Microsoft's Windows 11 AI love-in looks set to continue – here are 3 big risks it needs to avoid

It looks like Microsoft is doubling down on adding artificial intelligence features to Windows 11, with the newly released schedule for Microsoft’s Build 2024 suggesting that many of the talks and presentations will focus on AI and how it can shape the future of computing.

As Windows Central reports, Build 2024, which runs from May 21 to 23, will feature a session called “Designing for a brand new Windows AI feature” which will highlight “brand-new features that allow users deeper interaction with their digital lives on Windows through advance[d] AI features.”

Some publications, such as Windows Latest, suggest that this new AI feature could be the rumored AI Explorer feature. The event will be hosted by Rebecca Del Rio and Adrienne Pauley, both of whom have previously worked on AI projects at Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Build events are primarily aimed at developers and showcase new features and tools that will help them create cutting-edge apps. However, much like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Microsoft Build is often of interest to non-developers as well, as it gives us an insight into what the future holds for Windows 11 (or in WWDC’s case, what’s coming to macOS and iOS).

Judging by the released Build 2024 schedule, it looks like the future of Windows 11 will feature AI – a lot of it. Out of 245 sessions, 79 have the topic of ‘AI Development’ or ‘Copilot’ (Microsoft’s AI-powered assistant), and even sessions such as "Introducing the Next Generation of Windows on Arm" that may not initially seem to be focussed on AI will likely have some references. Arm hardware, which is an alternative to AMD and Intel, is getting improved AI support thanks to NPUs (neural processing units).

The fact that Microsoft is continuing to push AI may not be a surprise to many people – the past few months have seen the company adding all sorts of AI features to various parts of Windows 11, and Build 2024 will be a good chance to prove that it’s still committed to its AI push. However, there are three big risks that Microsoft needs to avoid if it wants to achieve its vision.

The three big risks

1. Failing to show why AI in Windows 11 is worth it

This is perhaps the biggest risk facing Microsoft. While the company has been adding AI to all parts of Windows 11, I really don’t think the company has shown why I should use these new features.

Copilot, Microsoft’s main AI tool, is now integrated into Windows 11, and is undoubtedly very powerful. However, since Microsoft added it to Windows 11, I’ve used it perhaps two times – once to see how it worked, and a second time to generate an image. Since then, I haven't used it – and it’s not because I distrust AI, as I believe it has enormous and exciting potential.

It’s because Microsoft hasn’t given me a reason to use it. I simply do not know how it could make my day-to-day life easier. Regular tasks I perform on my PC could be improved with some AI help, but I can’t see how right now.

If Microsoft wants to reap the rewards of all the energy and effort it’s been putting into AI, it needs to show its users why we should be as excited as it is about this brave new world. If it doesn’t, then Copilot, and Windows 11’s other AI tools, could soon be forgotten.

2. Forcing people to use it

Another risk for Microsoft is being too overbearing when it comes to encouraging users to try out the new AI tools. As with my first point, Microsoft must show how AI can improve our lives, not just tell us – and force us to try it out.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has a habit of being rather heavy-handed when it comes to trying to get people to use its software and services. Just look at how it tries to get people to stop downloading the Chrome web browser and use Edge instead, or the increasingly invasive pop-ups in Windows 10 that attempt to convince people to upgrade.

Microsoft has already shown a worrying tendency to do the same with Copilot. Earlier this week we reported on the company changing a fundamental touch gesture in Windows 11 to bring up Copilot, and there are numerous rumors that Microsoft could load Copilot and display it on your desktop when you start Windows 11.

Rather than getting more people to try out AI tools, this aggressive behavior could actually put more people off.

Instead, Microsoft should be confident enough in Copilot to allow users to discover it themselves – while highlighting its virtues without interrupting people while they use Windows 11. And, if a user decides Copilot isn’t for them, Microsoft needs to accept their decision, rather than continuing to nag people in the vain hope that they may change their minds.

3. Losing faith too easily

While Microsoft is going all-in on AI at the moment, we’ve been here before, where Microsoft has identified a new flavor of the month, pushed it on its users, and then given up if it’s not an immediate success.

Just look at Cortana – Microsoft’s previous virtual assistant. It came at a time when its rivals were seeing a lot of success with voice assistants like Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

Microsoft’s passion meant Cortana was soon tightly integrated into Windows 10 and Windows 11. It had its own taskbar icon and would pop up unbidden when you first set up your new PC. Despite Microsoft’s fervor, it never convinced enough users that Cortana could help improve their lives, and so it ended up being at best an easily forgotten failure, and at worst a useless annoyance. Sound familiar?

Copilot certainly risks falling into the same trap – and the problem is that Microsoft has a reputation for dropping products that fail to take off. Ask any owner of a Microsoft Phone or Zune media player. Or, just look at what ultimately happened to Cortana: the virtual assistant that was once so entwined in Windows that it would pop up as soon as you turned on your new device was slowly hidden away… until it was finally axed and replaced with Copilot.

To avoid this, Microsoft needs to learn from the mistakes it made with Cortana – especially when it comes to convincing its users that Copilot can make a positive impact on their lives. It also needs to have faith that even if Copilot isn’t an immediate hit,  it should continue to invest and improve it, rather than killing it off quickly and moving on to the next thing.

From what I’ve seen and heard from Microsoft, it seems fully committed to AI and Copilot – for now. However, if it doesn’t find a way to prove that AI is the future of Windows, we may see history repeat itself.

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