Microsoft To Add Copilot Key To Windows PC Keyboards

Microsoft is to make the first major change in nearly 30 years to Windows PC keyboards, as it continues to push its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

In a blog post on Thursday, Yusuf Mehdi, the executive VP and consumer chief marketing officer at Redmond, announced that Microsoft will be introducing a new Copilot key for upcoming “AI-powered Windows PCs.”

The last major change to Windows keyboard layouts was back in 1994, when Redmond and PC makers introduced the Windows key for viewing the Start menu.

Image credit: Unsplash

Copilot key

The addition of the Copilot key will allow for easy access to begin text conversations with the software maker’s virtual assistant.

Copilot in Windows of course utilises the artificial intelligence models from OpenAI, which operates its own popular ChatGPT chatbot.

“Today, we are excited to take the next significant step forward and introduce the Copilot key to Windows 11 PCs,” wrote Mehdi. “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.”

“The introduction of the Copilot key marks the first significant change to the Windows PC keyboard in nearly three decades,” wrote Mehdi. “We believe it will empower people to participate in the AI transformation more easily.”

“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,” wrote Mehdi.

“Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced the Windows key to the PC keyboard that enabled people all over the world to interact with Windows,” he wrote. “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.”

“Over the coming days leading up to and at CES, you will start to see the Copilot key on many of the new Windows 11 PCs from our ecosystem partners, with availability beginning in late February through Spring, including on upcoming Surface devices,” said Mehdi.

Copilot function

It was back in March 2023 when Microsoft opted to exploit its heavy investment and close relationship with OpenAI, and added AI capabilities labelled ‘Copilot’ to its Office suite (Word, Excel etc).

The development came after Microsoft had a month earlier bundled AI capabilities into both its Bing search engine and Edge browser.

It should be remembered that Microsoft has already started delivering Copilot on more modern PCs with Windows 10 and Windows 11. Users can hold down the Windows key and push the C key to summon the Copilot.

Doing this on older Windows 10 machines will summon the defunct Cortana app.

Key location?

So where will device makers squeeze in the new Copilot key?

Well a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC via email that in some cases, the Copilot key will replace the Menu key or the right Control key.

Some larger computers will have enough room for both the Copilot key and the right Control key, the spokesperson reportedly added.

This is not the only keyboard change Microsoft has sought since 1994.

In August 2017 Microsoft released a keyboard that brought the security of Windows Hello to any Windows 10 PC in the form of fingerprint reader.

However that $129.99 aluminium keyboard never saw widespread adoption.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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