Leak suggests Android and ChromeOS to receive deeper device integration

Android devices and ChromeOS may become best friends in the near future as Google is reportedly working on better integrating the two platforms.

Hints of this move were discovered by industry expert AssembleDebug on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) who recently dove into the files of Google Play Services version 24.06.12. After activating several internal flags, he discovered two new features are currently in development plus certain sections will be renamed to better fit the changes. As 9To5Google points out, Device Connections will be renamed to Devices & Sharing, and there is a new option called Cross-Device Services.

Tapping the section for the first time allows users to choose the Android phones and Chromebooks they want on their cross-device network. There doesn’t appear to be a limit to how many gadgets you can have connected at the same time. It also looks like you can send out invitations en masse to nearby hardware during this time. Once setting up is done, you’re given access to the aforementioned features. Keep in mind it’s unknown exactly how these tools work although there are short descriptions under each one offering a bit of insight.

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Call Cast lets you presumably hop between devices during calls, however it “only works with certain apps”. Internet Sharing, on the other hand, is more nebulous. Judging from the onscreen text, it’ll give users a way to share their hotspot connection as well as their Wi-Fi password to member devices in a group. It saves you the trouble of having to re-enter your password every time you want to add another phone.

Imminent roll out

That’s pretty much all we can gather from this latest info dump. Given the fact AssembleDebug was able to trigger the update and the near-finished state of the interface, we think it’s safe to say the patch is rolling out fairly soon. It’s unknown exactly when it’ll come out, but Android Police in their coverage predicts it’ll release next month for Google’s March Feature Drop alongside other updates. These include the eSIM transfer tool plus Bluetooth Quick Settings.

As with every leak, take all the details here with a grain of salt. Things could change at any time. That said, if it's released as is, it would be a great upgrade to the current mobile environment. Chromebooks already offer cross-device connectivity to Androids, but it’s limited to primarily app streaming. Improving usability like this could allow Google to finally establish a hardware ecosystem similar to Apple’s own.

While we have you check out TechRadar's roundup of the best Chromebooks for 2024

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CoPilot Pro leak suggests Microsoft will soon make you pay for its ChatGPT Plus features

Microsoft has spent billions on integrating ChatGPT into its Copilot AI assistant for Edge, Bing and Windows 11 – and a new code leak suggests it could be planning to claw back some of that investment very soon.

As spotted by Android Authority, some new Edge browser updates for Android contain several code references to a 'Copilot Pro' tier that isn't yet available. Right now, Copilot (previously called Bing Chat) is completely free and, as Tom's Guide recently noticed, even gives some access to the latest ChatGPT model, GPT-4 Turbo.

But those days could be numbered if Copilot Pro does become a reality. The code contains references to a “pay wall upsell” option, which suggests that Microsoft is planning its equivalent of ChatGPT Plus. The latter currently costs $ 20 / £16 / AU$ 28 per month.

Those strings of code discovered in Edge also give us hints of what kind of features a Copilot Pro subscription might give us. These include access to the newest AI models (in other words, ChatGPT's GPT-4 Turbo), priority server access, and “high-quality” image generation.

While it seems likely that a free Copilot tier will continue to be available, the days of Microsoft giving us quite so many free AI perks, then, could be drawing to a close.

Plus points

Copilot in Windows

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The arrival of a ChatGPT Pro subscription has always been a matter of when rather than if, when you consider how much its costs to run an AI assistant on the scale of Microsoft Copilot. In the case of ChatGPT, some estimates suggest the computer hardware costs could be as high as $ 700,000 a day.

This is why ChatGPT launched its Plus subscription in February 2023 – and, a year on, it looks like Microsoft Copilot Pro could soon be following in that paid model's footsteps. 

Unfortunately, that could mean the free version of Copilot becoming a bit dumber, as that version currently gives you access to ChatGPT's latest models and also Dall-E 3 image generation. 

Hopefully, some of Copilot's current restrictions, like being limited to 300 conversations per day, will also be eased in the Pro version. While we don't yet know when this Copilot Pro tier might launch, it looks like we could find out very soon.

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Fed up with Windows 11’s Copilot already? Then you won’t like this leak which suggests the AI could be inserted into File Explorer

Windows 11 might soon witness Copilot coming to File Explorer, or in other words, the folders on your desktop that you use to interact with files on a daily basis.

The theory is that Microsoft could be planning to bring the Copilot AI to these folders based on a line of code uncovered by a leaker on X (formerly Twitter).

PhantomOfEarth made the revelation in a tweet that noted there’s a new feature called ‘CopilotFEContextMenu’ present in test builds of Windows 11 which can be enabled using a special configuration tool. (Not that there’s any point in doing so, as the feature doesn’t do anything yet – it’s just a signal of Microsoft’s potential intentions here).

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As the name suggests, this would appear to hint at a context menu option. In other words, when you right click a file in a folder, a choice relating to Copilot will be present in the menu that pops up.

As theorized, it might be a ‘Send to Copilot’ option that passes the file to the AI, whereupon you’ll presumably get the assistant popping up offering further choices (summarizing a document, for example).

Analysis: No surprises, but maybe alarms for some

All of this is mere speculation, of course, at this point, and lines of code in the background are the very earliest of signs that something is happening around a potential feature.

However, it’d be no great surprise to see Copilot integrated into File Explorer in this way, as it makes sense to have a convenient option to invoke the AI when you want it to work with a specific file.

Certainly, Microsoft has made no secret that it’s massively focusing on pushing AI across all its products, including Windows. Only yesterday we saw that Microsoft is ushering in a new key for the keyboards of Windows PCs – a move mirroring the introduction of the Windows key itself nearly 30 years ago.

Think about it for a moment: that’s how important Copilot is, in that it gets a dedicated key in the same vein as the key named after the operating system itself.

It’d be a shock if Microsoft wasn’t planning to introduce Copilot to other parts of the Windows 11 interface, frankly, and we can certainly expect further ways of invoking the AI across the desktop in the future – alongside the ability to directly summon Copilot from the keyboard as mentioned.

The best that those who aren’t so keen on Copilot can hope for is that they get ways to turn off the AI assistant across the board in Windows 11.

Via Neowin

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Hidden feature in Windows 11 suggests we could get the ability to uninstall AI components – and maybe even Copilot eventually?

Windows 11 often has incoming changes hidden away behind the scenes of the operating system, and another of these has just been spotted – and it’s a big one pertaining to AI.

Windows Central stumbled upon a tweet by regular leaker PhantomOfEarth on X, who has been digging around in Windows 11 preview build 26016 (in the Canary channel).

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PhantomOfEarth discovered a Settings page for AI Components which, as mentioned, is hidden, but can be turned on using a Windows configuration tool (ViVeTool).

This lists system components related to AI functionality, although it doesn’t do anything when enabled (unsurprisingly, it’s tucked away in the background for a reason – namely it doesn’t work yet).

The leaker also found strings related to the page, with one of those being: “View and remove AI components that are installed on Windows.”

So, it seems that this panel in Settings (under System) will allow you not only to view any AI-related system components, but also uninstall them if you wish.

Analysis: A necessary choice?

The AI components listed in the screenshot provided by PhantomOfEarth include Windows Security, the Microsoft Store, Phone Link and Xbox Game Bar – suggesting maybe that these will be furnished with AI extras at some point? Or they could just be placeholders, which is probably a more likely story – though we can certainly see the Microsoft Store, for example, getting augmented with AI (that suggests apps you might like based on the usage of your PC, or past downloads).

The latter brings up a point that may worry some Windows 11 users, namely privacy and exactly what AI might be doing in terms of profiling you, and building up a more in-depth picture of your likes, dislikes and so on, extrapolating from that. We should note at this point that this discussion is entirely theoretical, of course, but the general point is that some folks won’t want AI in their operating system – either for privacy reasons, or because they don’t trust it, perhaps.

It makes sense, then, that Microsoft will cater for those who want to remove AI abilities and provide these uninstallation options. Not that the presence of this Settings page in testing means anything yet – it could be scrapped in preview. Indeed, it isn’t even present in preview builds yet, it’s hidden in the background.

That brings us to another point – it’s very early work on this feature. The likelihood is that a wider swathe of AI functionality – and these options – won’t fully debut until next-gen Windows is released. (That’ll be next year, in theory, although we’re still not sure whether this will be Windows 12 – though whatever the case, big plans are afoot for AI, going by the latest rumors).

An interesting observation Windows Central makes here is that we don’t know how far AI uninstallation capabilities will reach – and whether that might include getting rid of Copilot? Yes, Copilot is in the cloud right now (so not on your PC anyway, or at least its ‘brain’ isn’t, only the interface), but Microsoft seemingly has plans to make the AI local – and if so, it’s possible that it could be made removable.

We doubt it, mind you, seeing as Copilot is such a central aspect of the OS – but at least some components relating to AI should be viable for uninstallation if this new finding is anything to go by.

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Windows Copilot leak suggests deeper assimilation with Windows 11 features

Key Windows 11 features may soon be customizable as Microsoft further integrates its Windows Copilot AI assistant into the operating system.

This tidbit comes from tech news site Windows Latest, which claims to have discovered new .json (JavaScript Object Notation) files within recent preview builds of Windows 11. These files apparently hint at future upgrades for the desktop AI assistant. For example, a “TaskManagerService-ai-plugin.json” was found which is supposedly a “plugin for Task Manager integration”. If this ever comes out, it could give users the ability to “monitor or close running apps using” Copilot.

In total, six are currently tested and they affect various aspects of Windows 11.

Next, there is an “AccessbilityTools-ai-plugin.json” that gives Copilot a way to “control accessibility [tools]. This would make it “easier for those with [a] disability to navigate through the system.” Third is “ai-plugin-WindowsSettings.json” for controlling important Windows 11 settings. Which ones exactly are not stated within the report. 

Fourth is “ClockService-ai-plugin.json” to help people manage their computer’s alarm settings. Rounding out the pack are “LaunchApplication-ai-plugin.json and SmartFileActions-ai-plugin.json” for opening apps through AI commands.

Modular control hub

Windows Copilot was in limited release when it first came out back in late June 2023, and it was pretty barebones. Since then, Microsoft has been repeatedly upgrading the AI function to be more comprehensive. Earlier reports state Copilot may be able search for specific files as well as offer “store suggestions”, presumably for apps to download at the Microsoft Store.

You may read all this and think that the AI assistant may become a bloated mess, but on the contrary, it might not. Due to the fact all the .json files mentioned are plugins, Windows Copilot will most likely be a modular tool, meaning you can pick and choose particular Windows 11 features it can control. This effectively turns the AI into your personal control hub for the OS.

Upgraded AI assistants

Of course, that’s assuming the final version will release exactly as we just described. Nothing in the news story has been officially confirmed by Microsoft. Be aware there’s a chance, if small, that the company could terminate certain plugins at any time. 

So far, the updates have been first-party only. Windows Latest claims the tech giant could begin offering third-party plugin support within the coming weeks. Partnered third-party companies or developers remain unknown at the time of this writing. 

Generative AI models have opened a lot of possibilities for personal assistants. Gone are the days of asking simple questions to Siri or Cortana. Technological improvements have made it possible for AIs to help in our day-to-day tasks. Google, for example, is working on an AI writing tool for upcoming Chromebooks.

To learn more, we recommend checking out TechRadar’s list of the best AI chatbots for 2023 to see what the technology is capable of. 

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Windows 11 leak suggests Microsoft is making some big changes

Windows 11 looks set to get some exciting new features in upcoming updates, with a leak emerging that apparently shows off Microsoft’s plans.

As Neowin reports, the leak comes courtesy of Albacore, a Twitter account that's well known for leaking Windows features. In a series of Tweets we were given a glimpse of what are claimed to be some of changes Microsoft is making to Windows 11.

The first is a new ‘Stickers’ feature for Windows 11. Users will be able to edit stickers and add them to the desktop. These stickers can be placed over your desktop wallpaper, and will apparently remain there if you change wallpapers – though Albacore suggests this feature won’t work if you use a slideshow as your background, or if you have multiple monitors.

It’s also not currently clear if these ‘Stickers’ will be purely decorative, or if they could offer some sort of functionality, such as displaying the date and time.

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More changes

Changes are also said to be coming to how notifications are shown in Windows 11. This appears to be an area where Microsoft struggles, as notifications in both Windows 10 and Windows 11 haven’t worked as well as many had hoped, with the notifications either being too distracting, or not distracting enough (and easily missed).

According to Albacore, there will be a new ‘Set priority notifications’ setting, which should hopefully give users more control over what notifications they get. Focus Assist, which is a quick setting for turning off or minimizing notifications, is also getting a new name – it’ll just be known as ‘Focus’.

There will also be new options for the ‘Focus’ setting, allowing you to hide badges on taskbar apps (and stop them flashing) and mute notifications. The aim of this mode is to minimize distractions so you can keep focused on the task at hand.

A new ‘Sustainability’ page is also being added to the Settings app. This will allow you to manage the power settings of your device so that it runs more efficiently, and there's also a link to information about how to safely recycle your device.

The page also has leaf-shape icons, and these look like the'll be used to give your device a rating for how energy-efficient it is.

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It also looks like some form of ‘tablet mode’ will come to Windows 11 that automatically hides the Taskbar when you use your device as a tablet (for example when using a 2-in-1 laptop in its tablet configuration).

It’s not clear when these new features will appear in Windows 11, if indeed they appear at all, but as some have been spotted in early builds it's possible that we could see them in Windows 11’s upcoming major update, known as Sun Valley 2, which is likely to come out in the second half of 2022.

Analysis: tweaks are welcome – but don’t forget the bigger stuff

Assuming this leak proves to be the real deal, these new features would broadly be welcome. While we’re not too sure how useful the Stickers feature will be, giving users more control over notifications, and information on how they can make their device run more efficiently, would certainly be great additions to Windows 11.

However, while it’s nice to get new features and performance tweaks, we don’t want Microsoft to take its eye off the bigger picture. There are still a few things it needs to iron out in Windows 11, including some vital missing features – such as the facility to drag and drop files onto apps pinned to the Taskbar – and we’d like Microsoft to prioritize addressing these issues, rather than worrying about cosmetic changes.

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