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Microsoft just changed the Windows keyboard for the first time in three decades

Published Jan 4th, 2024 9:41AM EST
The new Microsfot Copilot button on Windows 11 PC keyboards.
Image: Microsoft

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The New Year only just arrived, and we already have some bad news for you: Your Windows PC keyboard is now out of date. You see, Microsoft is making a big change to the keyboard you’ve been using for the last 30 years. It’s adding a button to laptop keyboards that will open Copilot, Microsoft’s AI assistant.

Microsoft is putting AI into everything, not just the operating system. The keyboard change is a symbolic indication that AI is now at the center of Microsoft’s software ecosystem.

Whether you have the Copilot logo on the keyboard or not, you’ll still be able to invoke the AI assistant by using a different key mapped to Copilot. The bigger AI changes might concern the hardware, namely the chips tailored to AI experiences that Microsoft and others are working on.

Microsoft thinks the Copilot keyboard change is so significant it needs its own blog post:

Today, we are excited to take the next significant step forward and introduce the Copilot key to Windows 11 PCs. In this new year, we will be ushering in a significant shift toward a more personal and intelligent computing future where AI will be seamlessly woven into Windows from the system, to the silicon, to the hardware. This will not only simplify people’s computing experience but also amplify it, making 2024 the year of the AI PC.

Microsoft says the introduction of the Copilot key “marks the first significant change to the Windows PC keyboard in nearly three decades.”

“The Copilot key joins the Windows key as a core part of the PC keyboard and when pressed, the new key will invoke the Copilot in Windows experience to make it seamless to engage Copilot in your day to day,” Microsoft added.

Microsoft's new Copilot key will invoke the AI assistant.
Microsoft’s new Copilot key will invoke the AI assistant. Image source: Microsoft

“Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced the Windows key to the PC keyboard that enabled people all over the world to interact with Windows. We see this as another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.”

The Copilot key will actually replace the menu button, as it’ll be placed on the right of the keyboard, between the Alt button and the left arrow key.

Microsoft also notes that if Copilot isn’t available in a region, the Copilot key will launch Windows Search. Put differently, if you own 2023 Windows laptops or older models, you’ll probably be able to map the menu key to Copilot. However, it’ll lack the Copilot logo on it.

As for new hardware, Microsoft doesn’t name any new products but hints that CES 2024 will deliver the first Windows 11 PCs with Copilot keys. Interestingly, availability should begin in late February through spring, “including on upcoming Surface devices.” Surface PCs with built-in AI are coming soon. That’s an important takeaway here.

I’ll say again that the Copilot button is the least important upgrade coming to these AI laptops of the near future. Microsoft hints at that in the blog post. The silicon improvements are going to be more important for the Copilot AI experiences of the future:

We’re also seeing incredible momentum from our silicon partners AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, all of whom have introduced their latest silicon innovations to the world that unlock new AI experiences on the Windows PC. Together, we’re putting new system architectures in place to power new Windows AI experiences bringing together the GPU, CPU, NPU, and the cloud.

CES 2024 kicks off on January 9th, so we’ll soon see what the first Windows 11 laptops featuring the new Copilot key and the chips that bring the AI to life.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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