Microsoft Changes PC Keyboard for First Time in 30 Years

Published on January 4, 2024

Microsoft has unveiled a groundbreaking shift in its keyboard technology, marking the most significant alteration in over three decades by introducing an artificial intelligence (AI) key. This innovative key is set to provide users with seamless access to Copilot, Microsoft’s cutting-edge AI tool, exclusively on their new Windows 11 PCs.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s substantial investments in OpenAI, the driving force behind Copilot’s AI capabilities, have played a pivotal role in this development. The integration of AI has also been successfully implemented across other Microsoft products, including Microsoft 365 and Bing Search, during the course of 2023.

In a blog post heralding this transformation, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, likened this development to the iconic introduction of the Windows key nearly three decades ago. He described it as a “transformative” moment and emphasized how it would “simplify” and “amplify” the user experience.

While Apple has incorporated a Siri button or option on its touch bar in Macbooks for several years, Microsoft’s Copilot stands out for its multifaceted utility, aiding users with tasks such as searching, composing emails, and generating images.

The new keyboards featuring the Copilot key are slated for release on new products starting in February. Microsoft plans to showcase some of these products at the upcoming CES tech event, scheduled to kick off next week in Las Vegas.

The integration of Copilot into Office 365 products like Word, PowerPoint, and Teams has empowered users to summarize meetings, compose emails, and craft presentations with ease. Furthermore, Copilot has been seamlessly integrated into the Bing search engine.

Professor John Tucker, a computer scientist at the University of Swansea, sees the introduction of the Copilot key as a “natural step” in Microsoft’s evolution. While Windows 11 users can currently access Copilot by pressing the Windows key + C, he believes that the addition of the dedicated key underscores the value Microsoft places on this feature and its potential to enhance user engagement across their product range. However, he also noted, “Of course, the fact that the keyboard has remained largely unchanged for 30 years—since 1994—is not something to be celebrated.”

In contrast, Google, as the world’s dominant search engine, boasts its own AI system named Bard. However, it was OpenAI, Microsoft’s partner, that introduced the formidable AI tool ChatGPT in 2022, prompting competitors to rush out their own versions. Copilot, in particular, is built upon OpenAI’s GPT-4 large language model.

Recent turbulence in Microsoft’s boardroom has led the UK’s competition watchdog to scrutinize the company’s relationship with OpenAI, given the increasingly close ties between the two firms.

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