Change was an overarching theme for Microsoft’s annual Surface keynote from the outset. Just days after the confirmed departure of former Surface boss Panos Panay, it was the turn of Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President and Consumer Chief Marketing Officer, who has taken centre stage. And with that, ushering in a new era for Windows 11 and the Surface computing device portfolio. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the bedrock.
There were two important things on the agenda. First, of course, the next additions to the Surface portfolio. Secondly, Windows 11’s path towards AI integration. We got clear answers for both. On September 26, a new update for Windows 11 rolls out and it won’t be just a regular monthly update or a quarterly features pack. It is not to be confused with the Windows 11 23H2 update that will arrive later. This year’s new Surface devices are the Surface Laptop Studio 2 and the Surface Laptop Go 3, as Microsoft is building with a solid foundation and leaving little to chance with experimentational form factors.
Windows Copilot, first demo-ed at over the summer, will be available to consumers. The feature set includes a Bing Chat feature accessible from the taskbar itself with extensive integration within Windows. It’ll still be in the preview stage, which means the AI assistant is still very much work-in-progress. It’ll be able to answer queues using context and web searches, launch apps and control settings on the PC. More functionality, such as the ability to write emails and texts, will be introduced in different stages.
“Copilot will uniquely incorporate the context and intelligence of the web, your work data and what you are doing in the moment on your PC to provide better assistance – with your privacy and security at the forefront. It will be a simple and seamless experience, available in Windows 11, Microsoft 365, and in our web browser with Edge and Bing,” Yusuf Mehdi said in a statement.
The Bing Image creator, an AI text to image creation tool, will now use use OpenAI’s DALL.E 3 model. The updated model has better understanding of context and more knowledge to delve into to create images a user demands. Microsoft Designer is also being integrated within Bing for improved accessibility. This is an extension of a partnership that already sees Microsoft use OpenAi’s GPT model as the foundation for the Bing AI chatbot.
There’s a lot more with Windows 11, which makes the incoming update an important one for PC users. The File Explorer is set to get a completely new design, something that was frankly overdue. It’ll also integrate a Gallery feature, for photo collections. The Outlook app gets a significant update too, with streamlined calendar and email across different accounts as well as AI providing perhaps useful suggestions while drafting emails.
There are expected improvements with Windows Backup too, which could make it simpler for users to switch to a new PC and have all settings replicated seamlessly – something that didn’t often happen thus far. AI tools within Paint, Photos, Clipchamp and Notepad are also lining up significant additions.
If you are using a stylus with your Windows 11 PC (often, convertible PCs do ship with one), there will be a new Ink Anywhere feature that’ll allow users to handwrite in any text box within Windows, and that will be converted to text as applicable in the form format. This may prove to be quite useful for long-ish web forms, in particular.
With the Surface Laptop Studio 2 and the Surface Laptop Go 3, Microsoft’s taken a tried and tested path with hardware refresh for 2023. These devices will appeal to two distinct, and commonplace spectrums – powerful computing devices that can replace a traditional desktop use case, and ultra-slim portability that does little in terms of compromising experience.
Microsoft is also talking up the benefits of a tighter knit ecosystem. “We have been investing in silicon advancements to augment this next wave of AI innovation, unlocking experiences like Windows Studio Effects in Surface Pro 9 with 5G and continuing to increase performance to run the latest AI models with powerful devices like the new Surface Laptop Studio 2,” Mehdi said.
The Surface Laptop Studio 2 gets updated Intel Core processors across the line, along with new Nvidia graphics. It has a 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow touch display and the display hinge allows this to be placed in three different positions. This will be the most powerful Surface computing device ever. India pricing hasn’t been revealed yet, but this starts at $1999 (around ₹1,65,790) worldwide.
The Surface Laptop Go 3, with new innards including latest generation Intel chips, is claimed to be as much as 88% faster than its predecessor. The 12.4-inch touchscreen has been superseded by many tablets in terms of sheer size, but changes to power management lead to claims this will last as long as 15 hours on a single charge. Prices start $799.