Microsoft is preparing to unleash Bing AI on Chrome and Firefox browsers

Bing AI should soon be usable in other browsers besides Edge, so the army of Chrome users out there can get a piece of Microsoft’s chatbot if they so wish.

Neowin spotted that Microsoft’s head of Advertising and Web Services, Mikhail Parakhin, told us more about where Bing AI will be headed in the near future (on Twitter).

See more

That includes the “first experiments in enabling third-party browsers”, as you can see from the tweet.

Can’t you already get the Bing chatbot in Chrome (or other browsers for that matter)? No, not as such, although admittedly there are workarounds in the form of unofficial extensions (clunky fudges, really) for Chrome and Firefox to enable Bing AI within their walls.

Official support would obviously be much better to have, though, and it’d be a good way for Microsoft to get more folks using the chatbot, too.

As well as third-party browser support, Parakhin talks about major improvements for the ‘disengagement rate’, meaning cures for when the chatbot falls over and fails to respond, ending the current session abruptly.

We’re also promised that Bing Image Creator will get better, so there are some useful tweaks inbound for Microsoft’s AI.

All this will apparently be part of a bigger update than normal for Bing AI in June, and this will also include a “large-scale plugin rollout”.

In a previous tweet, Parakhin notes: “We are turning everything into a plugin (including different facets of Search!) – and it results in a very significant metrics improvement.”

As we’ve been told before, plug-ins will be available across all manner of platforms, such as Spotify and Trip Advisor to pick out a couple of quick examples.

Analysis: One Bing to rule them all

The news that the Bing chatbot is coming to other browsers before too long, and won’t just be exclusive to Microsoft Edge, is obviously great for anyone who doesn’t want to use Edge. And that’s a fair few folks, of course (particularly those who might be tired of Microsoft trying to persuade them that its browser is great, and that it should be the default choice, via a bunch of ads and various prompting within Windows).

This move will help Microsoft, too, in terms of creating a much wider potential audience for its Bing AI.

It represents a change of tack, because instead of leveraging the chatbot to attempt to get folks using Edge, now Microsoft will be working things the other way around – looking at bringing more users on board the AI via Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers. And that surely is a key consideration, particularly when we see how crazy everything is around AI right now. The artificial intelligence bandwagon is positively groaning under the weight of everyone clambering aboard.

That third-party plug-in rollout will also drive Bing AI usage, too, and improvements in lessening the frequency of the chatbot’s abrupt halting of sessions in some cases will doubtless be useful in persuading people of the AI’s merits.

Microsoft has already removed an important hurdle that may have stopped a number of folks from using its chatbot – namely the requirement to sign in with a Microsoft Account (though the AI is more limited if you don’t). All of which underlines the pressure Microsoft evidently feels to push the adoption of Bing AI over pretty much every other service or product right now.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft gets defensive and reminds users how great Windows 11 is

Microsoft recently released a feature update for Windows 11 called Moment 3, which was full of useful upgrades and performance enhancements, that could even win over many Windows 10 users in the battle to get them to upgrade to Windows 11

Soon after the release of Moment 3, Microsoft released a list of enhancements that the company has made throughout the year to “more than a billion users worldwide” via a blog post. The list is basically a rundown of every change made in the past year on Insider channels that are now present in the Moment 3 update.

According to Neowin, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay had reminded people that the newest iteration of Windows is focused on quality, and that Windows 11 is the “most reliable version of Windows ever.”

The official blog post from Microsoft with the rather unsubtle title ‘Delivering Delightful Performance for More Than One Billion Users Worldwide’ dives into all the major changes made thus far that Windows users should be grateful for.

There’s been no shortage of negative news stories, crashes and bugs crawling around Windows 11 and subsequent updates and fixes this year, so the blog post comes across like doubling-down from the tech giant. While the Moment 3 update was definitely welcomed with open, almost desperate arms, it does seem a little strange for Microsoft to put out a blog post detailing every ‘good’ change it’s made so far.

The improvements boasted by the tech giant are listed in full in the post, with some notable mentions like making PCs more sustainable, Microsoft Edge starting up faster and increasing users productivity by speeding up how long it takes to get to the desktop.

Microsoft still needs to entice more people to move over to Windows 11, and the recent string of bad headlines definitely hasn’t helped with the migration, but the new blog post could be persuasive.  If you’re apprehensive about upgrading to Windows 11, having every major change listed out could help settle any concerns and aid your decision to upgrade or stay put. That being said, some of the listed upgrades are a little vague, perhaps purposely so.

The Moment 3 update is definitely a step in the right direction and does show that Windows has moved pretty far away from the dark days of Windows Vista. Giving users a whole blog post on all the changes you’ve been making is a straightforward step towards enticing people to upgrade, and we will have to see just how persuaded users are. 

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft is finally introducing the feature that’ll make me upgrade to Windows 11

Windows 11 is finally getting a feature I’ve been keenly awaiting since the OS was released – yes, a ‘never combine’ option is coming to the taskbar. Oh, a joyous and rapturous day indeed (ahem).

This is one of many changes brought forth with a new preview build (23466) in the Dev channel, and it has been previously speculated about in a number of leaks.

Turning on 'never combine' mode for the taskbar means that apps are always kept as individual entries on the bar, even when multiple copies of the same application are open at the same time.

With multiple instances of apps, by default Windows 11 stacks them up – combines them, so to speak – into one entry on the taskbar. Never combined, as the name suggests, means this doesn’t happen, and they all stay separate – and you can see the labels on those individual instances (telling you which web page is currently active, for example, in a browser window).

Not all testers will see this straightaway, Microsoft informs us, as it’s a gradual rollout. So even if you’re a Windows Insider hanging out in the Dev channel, it may still be some time before you receive the option.

Happiness is a non-combining taskbar

The introduction of the never combined option for the taskbar is a big one for me, as the lack of this feature is pretty much the biggest reason why I’ve not upgraded to Windows 11 yet. (There are other niggles, too, but let’s not stray off-topic).

That probably sounds a bit overblown, but seriously, stacking up apps on the taskbar is a deal-breaker as far as I’m concerned. I hate this way of working – it truly bugs me – so I was pretty mystified when Windows 11 turned up without never combine (as it’s known in Windows 10 – I’m not sure why it’s now ‘combined’ in Windows 11, but it doesn’t really matter).

It’s never a good idea to remove choice as far as I’m concerned, but Microsoft didn’t do this out of some arbitrary desire, we were told. The chatter from the usual insider sources suggested that adding what seems like a simple bit of functionality on the face of it was actually a pretty complex issue around how the interface of the latest OS was built from the ground up.

I’m not sure how far I buy into that, but I can accept the basic premise. I just can’t understand why it has taken so very long for Microsoft to introduce this for Windows 11 – clearly, it was pretty far down whatever interface priority lists were drawn up internally. 

But hey, it’s here now, if only in testing. Hopefully, Microsoft will manage to push this change through in the big update at the end of the year (23H2). After all, the groundwork should’ve been the hard bit here, so honing the feature shouldn’t be that much of a task. I hope.

Then I can fire up that Windows 11 upgrade, finally, and get with the OS times. This feels a bit more like a pressing need following the announcement that Windows 10 won’t get any more features at all (save minor tweaks – there’ll be no 23H2 update for the older operating system, as you may recall).

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft wants to help you build a website with Copilot AI

Microsoft has added AI enhancements to its low-code website building offering, Power Pages.

Announced at its Microsoft Build conference, Copilot in Power Pages lets website developers leverage AI capabilities for copywriting and form building.

The new update to Microsoft  Power Pages tool looks  to speed up the time it takes website builders to generate text, build detailed forms and chatbots, using intelligent suggestions.

AI site building 

Available in public preview now, albeit in North America only, Copilot in Power Pages aims to cut down website development time with features such as auto-generated tables in Microsoft Dataverse to create corresponding forms.

Also available in public preview, the update also includes a virtual table and Power Automate integration in Power Pages that enables cloud flow from web page events.

Developers will be able to leverage these AI-enabled enhancements in Power Pages to jump-start their journey of ideation and building of impactful, secure external website-based services to better respond and serve their customers.

First revealed at Build 2022, Power Pages also includes the integration of Copilot chatbot activation that includes generative answers within the setup workspace.

“You also have the flexibility to adjust, add, or fine-tune fields using natural language input. It’s a more streamlined approach to form creation,” Sangya Singh, Vice President of Power Pages, noted in a blog post.

“For your website visitors, this feature enhances their interaction with your site, allowing them to ask natural language questions and receive concise responses complete with relevant links to optimize both administrative functionality and website engagement experiences.”

Microsoft is working on adding other AI capabilities including page creation, site theming, and image generation, which is predicted to be available in summer 2023.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft Edge for Business wants you to ditch Google Chrome for work

The browser wars could be set for a new battle in the enterprise space following a raft of new updates from Microsoft Edge.

The browser has unveiled a host of new additions at the company's Microsoft Build event, including a new “experience” that is targeted purely at workplace users.

The new Microsoft Edge for Business experience comes with a whole new look and feel to the browser itself, as well as boosted security protections and even some useful productivity apps to help you get the most out of your working day.

Microsoft Edge for Business

“To more fully realize our mission to deliver the best browser for business, we’re evolving Microsoft Edge to have a dedicated work experience,” the company noted in a blog post.

“With the rich set of enterprise controls, security, and productivity features that you’re already familiar with, Edge for Business is designed to help meet the evolving security landscape while empowering users to work effectively.”

Microsoft says its new approach also looks to solve problems created by hybrid work, where people may use the same device for personal and business use, raising potential security issues for IT teams. 

This can often lead to the need for supporting multiple browsers on such devices, increasing the risk of cyberattacks and also causing a drop in performance.

Microsoft Edge for Business automatically separates work and personal browsing into dedicated browser windows, each with their own separate caches and storage locations, so information stays separate. 

This means that work-related services such as Microsoft 365 apps or sites requiring your work login will automatically open in the work browser window, whereas other popularly-used sites will open in the personal window. 

Users can switch between the two windows thanks to a button on the taskbar, meaning a change is just a click away.

These options can be changed at any time, and admins can also enforce certain restrictions if need be.  Microsoft Edge for Business is launching in preview for managed devices now, and will be coming to unmanaged devices soon.

Elsewhere, the company also revealed the general launch of Microsoft Edge Workspaces, which allow teams of co-workers to collaborate on projects or content in a specially-defined location.

Microsoft Edge for Business button bar

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The service allows Edge users to share multiple groups of tabs and favorites with colleagues that can be built to accommodate numerous projects and teams.

Microsoft Edge Workspaces has only been in preview for some business users up til now, but the company says it will be generally available to all users within the next few months.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft has finally fixed a cool Windows 11 Spotify feature – so what took so long?

Microsoft has just fixed one of Windows 11’s neatest features – one that Chief Product Officer Panos Panay called a ‘game-changer’ when it was first introduced back in 2021.

The pre-loaded Clock application in Windows 11 has long included a feature that allows you to link up your Spotify account and set it to play specific productivity-focused playlists while you’re employing the nifty Focus Assist feature.

However, as previously noted by Neowin, the functionality had been broken for months (since at least February 2023, potentially longer), and despite Spotify trying to rectify the issue, it turned out to be an expired certificate on Microsoft’s end breaking the feature. Users attempting to link their Spotify account to Windows Clock would be met with a blank screen and an endless “Connecting to a service” message.

Thankfully, it looks like the problem is now resolved – in part, it seems, due to Neowin’s diligent reporting. When Spotify confirmed that the bug was Microsoft’s fault, Neowin reached out to the Windows creator to report the issue. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, the problem has been fixed; you can now hook up your Spotify account to the Clock app with no difficulties.

Microsoft, please love all your children equally

However, it looks like the problem is still lingering in Windows 10 – when I tried to connect my Clock app to Spotify on my personal desktop PC (after checking for system updates), I got the same empty white window.

Microsoft has been getting more and more aggressive in its efforts to push users to upgrade to Windows 11, but this feels like a spectacular low point. If the problem is something as simple as an expired certificate for Spotify’s API access, why not fix it for both Windows 10 and 11?

Look, I don’t hate Windows 11 (although Microsoft’s recent boo-boo over ads in the Weather app did make me chuckle). I use it on my work laptop and it’s fine – in fact, it’s steadily improving, gradually adding great features and gathering pace among users. It’s been on the rise for a while in terms of adoption – a quick look at the OS section of the Steam Hardware and Software Survey shows that Windows 11 is now eating into its predecessor’s share of the PC gaming space with impressive speed.

But as my colleague Darren recently said, Microsoft should be using the carrot, not the stick, to boost Windows 11 adoption. I love Windows 10 – why don’t you, Microsoft? It’s one of the best operating systems ever made, and I don’t want to feel forced to abandon it because you’re not willing to fix simple bugs that can be fixed in its successor.

It’s also frankly not a good look that it took more than three months – and a direct complaint from a tech news site – to fix such a simple problem. Come on, Microsoft. Oh, and you can stop with all the Bing AI nonsense. If I wanted an AI on my desktop, I’d just use ChatGPT.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar are finally going to play nice together

Google and Microsoft have come a step closer to becoming amicable with the announcement that their respective calendar apps will become a whole lot more interoperable in a bid to keep users organized whichever service they decide to use.

A support page details how “users in both systems share their availability status so everyone can view each others' schedules.”

Furthermore, changes are being rolled out to how invitations are managed between the two rival companies.

Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook interoperability

In its announcement, Google explains that “Calendar Interoperability is the critical component to help ensure events created in one calendar system are accurately propagated for guests using different calendar systems.”

Taking a move to recognize and support third-party services will inevitably work in favor of the company, with many individuals and businesses preferring to split their digital footprint between multiple companies, all of whom have their own merits and preferred use cases.

As part of the update, Outlook users who also have a Google Calendar with the same email address can receive Google Calendar invitations and RSVPs directly in Outlook without having to be in the Google ecosystem (which incidentally doesn’t have a dedicated desktop client). As standard, default reminders will also be created for Google Calendar invitations in Outlook.

On the flip side, non-Google Calendar recurring events are now hoped to be more “systematically and accurately” reflected in Google’s portal.

Unlike some changes, this is a Google-wide feature that applies to both business and individual customers, and is already available.

Having already announced other interoperability missions, like Meet and Zoom, it’s clear that Google is trying to broaden its appeal by more subtly integrating into third-party platforms, in turn giving customers a central ecosystem that they can work from with fewer limitations.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 security bug fix debacle is seriously embarrassing for Microsoft

Windows 11 has run into further problems with a security-related bug that’s scaring users and was supposed to have been fixed recently – but Microsoft has admitted that its cure failed to work, and it has been pulled.

This one has a bit of a lengthy backstory, as it were, so buckle up and bear with us as we take you through it to give some context as to what’s happened here.

Okay, so the bug in question first appeared when Microsoft pushed out the March 2023 cumulative update for Windows 11 22H2, causing Local Security Authority (LSA) protection to tell users that it was turned off. In actual fact, it had stayed on, the glitch being the error message, rather than LSA itself actually going wrong.

Still, some Windows 11 users being told that their device ‘may be vulnerable’ due to the lack of LSA protection, complete with a big yellow warning triangle adorned with an exclamation mark, was obviously going to provoke some concerns.

What really didn’t help is that the error persisted continually, even after reboots.

Microsoft gave us a workaround at the time – if you can call it that, we were simply told to dismiss the (repeated) error messages, and assured everything was fine with LSA. But a welcome sight was an official fix for this problem arriving at the end of April.

That cure for the LSA error blues arrived in the form of an update for Microsoft Defender, but sadly, this brought forth some new bugs – yes, argh – namely driver conflicts, hitting some PC games with crashes (due to anti-cheat software).

And now, as Neowin observes – while pointing out reports from its own readers of the LSA bug still being present – Microsoft has updated its health dashboard for Windows 11 to admit that the Microsoft Defender fix caused these unwanted side effects, and it has now been pulled.

Microsoft tells us: “This known issue was previously resolved with an update for Microsoft Defender Antivirus antimalware platform KB5007651 (Version 1.0.2303.27001) but issues were found, and that update is no longer being offered to devices.”

Analysis: Fix with one hand, break with the other

So what’s the upshot? The LSA problem remains, and Microsoft is working on a new fix, with the old one stuffed firmly in the bin. Those who have already got the old fix applied (KB5007651), mind you, are kind of stuck with it.

Microsoft advises those who are already running KB5007651 (Version 1.0.2303.27001) that they will need to disable Kernel-mode Hardware-enforced Stack Protection.

The software giant provides instructions as follows: “To do this, select the Start button, type Windows Security and select it, select Device Security then select Core Isolation then disable Kernel-mode Hardware-enforced Stack Protection.”

We’re not exactly sure that’s an ideal situation on the security front, though. But hey, if it’s Microsoft’s official advice, then it should be fine.

Meanwhile, for those still affected by the LSA bug, Microsoft instructs them to go back to that fabulous workaround mentioned previously. Yes, just ignore it, and while it will irritate you by continually popping up, there’s actually nothing wrong with LSA (in distinct contrast to the yanked-down fix which definitely did cause driver-related havoc).

This has been a very messy episode for Microsoft, and not one that will especially give Windows 11 users faith that the QA department has a particularly good handle on what’s going on with the OS. Hopefully, a solution that doesn’t break a bunch of other stuff will be forthcoming soon.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft makes it much easier to use ChatGPT-powered Bing – with a catch

Microsoft’s Bing chatbot is now available to use without signing into a Microsoft account, you’ll doubtless be pleased to hear.

This means that anyone can now jump on and start quizzing the ChatGPT-powered AI on whatever topic is on their mind, but there’s a caveat.

See more

Windows Central spotted the tweet from Michael Schechter, VP of Search Growth and Distribution (Bing) at Microsoft, announcing that the Bing AI now offers unauthenticated chat access.

However, while you won’t have to sign in to use the AI, you’ll be limited to pretty short conversations – just five queries in a session. Those signed in get 20 queries per conversation.

In other Bing AI news, a further step forward for the chatbot is the addition of a share button and more export options, as well as an improved copy and paste experience, useful little touches (as Neowin flagged up).

See more

Analysis: Bringing Bing to everyone faster

Remember when Bing AI was first launched? The chatbot got caught up in all sorts of controversial weirdness as a result of going off the rails in long chat sessions, leading Microsoft to impose strict limits on session length to tackle that particular problem.

That limit was five queries per session – exactly what unauthenticated users are getting now. In other words, it’s the bare minimum. (Well, clearly it’s the bare minimum – any lower than five would leave little or no opportunity to explore any topic further).

Still, the absolute minimum is very much better than nothing, so we’re glad to see Microsoft take this route. It makes for a convenient way for those who haven’t tried out the Bing AI yet to do so, and of course, that should mean extra traffic for Microsoft, too.

Doubtless Microsoft hopes that by giving folks a taster of Bing, it’ll impress them enough to sign in for the full lengthier chat experience.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Google Sheets thinks it might finally be smart enough to topple Microsoft Excel

Google Workspace has announced an upgrade to its spreadsheet software that could make the tool more useful than ever before.

In its battle to take on great rival Microsoft Excel, the company's Google Sheets platform has enjoyed a number of recent updates to help users get more from their data.

This includes so-called “smart chip” technology, which lets users quickly access information or data from other Google Workspace files, bringing the likes of Slides, Docs and Gmail even closer together for the ultimate collaboration tool.

Google Sheets smart chip metadata

Following an initial rollout in February 2023, Google Sheets has already seen an initial smart chips upgrade, taking the form of richer experiences, including extra functionality when posting YouTube clips in a spreadsheet, further expansions have now been announced.

Going forward, the company says users will be able to quickly extract information from smart chips to give your work extra detail or analysis, pulling in information from people, file and event chips. It will also allow users you to pull out metadata associated with specific smart chips into its own cell, all whilst maintaining a connection with the chip it was extracted from. 

Google Sheets smart chips metadata

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

The company gave the example of making it easier to keep track of a set of documents, as well as who owns them and details such as creation time or who last modified the file, which can now be done by extracting those fields from the relevant file chips.

“Smart chip data extraction allows you to track and organize data more easily, and also perform deeper analyses using data that is derived from smart chips,” a Google Workspace update blog post announcing the change read.

“Useful actions include using file chips to understand when a document was last updated or using people chips to sort and filter employees based on job location to best delegate region specific tasks.”

The feature is rolling out now for users on Rapid Release domains, with a wider release scheduled for June 14. 

The ability to extract data already stored in chips will be available to all Google Workspace customers and users with personal Google Accounts, but some limits on extracting all available data will be placed on the latter, along with users with Google Workspace Essentials Starter, Business Starter, Frontline Starter, Frontline Standard, and Nonprofits accounts.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More