Next Windows 11 update might include a new PC optimization app – and a sneaky way for Microsoft to introduce ads

We’re expecting the next major upgrade for Windows 11, the 24H2 update, to roll out widely in September or October of this year, and it’s possible that it could include Microsoft’s system optimizing app for Windows 11 (and Windows 10) called ‘PC Manager.’

The app was originally made for Windows 10 and Windows 11 users in China but has since spread to some other regions. Where it’s available, users can download PC Manager from the Microsoft Store if they want, but now it appears that Microsoft is going one step further by including the app in the 24H2 update.

At least Microsoft has introduced PC Manager in the latest Windows 11 preview build in the Beta channel, but only in China right now. This is quite a large step forward because it means the app is now one of the default inclusions in Windows 11 for Chinese users, as Neowin reports.

Logically, in the future, Microsoft may make PC Manager a default app in other regions, perhaps including the US. Indeed, the official page for the app in the US now allows Windows 11 and 10 users to download it – though of course, that’s a far cry from it becoming one of the stock apps in Microsoft’s operating systems.

woman working from home with child

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Managing expectations

PC system optimizers have been around for a long time in the form of third-party apps, and it’s very interesting to see Microsoft offer up an official take on this kind of utility, built right into Windows, that many people think is pretty good.

The app promises to improve your system’s performance with typical actions like suggesting ways to free up memory and disk space, checking for potential threats to your PC like viruses or other issues, and reducing ads and pop-ups. The last aim is a little ironic seeing as a recent version of PC Manager was shown to suggest that users ‘fix’ their system by changing their default search engine to Bing. This hardly seems like a repair or a quality-of-life improvement, but just another shoehorned attempt at prompting users to switch to Microsoft products dressed up as a ‘suggestion.’ 

Neowin also tells us that in the past, PC Manager has been shown to inject affiliate links to products promoted by Microsoft, and recommend questionable actions in terms of optimizing your system. So, take that as something of a caution.

Conceptually, PC Manager sounds helpful or even necessary, offering assistance like quick system clean-up solutions, and protecting your default settings from unauthorized changes. In practice, it looks like Microsoft is experimenting with making some not-so-helpful (or even potentially harmful) additions.

I hope that Microsoft reconsiders this and puts the effort in to make it a great app, as that’s what’s best for Windows users and what will foster goodwill. It may also be the case that the changes made for China – including PC Manager becoming a default app in Windows 11 – may never be applied to the US market (or other regions).

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Microsoft Edge may introduce a new AI-generated writing feature – and that makes me nervous

Microsoft Edge could drastically change the way we interact with written content on the web with a new AI writing feature that copies existing content and regurgitates the information in a more ‘personal’ tone at the click of a button. 

According to Windows Latest, the GPT-4-powered feature allows users to select text on a webpage and have it rewritten in a tone and length of their choice. Microsoft Edge’s AI offers customizable tones like professional, casual, enthusiastic and informational, as well as format options that include a simple paragraph, email or blog post layout. 

The feature is integrated into the browser itself, allowing more users to access it much quicker. This is helpful if you want to generate ideas or make a quick change to the tone. 

So far Microsoft has been testing the feature with a small group of users in the Canary version of Chromium Edge, so we’ll have to wait and see if the feature ends up making its way officially to Microsoft Edge. 

It’s not all bad is it? 

I don’t mean to harp on about the doom and gloom aspect of a feature like this, but we do have to think about the negatives of AI before the positives because once the technology is out there, it can’t be taken back.

Microsoft Edge’s AI could allow more people to break into blog writing who may feel a little nervous about getting their work out there without any mistakes in the copy. It would be useful while you’re researching and looking for a springboard for ideas and would help write boring but important emails without too much effort. 

However, because the tool is web-integrated and uses text on the web, it’ll become virtually impossible to detect whether or not a person's blog email or pitch has been plagiarized and AI-generated. Anyone could feed the tool a site’s copy, alter it slightly super quickly and pass it off as their own without any of the skill or hard work that goes into actually writing their own work. 

Microsoft’s efforts to cram artificial intelligence into its own products as quickly as possible, particularly after the success of Bing AI could have some unforeseen repercussions if it’s not careful. We can only hope that if Edge AI writer does make its debut, it proves me wrong and stays a writing tool, not a crutch.

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Google Meet to introduce an on-the-go mode for traveling meetings

Sometimes users need to walk around during a conference call and, understanding that reality, Google is currently working on a new mode for Google Meet called ‘On-the-Go.’ This mode transforms the video conferencing Android app’s UI into a much simpler one that’s better suited for traveling outside while on a call.

The concept behind this mode is to make walking while tuned into a Google Meet meeting much safer. It accomplishes this by creating a much more intuitive layout that, according to 9to5Google, “will disable your camera in the call and stop streaming video from other participants. You’ll also be greeted with a new layout with only a handful of large, easily-pressed buttons for Mute, Audio (to switch between Bluetooth, speaker, etc.), and Raise (your hand).”

You can check out screenshots showcasing how the new layout will look once enabled:

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on the go feature screenshot

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on the go feature screenshot

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on the go feature screenshot

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on the go feature screenshot

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on the go feature screenshot

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on the go feature screenshot

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‘On-the-Go’ can be enabled in two ways: the first is by Google Meet detecting through your smartphone’s motion sensors that you’re walking, it will prompt you to switch to the new mode. And for the second method, you can manually enable the mode through the in-call menu.

Google currently hasn’t rolled out the feature to everyone just yet, but judging by the screenshots it’s most likely close to a public release.

Google Meet is getting even better 

Google has been working on making its video call application much more functional and intuitive to use. Both 2022 and 2023 have seen a host of changes to the UI, with 2023 introducing ones like added new features to the picture-in-picture mode, blocking video feeds from other meeting participants to more easily focus on the people you want, and using generative AI to create new backgrounds during meetings.

Back in 2022, Google added several other features like subject tracking to better focus on a participant, letting users mute and unmute themselves on the desktop version by using the spacebar, and automatically adjusting a participant’s mic input to avoid particularly massive discrepancies in volumes.

It’s good to see that the tech giant is trying to better its service, considering how many people rely on it for remote work. While these seem like minor improvements, quality-of-life changes to an application or service always add up in big ways and really help to enhance the user experience.

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Google Drive has suddenly decided to introduce a file cap – but you might never hit it

It’s official – cloud storage provider Google Drive has decided to add an official cap on the amount of files that can be stored on a single account.

Per Ars Technica, the limit, set at five million files, started cropping up for some Google Drive users in February 2023, despite Google offering no warning that the cap was being introduced, and offering a notification that wasn't all that clear at explaining what the problem was: “The limit for the number of items, whether trashed or not, created by this account has been exceeded.”

Said notification has evolved since then, and now reportedly reads: “Error 403: This account has exceeded the creation limit of 5 million items. To create more items, move items to the trash and delete them forever.”

Google Drive file cap

As of last week, the notification for one Reddit user read “Please delete 2 million files to continue using your Google Drive account.”

The new policy (which remains undocumented across all pricing pages) means Google Drive customers are being prevented from accessing the full extent of the storage they’ve paid for. However, it’s worth noting that 5 million files, in real terms, is a pretty big allowance.

For Google Drive’s 2TB offering – the highest personal plan available – the average file size across an account would have to be 400 kilobytes (KB). There are certainly instances where that may be the case – the storage of large amounts of record data, for example. But in the vast majority of cases, users shouldn’t run up against the limit.

Business users are even less likely to face issues with the limit. A spokesperson for Google told Ars Technica that the limit applied to “how many items one user can create in any Drive,” rather than a blanket cap.

Details were thin on the ground, but they also noted that the new limit is “a safeguard to prevent misuse of our system in a way that might impact the stability and safety of the system.” 

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Windows 11 update will introduce support for Android apps

Microsoft has outlined the next big steps for Windows 11, and that includes Android apps coming to the OS next month, albeit still in testing.

Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer (Windows + Devices) at Microsoft, spilled all the details in a blog post, explaining first and foremost that there would be a public preview of Android apps in February.

If you’ve been following the progress of Windows 11, then you’ll realize that support for native Android apps arrived in testing for Windows Insiders (in the US) back in October 2021. A public preview means it’s come to the release version of Windows 11, but there may be some flakiness evident given that it is still in beta form.

Panay also highlighted various taskbar improvements, including “call mute and unmute, easier window sharing and bringing weather to the taskbar”, although of course we’ve already seen the latter happen in testing (the infamous weather widget returned with a preview build in December).

Finally, Panay mentioned that two core apps which have been redesigned, namely Notepad and Media Player, would both soon be debuting in the finished version of Windows 11.

The Chief Product Officer also revealed that with Windows now on some 1.4 billion devices across the globe, Microsoft has “seen strong demand and preference for Windows 11”, with users accepting the upgrade when offered at double the rate at which Windows 10 accrued new recruits. Although of course shifting from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was a much bigger change – Windows 11 is really quite similar to Windows 10, when you get down to it, so it’s less of a leap for folks to make.

Panay also observed that: “Windows 11 has the highest quality scores and product satisfaction of any version of Windows we’ve ever shipped.”


Analysis: Better late than never

Android apps were one of the big new features touted for Windows 11, but disappointingly didn’t turn up at launch (in fact, when they didn’t appear in later testing phases pre-release, it soon became clear enough that they wouldn’t arrive for kick-off). Better late than never, then, and it’s still exciting to finally get native Android apps on the Windows 11 desktop – even if the applications are limited to those delivered from the Amazon App Store (via the Microsoft Store).

The next step, of course, is not just these Android apps, but games from the Google Play Games store, which will be delivered to Windows 11 and 10 systems in the form of an app that’s due to arrive at some point this year. The idea is to be able to seamlessly switch between your phone and desktop with the progress you’ve made in whatever mobile game you’re playing maintained across platforms – pretty neat, huh?

It’s also good that more core Windows apps are getting the redesign treatment in Windows 11, and we’ve already seen the likes of the new Notepad in testing, complete with a Fluent Design makeover, dark mode compatibility, and more, making this dated application look a lot more at home in the new OS.

We can expect more of these default Windows 11 apps to benefit from an overhaul as the year rolls on, no doubt, although this piecemeal approach adds to the overall feeling of Windows 11 having been released very much as a work in progress.

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