – but they’re seriously cool for those who’ll use them

Windows 11 is close to getting some smart additions for those who use a stylus, and other improvements besides, as seen in a new preview build.

This is preview build 22635.2776 (also known as KB5032292) which has been pushed out to the Beta channel, the last avenue of testing before Release Preview (the final step before new features come to the finished version of Windows 11).

The big step forward here is for Windows Ink, with the ability to write directly in some text boxes in Windows 11 coming to a lot more people. In other words, rather than typing in text for a search, for example, you can directly scribble your search terms into the box.

This ability was available for the US, but is now coming with support for a bunch of new regions – that includes English (Australia), English and French (Canada), English (India), and English (United Kingdom), plus many more (check out the blog post for the full list).

Windows 11 stylus writing in menus

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows Ink is being further bolstered by a greater level of accuracy for its recognition technology, as well as some new gesture controls. There are now gestures to select, join, or split words, to delete a word, and to insert a new line.

The Task Manager has also been tinkered with in this beta release, with Microsoft noting that it has improved process grouping in the panel that lists your running processes.

Also rolling out in this preview are notifications for Microsoft accounts on the home page of the Settings app. We’ve seen these in the past, and they’re prompts to remind you about the status of your account, and tasks you might want to finish off (though we should note we’ve not been keen on the way this has been handled in the Start menu).


Analysis: Supercharging that stylus

This is an important update for those who use a stylus, then, outside of the US, as a lot more territories across the globe are now being covered with support for writing directly in menus. This is an excellent time-saving feature for those using their convertible laptop as a tablet, for example, and it’s something Microsoft is set to develop more going forward.

Indeed, we’ve been told in the past that the eventual aim is that you’ll be able to use your stylus to write anywhere in Windows 11, which is a very cool concept.

Improved process grouping in Task Manager should be a useful little change, too, if you’re one of the Windows users who takes an interest in diving into this area of the interface. Task Manager can be a useful tool for troubleshooting what’s slowing down your PC, for example, if it seems to have hit a sticky patch.

We don’t know how the change will work yet, but more intelligent grouping of related processes should enable better visibility into what’s happening under the hood at any given time with your Windows 11 system.

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Want to get rid of Bing, Edge and ads in Windows 11? Some users will be able to – but not everyone

Microsoft is giving users more control over what’s installed with Windows 11, and how its own services are embedded in the OS – but the catch is this is just happening in Europe (specifically the European Economic Area or EEA).

Windows Central stumbled across a blog post from Microsoft describing the changes being made, and noting that many of these are to comply with the Digital Markets Act in the EEA.

The new approach means Windows 11 users in the EEA can uninstall more default apps including Microsoft’s Edge browser.

Furthermore, it’s possible to banish Bing results from the Windows search box in the taskbar. These are the web search results that pop up, whatever you’re looking for, and then fire up Bing in Edge if clicked.

On top of that, with the Widgets panel, Microsoft is allowing for the news and adverts feed to be switched off, so the board will purely play host to widgets (imagine that – and you’ll have to imagine it, sadly, outside of the EEA).

European users will also be asked if they want to sync up their Microsoft account with Windows 11 (rather than it just happening by default).

And finally, in the EEA if you click a browser link, it will open in your default browser – meaning that Microsoft’s own software will no longer insist on firing up Edge regardless of your preference (which makes sense, as if you’ve uninstalled Edge, that could get tricky).

When will all this happen? The changes are rolling out in preview now for Windows 11, and will follow for Windows 10 too, with the aim being to achieve compliance with the European regulations and deploy to consumers by March 6, 2024.

Windows 11 Update showing on laptop in an office

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Analysis: Choices for everyone? Not likely

Clearly these are customization options which many Windows 11 users would love to benefit from. Especially the ability to have the widgets board with no distractions, just pure widgets, as well as having links open in your default browser always, without fail, and unhooking Bing from the taskbar search box.

Let’s face it, in the latter case, when you’re quickly searching for a Windows setting, you don’t want to be spammed with meaningless web search suggestions that try to get you to open up Edge (and Bing.com).

Will these choices – and other perks like the ability to remove the Edge browser – come to other regions outside of the EEA? Well, that seems very unlikely, seeing as Microsoft is having its hand forced here, and it’s about complying with regulations (that aren’t in place elsewhere) rather than genuinely catering to the wants and needs of users. So, a wider expansion of these options seems a forlorn hope, sadly.

Remember that Copilot is not available in the EEA yet, and this is due to regulatory issues – so these moves could well be tied up in Microsoft’s overall scheme of things for deploying the AI to Windows 11 users in this region.

As Microsoft puts it: “We look forward to continuing to work with the European Commission to finalize our compliance obligations.” And we take that to mean Copilot shouldn’t be too far off for the EEA, with any luck for those who live there.

The one positive for the rest of the world is that at least the streamlining of the default app roster in Windows 11 is happening for everyone. This is something Microsoft has been working on for some time, giving users the ability to remove the likes of the Photos and Camera apps, and the Tips app plus Steps Recorder are to be axed, plus the Maps and Movies & TV clients have been dropped. Thankfully those streamlining efforts count for everyone, and should be an ongoing drive, we reckon.

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Microsoft’s AI Copilot could transform Windows 11 – but not everyone can get it

Microsoft wants its new AI-powered Windows Copilot to become your new universal assistant, but there’s one big problem: at the moment, Copilot is only available in the United States (and North America), the UK, and some Asian and South American countries. 

Noticeably missing from that list is Europe, and as Microsoft told Windows Latest, this is because of the European Union's extensive privacy protection regulations. The tech giant has also confirmed that it’s working on a version of Copilot that’s compliant with EU laws and intends to “add additional markets over time.”

Copilot is the latest big project in Microsoft’s AI vision, joining Bing Chat, which integrates the popular ChatGPT, and its other large language models (LLMs). Copilot makes use of Bing Chat and Microsoft’s other AI-assisted tech, and is built to integrate deeply within Windows 11, along with Windows apps and features. 

Microsoft reveals now Copilot branding ahead of general availability and rollout

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How can you get Windows Copilot?

If you’re in a region where Copilot is now live, you can get it by updating Windows 11 to the Moment 4 (22H2) feature update, which is an optional download that you should be able to see in the Windows Update app. You may need to turn on the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” setting. If you can’t see the Moment 4 update, it’s probably because you live in an area where Copilot isn’t available yet. 

Not all hope is lost if you live in an ineligible area. You can follow the steps below to get Copilot if you live in an unsupported region:

1. Open up Notepad or a similar simple text editor. Make a new file and name it “Copilot.exe“.

2. Pin the new “Copilot.exe“ file to your taskbar or make a shortcut to it on your desktop. Hover over it and right-click your file. Don’t just drag the file from your File Explorer – this just moves the file. We need it to be a shortcut specifically.

3. Choose Properties from the menu. This should open a (Shortcut) Properties window for the file. 

4. In Properties of your “Copilot.exe” file, go to the Shortcut tab, and change Target to this address: 

C:\Windows\explorer.exe “microsoft-edge:///?ux=copilot&tcp=1&source=taskbar”

5. When you click your created shortcut for Copilot.exe, this should launch Windows Copilot.

There’s even a workaround to change the file’s basic icon to the Copilot icon.

Screenshot of Windows Copilot in use

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How is Copilot currently doing?

Right now, Copilot runs in a similar way to Bing Chat on Windows 11, functioning in WebView (the framework within which apps can display native content in Microsoft’s Edge browser). It’s still early days for Copilot as a fully-fledged AI assistant, and many users are looking forward to seeing Copilot evolve, but the current version certainly has room for improvement. Many users have been reporting buggy performance, and as Windows Latest puts it, “achieving a ‘useful’ result isn’t easy.”

For example, Copilot struggles when users submit several prompts or when they switch between Bing Search and other apps. The preview version of Copilot also doesn’t have the deeper Windows integration that Microsoft spoke about at length, or the ability to access third-party apps and plugins, but Microsoft reassured users Copilot will function as promised in the future when speaking to Windows Latest.

Copilot has been presented as “Your everyday AI companion” and I believe Microsoft has the means to achieve this, but there’s a long way to go. I doubt Microsoft wants to retire another digital assistant so soon after axing Cortana, and the competition is hot, with Amazon investing in Anthropic and having the market-standard digital assistant, Alexa.

Anthropic is an AI-oriented company, like OpenAI, focused on safety and research, and has recently seen a $ 4 billion investment from Amazon. Combined with Amazon’s expertise in personal home assistance with Alexa, Microsoft could have something to worry about.

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Windows 11 goes from strength to strength with PC gamers – but not everyone else

PC gamers continue to show a stronger preference for Windows 11 over Windows 10 compared to everyday users, going by the most recent stats from a couple of sources.

We’re talking about the Steam hardware survey for June, a monthly report compiled by Valve on all sorts of facets of the PCs used on the platform, and Statcounter’s latest figures for June (which represent everyday users, or a non-gaming audience – though there may be some gamers among their ranks, of course).

So, let’s look at those numbers for June and the recent past, before moving on to discuss them.

On Steam in June, 35.75% of gamers are now using Windows 11, which is a pretty big uptick of 1.76% compared to the previous month. Indeed, in May, Windows 11 increased by 0.6% for adoption levels, and in April, it leaped by 11% (though that figure was an anomaly, representing a major shift in the survey’s target audience which rather messed up things).

Still, you can see that steady upward progress is the trend, and by taking the aforementioned 11% glitch out of the equation, we can see that March and April went up by just over a percent (combined, so both months witnessed a similar gain to May, effectively).

Moving to everyday users and looking at Statcounter’s figures, Windows 11 adoption is now at 23.91%, up from 22.95%, an increase of nearly one percent – but the kicker is that in May, as we reported at the time, Windows 11 actually fell from 23.11% to 22.95%. So in actual fact, over the last three months, the increase has been a rather shaky 0.82% (compared to 2.36% for gamers).


Analysis: Microsoft relying on Copilot for take-off outside of gamers?

It’s pretty clear to see that things are rather shaky for Windows 11 in terms of its general user base over the past few months compared to the gaming landscape, where the newer OS continues to be on the up and up.

Looking at it another way, rounding up, Windows 11 is at 36% for gamers and 24% for everyday users – so adoption is now 50% greater for the gaming world. That’s quite a difference.

For Microsoft, seeing that just under a quarter of the general computing public has moved to Windows 11 must be pretty disappointing. Remember, the OS is not far off two years old now, and at the same point in its timeline of existence, Windows 10 had captured a 36% market share (as per Statcounter) of everyday users. (Which, funnily enough, corresponds to the level now reached by gamers for Windows 11).

What can Microsoft do about this? Well, fixing bugs is one thing, as reports of issues such as the wonky SSD speeds that have been affecting some Windows 11 users since March will be off-putting to would-be upgraders. And the other point that immediately springs to mind is adding back features that were stripped away in Windows 11 (useful functionality like ‘never combine’ for the taskbar, which is, thankfully, inbound for the OS hopefully before the end of the year).

We’re guessing that Microsoft is probably relying on some big-ticket features to attract the average user to make the leap to Windows 11 – the principal one being Windows Copilot, the introduction of an AI assistant to the desktop. Copilot has just appeared in testing (Dev channel preview build), albeit in a very limited fashion to begin with.

Of course, the other sticking point for Windows 11 is that it has more stringent hardware requirements than Windows 10 that not every PC out there can meet, so some folks will have to wait until they get a new PC. (Or perform a fiddly upgrade, either a physical one – like installing a TPM module – or a workaround, which isn’t likely to happen in many cases for good reasons).

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Windows 11 gets a cool new look for a feature everyone uses – but nobody loves

Windows 11 has got a new preview build which comes with a whole lot of work on the interface, and other tweaks besides.

The most significant introduction with preview build 23493 (in the Dev channel), mind you, is the rollout of Windows Copilot – which we cover in-depth here – but there’s also a new home page for Settings, and a revamped volume mixer.

The home page for the Settings app provides an overview of the status of various bits and bobs pertaining to your PC – for example, cloud storage used (in OneDrive), and messages about your Microsoft Account (relating to security, as shown in Microsoft’s example, where you’re reminded to add a recovery email address).

The home page is actually divided into different ‘cards’ (panels), and the most important cards we see in this first take on the idea are Personalization and Recommended Settings.

The Personalization card provides easy access to basic customization options for Windows 11, a useful touch. But the real prize here is those recommended settings, which intelligently present changes based on “your specific usage patterns”, saving you time by allowing you to apply commonly used (or recently used) settings right on the home page when needed.

Windows 11 Settings Home Page

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Moving on to the revamped volume mixer (accessed via the system tray, far-right of the taskbar), this offers the ability to not just swiftly adjust the volume, but you can do so on a per-app basis.

The new mixer panel also allows you to quickly swap your output device, plus options for switching Spatial Audio formats are provided here too. On top of that, Microsoft has implemented a new keyboard shortcut to bring the mixer straight up (Windows key + CTRL + V).

Preview build 23493 also expands support for compressed file formats (not just ZIP, but also RAR, TAR, 7-Zip, and much more – this was a much-wanted tweak Microsoft announced last month, you may recall). Furthermore, Microsoft says it has improved the performance of archiving files in Windows 11, so you should see this happen faster.

There are a bunch of other changes in this preview version, all detailed in Microsoft’s blog post. Another notable one is making Snap Layout suggestions, where recommended window layout options are presented to the user complete with app icons to show which programs will go where.


Analysis: Ready, Settings, Go!

That Recommended Settings card looks like a big benefit for Windows 11 users, and should mean you have to take fewer trips deep into the cogs and machinery of the Settings subpages to make any necessary adjustments to the OS.

Nobody likes having to search around in Settings, as it can be a head-scratching affair trying to find what you need, and on-tap suggestions based on your previous usage of Windows 11 should be very handy.

On top of that, we have Windows Copilot coming in to make performing changes and switching on features in Windows 11 a far easier process, so between these two new elements of the interface, the operating system should be much improved when it comes to tweaking settings.

The volume mixer overhaul is a nice addition to boot. Want to turn down the volume for just your browser? That’s now possible with the per-app volume controls, and the new panel also makes it very easy to configure some important settings, like the chosen output speaker, and that’s just more added convenience.

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Windows 11 Moment 3 update arrives for everyone – but there’s a catch

Windows 11’s Moment 3 update can now be downloaded by anyone who wants to grab it, but you still might want to let caution take the driving seat (and leave valor in the passenger seat) for now.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking: hasn’t Moment 3 already been released? Well, technically yes, it has, but as we covered recently, the feature update hasn’t been made available to all Windows 11 PCs.

In fact, when Microsoft first opened the gates with Moment 3, it was only offered to those who had enabled the option to ‘Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available’. But even then, having turned on that setting was not a guarantee of receiving the upgrade – Moment 3 was still rolled out gradually in a phased manner among that user base.

However, if you’ve missed out on Moment 3 so far, now anyone can get it, as the upgrade has been released as June’s optional update (patch KB5027303).

Whether you should jump on this update right now, though, is another matter, as we mentioned at the outset. Let’s discuss that further…


Analysis: It’s optional for an important reason

Why shouldn’t you download KB5027303? Well, it might have all those juicy Moment 3 features you’ve been hungering for – and there are some nifty bits of functionality added, as we’ve covered previously – but it is still a preview update.

That’s why it’s optional, because this is the last stage of testing for the package. And as it’s effectively beta software – albeit in its final incarnation, so likely pretty stable – you still have a higher chance of encountering bugs than with the full release version.

This is why it’s generally better to wait for that full release version, which in the case of Moment 3, will pitch up next month (it should arrive on July 11, as part of Microsoft’s monthly cumulative update for Windows 11).

At that point, of course, you’ll have no choice but to take Moment 3 onboard your Windows 11 installation (beyond the ability to delay it for a short time, if you choose – as with any cumulative update in Windows 11 Home).

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Windows 11 preview is good news for gamers – but bad news for everyone else

Windows 11 has a new preview build, this time in the Release Preview channel, which introduces a whole bunch of changes – both good and bad.

Most of this stuff has already been seen in earlier test builds (Canary, Dev, or Beta channels), and Windows 11 build 22621.1926 (KB5027303) represents all these features progressing towards release.

Now that they’re in Release Preview, this is the final step before these various features turn up in the full version of Windows 11 at some point in the near(ish) future.

So, let’s get the bad news out of the way first, namely that Microsoft has announced in the blog post for this preview build that adverts (which the company calls ‘badging’ – we’ll come back to that) on the Start menu are moving towards a broader rollout.

Microsoft explains: “This update expands the roll out of notification badging for Microsoft accounts on the Start menu. A Microsoft account is what connects Windows to your Microsoft apps. The account backs up all your data and helps you to manage your subscriptions.”

The company adds: “This feature gives you quick access to important account-related notifications.”

With that out of the way, the better news that caught our eye for gamers is that improved mouse performance is on the way.

Microsoft tells us that when using a mouse with a high polling rate – so any of the contenders for best gaming mouse in other words, designed for accurate and precise mousing – you’ll now get better performance. This is thanks to any stuttering being reduced for these kinds of mice, so that’s a big thumbs-up there.

Another interesting point to note with this preview build is a broad assertion that: “This update affects the reliability of Windows. It improves after you update the OS.”

Anything that ushers in better stability must be a good thing too, naturally.


Analysis: an ominous sign

It’s great to see the improvement for high polling rate gaming mice, which will help not just for shooters – where you might typically think accuracy is crucial, and of course, it is – but also for, say, real-time strategy games.

The ability to smoothly mouse around and quickly and precisely select units, for example, can’t be underestimated. Whatever game you play, smoother and more accurate mouse movement is a major plus point.

What’s bugging us here is the continued push with badging in the Start menu. Badging is a term Microsoft employs which basically translates to light-touch advertising. Yes, the company might argue these are simply nudges to help you sort out various elements of your computing life related to Windows, but really, they’re thinly veiled ads to use Microsoft products and services.

In this case, the cajoling is to push you towards signing up for a Microsoft Account, with Windows 11 telling you about the security (and other) benefits of doing so in these notifications which appear in the Start menu.

The expanded rollout of this badging previously happened in the Dev channel, but the fact that it has carried forward to the final preview stage before the release version of Windows 11 is rather ominous.

This further progression of the rollout in testing suggests that this is something Microsoft is determined to forge ahead with. If that does indeed play out, we can only hope that Microsoft gives users an option to disable this kind of ‘help’ feature (but we aren’t holding our breath on that score).

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Everyone can now use the ChatGPT-powered Bing – here’s how

Since the new ChatGPT-powered Bing landed last month Microsoft has been steadily working through the waitlist for its new AI-powered search engine – but it seems most of us need to wait no more.

As spotted by Windows Central, it's now possible to skip the tiresome waitlist and start firing questions at the AI search engine, even though Microsoft hasn't officially removed the waitlist. We've also tried this with success, but it seems to require a particular trick.

A Microsoft account that we previously added to the Bing waitlist is still waiting for access. But when we set up a new Microsoft account on the new Bing homepage, we got straight in – so that appears to be the most reliable method for anyone who's still waiting to dabble with a search engine that runs on OpenAI's new GPT-4 model.

Multiple sites, including The Verge , have also reported successfully accessing Bing after previously being on the waitlist. There have also been examples of outliers where simply signing in on the Bing homepage hasn't worked, which suggests this isn't yet an official Microsoft roll-out.

We've asked Microsoft for comment and will update this story when we hear back. It's possible that the tech giant will reveal more during this afternoon's AI-themed 'Reinventing Productivity' event, which kicks off at 8am PT / 3pm GMT  (which works out as 2am AEDT).

But until then, it's worth heading to the new Bing and signing in to see if you now have access. If not, opening a new account in the meantime should give you access to Microsoft's ChatGPT-powered search engine, which has already attracted 100 million daily users.

Fellowship of the Bing

A laptop screen on a blue background showing the new Microsoft Bing and Google Bard AI chatbots

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's announcement that its new Bing search engine is running on OpenAI's new GPT-4 language model has again raised its profile – particularly as GPT-4 tech is currently only available on ChatGPT to paying subscribers.

Still, there are big differences between Bing and ChatGPT. Microsoft's search engine is generally better at answering queries about recent events since, unlike ChatGPT, it's plugged into the internet. But Microsoft has also added guard-rails around the new Bing, which means ChatGPT could be better for creative brainstorming.

Both AI assistants have their place, and Bing continues to steal the limelight from Google Bard, which is Google's rival chatbot. Bard, which Google describes as an “experimental conversational AI service”, still hasn't been launched to the public, and has been mired in confusion, errors and delays.

Google did preview the AI tools coming to Gmail, Google Docs and more, and we're expecting to hear more about its chatbot plans in the run-up to Google I/O 2023. Until then, Microsoft Bing will continue to stretch its lead in AI search engine assistant space – particularly if the waitlist is officially removed soon.

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Microsoft Edge wants to make the web more accessible for everyone

The revolutionary power of the internet is hard to quantify but for some, accessing even the basic aspects is difficult. Blind and low-vision people often interact with the web using screen readers, tools that read the contents of a page out loud. 

Unfortunately, msot screen readers rely on alternative text (or alt text) and other behind-the-scenes information to do their job properly, and developers can sometimes overlook these significant but small details.

In order to help out, Microsoft has announced new features for its Edge browser that automatically add alt text to images that do not have it already, something the company hopes will make the web more accessible.

“When a screen reader finds an image without a label, that image can be automatically processed by machine learning (ML) algorithms to describe the image in words and capture any text it contains,” says Microsoft’s Travis Leithead. “The algorithms are not perfect, and the quality of the descriptions will vary, but for users of screen readers, having some description for an image is often better than no context at all.” 

The update hopefully solves the problem of screen readers reading out “unlabelled graphic” whenever an image doesn’t have alt text. 

Microsoft Edge accessibility

Powering the technology is, of course, the company's Azure cloud platform. Any unlabelled image will be sent by Microsoft Edge to Azure’s computer vision systems, which then auto-generates alt text in English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, or Chinese Simplified. 

Some images – like those that are smaller than 50×50 pixels, contain pornographic, gory, or sexually suggestive content, or are very large – unfortunately won’t be sent for analysis.  

Microsoft is rolling out the changes to Edge on Windows, macOS, and Linux right now and expects to add them to iOS and Android at a later date.

“This feature is still new, and we know that we are not done,” says Leithead. “We’ve already found some ways to make this feature even better, such as when images do have a label, but that label is not very helpful (e.g., a label of “image” or “picture” or similar synonym that is redundant with the obvious). Continuous image recognition and algorithm improvements will also refine the quality of the service.”

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