Microsoft will roll out on Tuesday an update to Windows 11 that puts its new AI-powered Bing capabilities front and center on its taskbar, one of the operating system’s most widely used features, in the latest sign the company is doubling down on the buzzy technology despite some recent controversy.
With the update, the AI tool will be accessible from the Windows search box, which allows users to directly access files, settings and perform web queries. The search bar has more than half a billion users every month, according to the company, making it prime real estate for eventually exposing more users to the new feature. (A preview version of the AI tool remains available on a limited basis.)
Earlier this month, Microsoft said it was looking for ways to rein in Bing’s AI chatbot after users highlighted responses that ranged from inaccurate to emotionally reactive. Despite such early hiccups, the company told CNN “as a whole, we are feeling very good about the product experience for people” and continues to learn from feedback.
“AI itself is reinventing right now … and it’s just the beginning,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, told CNN ahead of Tuesday’s launch. He likened the AI changes coming to the PC to how the keyboard and mouse changed the way we interact with computers.
However, only users of the new Bing preview will have access to its additional AI capabilities out of the gate. The company will continue to add users to the preview who have signed up for the new Bing waitlist. “We want to thoughtfully and responsibly scale it up,” Panay said.
Last year, Microsoft unveiled several AI-powered Windows 11 features, such as quieting background noise like lawnmowers and baby cries on video calls and automatic framing so the camera follows the speaker’s movements. It also automated some of its accessibility tools, such as live video captions.
Its efforts around AI have only grown. Earlier this year, Microsoft confirmed it is making a “multibillion dollar” investment in OpenAI, the company behind the viral AI chatbot tool ChatGPT. Microsoft launched its AI chatbot tool in early February; one million people have since tried it out in 169 countries, according to Microsoft. The company has since expanded it to the Bing and Edge browser mobile apps and Skype.
But adding it to the Windows’ search bar is a high vote of confidence from the company and reflects its greater effort to “go all-in on AI,” according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moore Insights and Strategy.
The Bing integration is just one of several notable updates coming to Windows 11. Microsoft is also taking steps to improve the Windows experience for Apple and Samsung users.
Apple users will now be able to receive iOS alerts and messages directly on their Windows 11 devices, potentially chipping away at Apple’s closed ecosystem. (Android users have been able to receive messages on Windows devices since 2018.) The new iOS support does not, however, work with replying to group iMessages or sending media such as photos and videos in messages.
Microsoft said its move to add iOS messages to PCs was not done directly in partnership with Apple; instead it’s done via Bluetooth technology. Moorhead said Apple “has been very reticent to open up its iMessage APIs to vendors like Microsoft, which could improve the Windows experience.”
“This is what customers need and want, so we went and designed it to make sure it was in there for our users on the Microsoft side,” Panay said. “I know our customers need their iPhones to work on their PC, and I [want] to do everything I can to help them do that.”
For Samsung device users, Microsoft is making it easier to activate their phone’s personal hotspot with a single click from within the Wi-Fi network list on their PC. It’s also adding a Recent Websites feature that allows users to transfer their browser sessions from their smartphone to their Windows PC.