First Big Change to Windows Keyboards in 30 Years


Microsoft intends to make 2024 "the year of the AI PC," and as a first step toward that goal, it is significantly altering the keyboard on upcoming laptops and PCs. A new Copilot key that enables instant access to Microsoft's AI-powered Windows Copilot experience with a single keystroke will be included in a range of new PCs and laptops from Microsoft's partners.

For Windows PC keyboard layouts, the Copilot key is the first significant alteration in almost thirty years. "We added the Windows key to the PC keyboard almost 30 years ago, allowing people to interact with Windows anywhere in the world," explains Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's executive vice president and chief marketing officer for consumers. "We see this as another pivotal point in our relationship with Windows, as Copilot serves as the gateway to the PC AI space."

The menu key, also known as the application key, was first introduced decades ago together with the Windows key. This new Copilot key will take its place. On most keyboards, it will be positioned next to the alt key on the right, though the exact location varies depending on the OEM and the market. It's in the same location as Microsoft's 2019 keyboard addition of an Office key. The Copilot key only activates Windows Copilot, an inbuilt chatbot in Windows 11 that functions similarly to ChatGPT and may respond to questions and even start activities.

The Copilot key will start Windows Search if Windows Copilot isn't yet available in your country. Today, the Copilot key is only a start key; the current Windows key opens the Start menu and may be paired with several other keys to create shortcuts to Windows features and functions. Microsoft hasn’t said yet whether the new Copilot key could be used with other keys in the future.

Microsoft seems to have integrated Copilot into everything in 2023, and this new Copilot key is a part of the larger AI-driven Windows updates that are scheduled for 2024. "With AI being seamlessly integrated into Windows from the system to the silicon to the hardware, this new year will usher in a significant shift toward a more personal and intelligent computing future," says Mehdi. "This will make 2024 the year of the AI PC, not only simplifying but also amplifying people's computing experience."

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