Will the Microsoft AI key be as revolutionary as it hopes?

  • Microsoft introduces an AI-focused Copilot key and upgrades SwiftKey, marking a new chapter in AI-driven computing.
  • Microsoft debuts the first major keyboard innovation in 30 years with the Windows Copilot key, revolutionizing AI in computing.
  • With the new Copilot key and SwiftKey enhancements, Microsoft is leading the charge in the evolving AI technology landscape.

Microsoft is reinforcing its AI focus by launching a novel keyboard key for Windows Copilot. Starting in February, this update, the first in nearly three decades for the Windows PC keyboard, will be incorporated into Microsoft’s OEM partners’ laptops and desktop keyboards.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft CVP and consumer chief marketing officer, said the Copilot key activates Copilot, enabling web searches, accessing personal content, and utilizing general PC features through its AI capabilities. Copilot aims to be an accessible smart assistant.

Microsoft hasn’t named specific partners for the Copilot key launch but anticipates that desktops and laptops featuring this technology will be revealed soon. This innovation will be showcased at CES 2024, beginning January 9.

By persuading hardware partners to integrate a Copilot key into their products, Microsoft is betting big on generative AI’s role in the future of computing. The last significant keyboard addition by Microsoft was the Windows key in 1994.

Microsoft’s AI journey: from Bing chatbot to Copilot for Microsoft 365

Throughout 2023, Microsoft made several AI-related announcements, from introducing its Bing chatbot and Edge browser to launching Copilot for Microsoft 365. CEO Satya Nadella believes AI advancements will significantly influence all aspects of the company’s offering.

Leading semiconductor companies are joining the AI trend. AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm have each introduced AI PC chips with dedicated neural processors for AI-specific tasks, including running generative AI applications.

The real impact of these chips on consumers remains uncertain. Even Intel is unsure about the potential applications developers might create utilizing neural processors.

This surge in AI PC technology coincides with an anticipated growth in the PC market, the first significant growth since 2021, according to Goldman Sachs Equity Research analyst Michael Ng.

He predicts the growth will be fueled by aging pandemic-era devices and the arrival of new AI-capable PCs in 2024, marking a significant shift in personal computing since the advent of smartphones and tablets.

PC sales are expected to rebound after a decline following a pandemic-induced surge. As older systems become obsolete, the demand for new, AI-equipped PCs will likely rise, benefiting companies like Microsoft, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm.

As Microsoft continues to pioneer AI-driven computing with its innovative Copilot key, their commitment to AI extends beyond hardware enhancements. This strategic direction is further exemplified in their software developments, particularly in mobile and tablet computing. The recent improvements to Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard are a testament to this comprehensive approach. By integrating advanced AI features into SwiftKey, Microsoft enriches user experience across different devices and demonstrates how AI can seamlessly enhance hardware and software solutions in the tech industry.

Beyond hardware: Microsoft’s AI ambitions in software development

Microsoft has enhanced its SwiftKey keyboard with a fresh set of AI-enabled features, now available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. These features, aimed at enriching text and image creation from the keyboard, are detailed in a Bing blog post by Divya Kumar, Microsoft GM for global search & AI.

SwiftKey, a third-party keyboard alternative, offers additional functionality compared to standard virtual keyboards. It’s available for download on the App Store and Google Play for those interested in trying it out.

For iPhone or iPad users, after downloading SwiftKey, navigate to Settings, select SwiftKey, then Keyboards, and enable both SwiftKey and Allow Full Access. To use it, open a text app like Messages or Mail, start a new message, and switch to SwiftKey via the globe icon.

Android users should open SwiftKey post-installation, enable SwiftKey on the welcome screen, choose it as the input method, and complete the setup by signing in with a Microsoft account.

A standout new AI feature for SwiftKey is the integration of Microsoft’s Bing AI image generator, which is currently exclusive to Android. Users can access this feature from the Bing toolbar, create an image description, and send the generated image directly from the keyboard.

SwiftKey offers additional functionality compared to standard virtual keyboards. (Source – X)

Another innovative addition is AI camera lenses, powered by Microsoft’s collaboration with Snap. Offering over 250 tools and filters, users can create photos, videos, and GIFs with various effects on iOS and Android devices.

To utilize these camera features, open a text app, select the camera option from SwiftKey, and record photos or GIFs. Users can enhance these with text and effects before saving and sharing.

Android users also have access to an AI stickers feature, allowing the creation of personalized stickers from photos. This feature is accessed through the stickers option in SwiftKey.

Lastly, SwiftKey now includes an Editor feature as a virtual proofreader for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Users can highlight text and use the Bing-powered Editor for suggestions and corrections.

These features signify Microsoft’s commitment to incorporating AI into its range of products. Microsoft integrated the Bing AI chatbot into SwiftKey for iOS/iPadOS and Android in April, further emphasizing this commitment. The chatbot, mirroring the functionality of the Bing AI website and app, offers assistance with searches, text rewriting, and handling requests through SwiftKey.

Microsoft’s strategic vision for AI in technology

As the tech world stands on the brink of this new era, companies like Microsoft are at the forefront, shaping the future of AI in computing. Integrating AI into products like the Windows Copilot key and the SwiftKey keyboard is not just about enhancing individual user experiences. It reflects a strategic vision where AI is a foundational element in the evolution of personal computing, influencing everything from how we interact with our devices to the underlying hardware that powers them.

In conclusion, the rollout of AI-enhanced features in SwiftKey and the introduction of the Copilot key are more than just product updates. They represent Microsoft’s broader strategy to lead the AI revolution in technology. With the anticipated PC market growth driven by the demand for AI-equipped systems, companies like Microsoft and their semiconductor partners are well-positioned to benefit from this trend. Their commitment to integrating AI across their product range signifies not just an adaptation to the changing market demands but a proactive shaping of the future of technology.