Microsoft Copilot Crash Lands, Survivors Uncertain

When Microsoft and its Windows OEM partners unveiled so-called Copilot+ PCs on May 20, 2024, I was intrigued—even excited. Suddenly, the adoption of Snapdragon X chips, with widespread hardware and software partner support, and promised capabilities catapulted the platform to heights not seen since the launch of Windows XP in October 2001—and some people might say Win 95.

Same day, I ordered Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge to review and use. While the notebook is a huge performance and longevity leap over my Surface Laptop Studio—and my overall satisfaction is high—disappointment is somewhat unavoidable. Microsoft touted four main Copilot+ PC benefits: Longer battery life (yep); uncompromised perceived performance (yep); standard, minimum hardware configurations (yep); and immersive informational interaction and responsiveness via artificial intelligence features running locally on the Neural Processing Unit (nope). The last is the biggest reason to buy into the concept, as presented, and it’s a letdown at launch.

Losing Altitude
Backpedaling was fierce and shocking. Critics railed against one of the platform’s showcase features, Recall, which could capture searchable screenshots of activity. I wondered why the wrangling, when the concept isn’t so novel. Apple unveiled Time Machine with MacOS Leopard in 2007. The utility provides searchable backups presented in retrieval windows not so visually different from Recall. Execution is unlike, but the overall concept is somewhat similar—and I don’t recall (seriously, no pun intended) much fuss lobbed at Apple about privacy or security.

Fast-forward to 2024, when the fruit-logo company gained much tech blog and news praise for planned OpenAI-technology integration into forthcoming OS platforms. Apple made the surprise announcement at the start of its developer conference on June 10. Surely somebody was stunned at Microsoft, which had invested billions into OpenAI and adopted its technology for CoPilot.

Before Apple’s developer conference concluded, Microsoft delayed Recall and started making other changes—earliest of which meant that review units wouldn’t be widely available before Copilot+ PC sales started on June 18. The decisions deflated marketing momentum and kept the limelight—at least among prolific tech commentators—pointed at Apple’s AI ambitions.

Hydraulic Failure
Now, unless I misunderstand, the whole point of the NPU is providing capacity to run AI capabilities locally. Looks like that’s changing. Yesterday, over at XDA, I came across “Microsoft is already killing everything I love about Copilot” by Brady Snyder. Nutgraph: “Somehow, Microsoft managed to make a big moment for Windows on Arm underwhelming thanks to multiple Copilot blunders”. The next, and perhaps biggest: Essentially stripping operating system integration in favor of a “progressive web app (PWA) version of Copilot”. Brady continues:

There was something special about the old Copilot. It wasn’t just a chatbot that could tap into the web and various LLMs. It was also a portal to your PC itself, helping you make changes and settings tweaks that you might not have been able to do on your own. For example, you could tell Copilot to change your network settings. Then, it would show you what it planned to modify and present you with Yes and No buttons. Clicking one of those options was all it took to change a setting on your PC with Copilot.

I thought that was Copilot’s ‘killer feature’ that would separate the chatbot from all the others. Now, as a PWA, Copilot is just a carbon-copy of the other AI chatbots available…There’s nothing unique about this version of Copilot, and that’s strange, because Microsoft clearly wants Copilot to be a key part of its AI PC branding moving forward.

Brace for Impact
Today is a national holiday, so I can’t confirm with Microsoft about the accuracy of XDA’s report. The only fireworks are in the sky tonight. So, I went to the source: Pressing the magic key on the laptop keyboard opened the chatbot, and I asked Copilot: Is Microsoft backing off Copilot integration with Windows? Reports are that Copilot is becoming a webapp.

The response:

Yes, there have been changes to Copilot’s integration in Windows 11. Microsoft is evolving Copilot by downgrading its integration and replacing it with a web-wrapper app. While the core functionality of Copilot remains intact, the minimal integration that allowed adjusting system settings and themes using voice commands has been removed.

Additionally, the experimental file transfer feature in Windows 10 has been scrapped. The new web-based wrapper provides more development flexibility, but it’s no longer deeply integrated into Windows 11. However, it can be easily uninstalled now. As for Windows Server 2025, Microsoft has also removed Copilot AI from it via a recent update. Let’s hope future updates bring better controls! 😊

You wish.

Too Many Copilots
Last night, on X (you know, Twitter), I shared a link to the XDA story, adding: “I sadly agree. #copilot has crashed and burned. I thought with the ridiculous #Recall recall that Copilot might make an emergency landing. Nope. The social media mob and tech blog reactions shouldn’t sway software development–nor #apple cozying #openai”.

That’s the problem, I suspect. Some Microsoft decision maker(s) got caught up in the online social mob’s privacy-and-security ire about flagship feature Recall. What’s good for Apple isn’t allowed by Microsoft, eh? Speaking of rotten fruit, OpenAI foreshadowed what was coming by exclusively releasing an app for iOS ahead of WWDC (Apple’s developer conference). But the big cozy MacOS integration really turned heads; how many were with Windows’ makers?

Software development isn’t a democracy. Early adopter feedback is absolutely valuable. But outsiders are pests—gnats buzzing about annoyingly. Go to any tech event and count the number of blogger or journalist attendees using iPhones and Macs. Microsoft decisionmakers shouldn’t stupidly be swayed by biased influencers.

Nor should Apple products drive Microsoft development decisions. What made Copilot+ PCs so special on launch day was how they would be different, and pack more meaningful benefits, than computers running AMD or Intel microprocessors. Tech news gatherers obsessively compared to M1, M2, or M3 Macs because of somewhat similar ARM-based architecture. Of course, they ran benchmark comparisons up the wazoo.

But those comparisons are meaningless. Copilot+ promised something special and innovative. No amount of blah, blah, blah speculation about Apple doing artificial intelligence better—by way of platform integration—should be reason for Microsoft to take a high-flying opportunity and crash land it. Copilot could have flown Windows to supersonic speeds. Instead, passengers will rush to Apple Intelligence, because that’s mainly what they will hear, read, and see about over the next couple of months.

How tragic.

The Featured Image is a screenshot from a Microsoft video promoting CoPilot+ PCs.