Say your goodbyes to Cortana: the unloved Windows 11 assistant is going the way of Clippy as Copilot takes over

The preview of the newest Windows 11 build is missing a big thing: the Cortana app. This change was detailed in an official Windows Insider blog post (aimed at people who help test out early versions of upcoming Windows 11 updates), providing a link to an extra page going into more detail about ending support for the Cortana standalone app. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen talk of effectively killing off the Cortana app. BleepingComputer reports about another Canary channel preview release that had the Cortana app and support for it removed earlier this year. The future of Cortana was originally announced back in June, when Microsoft first set out its plans to end support for the standalone app.

At the time, Microsoft wrote that support for Cortana would also eventually end for a range of Microsoft products including Teams mobile, the Teams display, and Teams Rooms, as well as ending voice assistance for Outlook mobile and Microsoft 365 mobile, in the later half of this year. 

This is a big step for Microsoft which committed a lot of time and resources to Cortana, integrating it deeply into the Windows operating system and tailoring it to work with a number of Microsoft apps and products. It was, however, long expected that it may end up getting culled after Microsoft put out an announcement on its official support blog two years ago that support for the Cortana mobile app would end.

Screenshot of Windows Copilot in use

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The new kid on the block, Copilot

Cortana’s exit is happening to make way for Microsoft’s new central focus, its AI-equipped assistant named Copilot, which was announced at this year’s Build conference. Users were able to try Copilot after the Windows 11 22H2 update was released on September 26. Microsoft’s CVP, Yusuf Mehdi, stated that “Copilot will uniquely incorporate the context and intelligence of the web, your work data, and what you are doing in the moment,” and emphasized that Microsoft was prioritizing privacy and security.

After an optional update (or eventually I assume a mandatory update), Copilot will be turned on by default, with users being able to configure settings with Microsoft’s Intune policy or Group Policy (for groups and organizations). This was clarified by Harjit Dhaliwal, a Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, in a Microsoft enterprise blog post.

As well as Copilot, Microsoft has told users how they can utilize its AI-powered search engine Bing Search and enable voice assistance capabilities through Voice access in Windows 11. 

Cortana’s demise isn’t too surprising, as the voice assistant got a very mixed reception and saw a lot of criticism. Microsoft appears to want to have another try, and is clearly hoping that the AI-powered Copilot will fare better. Although Copilot has taken somewhat wobbly first steps, it’s innovative and has plenty of potential.

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Windows 11 remains an unloved OS – but why won’t people upgrade?

Windows 11 is still struggling to attract folks to upgrade, going by the latest stats on the desktop OS market from a major analyst firm.

TechSpot noticed the new figures for last month from StatCounter, one of the main outfits that keeps tabs on Windows versions and their relative levels of adoption.

So, on the cusp of two years after its release (technically, it was released two years ago, but the adoption figures are for September 2023), Windows 11 now holds a 23.6% market share.

For almost two years of existence, that’s not a very impressive inroad carved into the desktop OS world. What makes it worse is that the needle has barely moved for Windows 11 since April 2023, when it was at 23.1%.

In other words, over the past five months, Windows 11 has managed to gain 0.5%, which is a pretty poor show. Half a percent in almost half a year…

Windows 10 still holds a 71.6% share of the desktop market, with Windows 7 having dwindled away to 3.3% of diehards at this point.

Analysis: Why might people be avoiding Windows 11?

If we draw a comparison to what Windows 10 managed to reach in just under two years of its life, that was 36.6%, a good deal more than Windows 11 has achieved now. Indeed, at the two-and-a-half-year point, Windows 10 overtook Windows 7 – and clearly Windows 11 taking the desktop OS top spot isn’t going to happen in six months’ time.

Why is Windows 11 struggling so much compared to its predecessor? There are a few likely reasons, but a primary one is that it makes life more difficult in terms of upgrading.

New system requirements for Windows 11, most notably TPM (security) and ruling out older generations of processors, have left many folks with somewhat older PCs unable to upgrade even if they wanted to. At least not without modifying or upgrading hardware, which many PC owners aren’t keen on doing, frankly, especially not to get access to an operating system which isn’t all that different to Windows 10 at its heart.

That’s another major issue here. Yes, Windows 11 does make a good number of changes, but under the hood, deep down, it remains much the same OS as Windows 10 in many ways. So, there isn’t as much of a drive to upgrade in that respect.

Except maybe for gamers, who do get some interesting goodies with Windows 11 – and there’ll be more important stuff to come, certainly when DirectStorage gets wider support on the PC gaming scene – and that’s reflected in the current Steam stats for Windows 11. Those show Windows 11 securing a 37.4% market share with gamers on Steam, which is a good deal higher than StatCounter observes with everyday PC users.

Coincidentally, that level is about where Windows 11 should be for non-gaming users, if it had managed the same pace of adoption as Windows 10.

Other reasons folks may give Windows 11 a swerve include adverts sneaking into the OS more, privacy issues bound up in that, and some odd design decisions with the interface (like removing the ‘never combine’ taskbar option, though that choice has now been corrected). A steady stream of bug reports popping up and weirdly persistent problems like sluggish SSDs probably don’t help, either.

At any rate, it looks like Windows 11 adoption is going to continue to be a sluggish affair for Microsoft, and perhaps the only factor that’ll really speed it up is when the end of support starts to come into view for Windows 10. (That support deadline is October 2025, incidentally, so still two years away).

Via PC Gamer

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Microsoft is still hard at work improving this unloved Windows 11 feature

We’ve caught a glimpse of how a part of the Windows 11 interface could work in the future, thanks to digging in a new preview build.

PhantomOfEarth, one of the regular sources of Microsoft leaks on Twitter, used ViVeTool to uncover how smart snap suggestions should pan out in Windows 11.

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You can see the results (this is in preview build 23493 in the Dev channel) in the video clip provided in the tweet above.

As noted by the leaker, the snapping process and tooltips are now working properly, so Microsoft is making progress with this part of the interface.

For the uninitiated – those who don’t use snap layouts – it’s a part of the interface that allows you to easily ‘snap’ multiple apps together in different layouts, with the suggestions providing predefined templates of how you might want those apps to sit on the screen.

Microsoft is also adding icons to the snap flyout carrying the suggested layouts, so you can see which windows will carry which apps (as the icon of the application is present in its relevant window).

We’re seeing Microsoft do a lot of work in build 23493, and it makes a big move in terms of the introduction of Windows Copilot (although the AI is very barebones to begin with), plus there’s some interesting work on the Settings app (yes, it’s an app, and yes, it just got improved in a major way).

Analysis: Heading for a multitasker’s paradise?

On top of all that other work on the UI (there’s a new volume mixer in 23493, to boot), this is a promising glimpse of how snap suggestions is coming along. It looks pretty slick even in this still early stage of the game, as remember, the feature isn’t even functional yet. (Not without using the aforementioned Windows configuration tool, ViVeTool, to turn it on).

As ever, features in testing may change, and as PhantomOfEarth points out, Microsoft is currently testing two variants of snap suggestions with the available layouts arranged somewhat differently, trying to work out which is optimal no doubt.

There’s even a chance that features in testing won’t make it to release at all – especially hidden functionality like this – but in the case of snap suggestions, we’re thinking this is a pretty safe bet for eventual inclusion in Windows 11. Particularly as snap layouts is an area Microsoft has been tinkering with a fair bit in recent times.

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Microsoft is fixing this unloved Windows 11 feature

If you’re using Windows 11, you may have briefly checked out the Widgets panel – before promptly forgetting all about it – but it looks like Microsoft is finally going to make it more useful.

The Widgets panel is a new feature introduced in Windows 11 that can give you details about the weather, news, traffic and more via ‘widgets’ – essentially small apps that give you at-a-glance information. You can bring up the Widgets panel by either swiping from the left-hand side of the screen, or pressing Windows + W on your keyboard.

While this might sound useful, the problem is that there aren’t many widgets available, and most of them are tied to Microsoft services (such as Outlook or OneDrive), making them pretty much useless if you don’t use those services. The fact that the Widgets panel is hidden away doesn’t help either, and it’s led to the feature being all to easy to ignore and forget about.

Microsoft needs to act to make sure the Widgets panel doesn’t go the way of other unloved Windows features, such as the notorious ‘Metro’ Start screen of Windows 8. The good news is that Microsoft appears to be looking at ways to improve Widgets.

Third party support

As Windows Central reports, a developer has posted on Twitter claiming that Microsoft will soon announce that it will allow third party Widgets in Windows 11. This should allow for a much more diverse, and potentially useful, selection of Widgets.

According to the developer, FireCube, Microsoft is talking to third parties, explaining that they will soon be able to submit widgets through the Microsoft Store – in the same way Windows apps are submitted.

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Hopefully this means we should see an influx of new, more useful Widgets coming to Windows 11. With the documentation apparently being shared with developers, it looks like Microsoft could be getting ready to officially announce third party widgets soon.

Will it be too late for Windows 11 widgets? Perhaps – some people will have already made their minds up about the feature. However, if Microsoft can convince some big names to make widgets for Windows 11, then perhaps users can be convinced to give them another chance.

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