Microsoft dumps Windows 11 Recall feature from Copilot+ PCs at launch – an embarrassing turn of events, but ultimately for the best

In a very surprising move – albeit the right one, in our books – Microsoft has pulled the rug on its big Recall feature, so it now won’t launch as planned with Copliot+ PCs.

Microsoft just issued an update on Recall (hat tip to Tom’s Hardware) as follows: “Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks.

“Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon.”

To recap briefly, Recall is the feature which constantly takes screenshots of the activity on the host PC, allowing the user to search these leveraging AI (Copilot), offering an undoubtedly powerfully ramped up search experience.

But there have been issues aplenty raised around Recall before its (now canceled) launch, and much controversy stirred by those who have fudged their Windows 11 installation to enable and test the feature.

So, as noted in Microsoft’s statement, the expectation was very much that Recall would be live next week, when Copilot+ PCs finally emerge blinking in the sunlight, but that will no longer be the case.

Instead, Microsoft is going to have the Recall preview made available to testers in early builds of Windows 11 in the “coming weeks,” and there’s the second major admission here. That makes it sound like testers won’t be getting the feature to play with next week, let alone buyers of Copilot+ PCs, and it may be some weeks before it arrives in whatever preview channel Microsoft deploys Recall.

In short, Microsoft isn’t sure whether Recall will even be ready for testing any time soon.

Analysis: A major setback, but still the right decision

This has all been a bit of a fiasco, frankly. Microsoft announced Recall with a big fanfare for Copilot+ PCs, then proceeded to batten down the hatches as flak and doubts were fired at the feature left, right, and center. Defensiveness and evasion gave way to big changes being implemented for Recall to shore up security in the light of all the negative feedback, and also ensuring it’s turned off by default (something we argued strongly for).

Now, even after that, it’s been canned for the time being, at least for Copilot+ PCs. It’s not a good look, is it? It feels like Microsoft has been taken aback by all the salvoes fired at Recall by security researchers, rushed to implement some hefty changes, realized that there isn’t time to do all this properly – Copilot+ PCs are almost upon us – so put the full launch on ice to go back to testing.

There’s no doubting that this will be damaging to Copilot+ PCs to some extent. These are AI PCs, after all, and Windows 11’s key feature for them was Recall – there is other AI functionality for these devices, but nothing on the same scale. Just look at Dell’s Copilot+ PC web page, and how it’s built around Recall – it’s the key piece of the AI puzzle, and now it’s missing.

However, we’re glad Microsoft has taken the PR hit here, as it were, and pulled Recall, rather than putting its head down and trying to forge through with the feature. That would have proved even more damaging, most likely, so we understand, and approve of this move in the end.

Honestly, though, we don’t think Recall – given that it’s a sensitive and tricky piece of AI functionality with all those privacy and security aspects – should be pushed out to finished versions of Windows as a ‘preview’ at all. This should be done, dusted, tight and secure, before leaving testing – shouldn’t it?

Speaking of tight and secure, this is especially bad timing for Microsoft, given that Apple Intelligence was just unveiled, with the rival AI offering looking super-sharp on the privacy front, while Copilot appears to be stumbling about from blunder to blunder for the moment. Again, it’s not a good look, made much worse by Apple’s confident and professional revelation of its AI rival for Macs and iDevices (though we should note, we need to see Apple’s promises in action, not just words, before we get carried away with any comparisons).

Still, awkward days for Microsoft, but we’re hoping the company can now take the time to get things right with Recall. In fact, we’d argue it must take the time to do so, or risk blemishes on the Copilot brand that’ll quite probably cause lasting damage in terms of public perception.

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