Microsoft hosted an event recently to highlight the future features of Windows 11.
Given we are increasingly at risk of cyber warfare, the most important upgrade to Windows 11 is its security focus tied to its hardware and the new, highly protected Secure Core PCs that are coming to market, using Microsoft’s Pluton Security Processor.
The company also spoke to major changes in deployment and management tools and a level of integration between its cloud effort, Windows 365, and Windows 11 — of which this is only the first, big step. As expected, they also talked about optimizing the platform for hybrid work.
What I want to talk about has to do with something that has a far greater implication for software in general going forward: the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology on the user interface.
Let’s talk about that this:
The historic problem with tools
The one part of computing that isn’t revolutionary is the need to adapt us to using the tool. You must learn how to drive a vehicle, and because the user interfaces in cars vary a lot even within automotive lines, that learning seems never ending. You must learn how to use every tool, machine, and computer.
I may have driven my first tractor at age five, but given I couldn’t reach the pedals, my capabilities were severely limited until I got older. You don’t have to learn to drive an AI-driven tractor, because it drives itself, but you’ll still have to learn how to direct one. That’s likely a steep learning curve for most farmers, with occasional alerts that the tractor has escaped due to poor programming.
With AI, there was always the potential promise of a class of tools that instead of forcing you to learn them, they would learn how to work with you. You know what you want to do. All the AI must do is understand what you mean and then execute. Of course, anyone who is in a relationship knows that knowing what someone wants isn’t all that simple. But unlike people, AIs can instantly learn from each other, and once one AI gets how to work with you, every AI that can accept the related inference would be able to do so as well.
Windows 11 interface AI
Microsoft spoke to Windows’ increasing ability to learn how you work and reconfigure itself automatically to enhance that work. We all do things a little differently. By learning what methods make you unique, future updates of Windows will increasingly apply AI to creating a better user experience.
The entire concept is potentially revolutionary. We could each end up with our own version of Windows. And given how Microsoft is integrating its device-focused version with its cloud version, these customizations should move from PC to PC and from PC to the cloud. As is often the case with Microsoft, I expect this initiative to make PCs more responsive to individual requirements, and it will advance across Microsoft’s portfolio and improve Office.
This was the long-term promise of AI and robotics: eventually, rather than us effectively serving the computers, the computers would grow to understand and learn how to better work with us. The result would be greater productivity, less annoyance with the technology, and eventually, systems that are more like work partners than tools.
I’ve personally been waiting for this pivot since I was a kid and read books and watched movies (like “Forbidden Planet”), where technology was less of a burden and could become an actual companion and partner.
While initially this AI influence will be relatively minor, once on this path, I expect Microsoft will excel at this technology. The result could be truly game changing.
AI grows up
There are two seemingly parallel paths for robotics and AI. One that is troubling is the replacement of human workers. The other far more attractive path is using the technology to enhance and help humans, much like what is being considered in South Korea’s automated city of tomorrow.
I’ve been covering Windows since 1994, and I’m more excited about the idea of using AI to improve our relationship with our PCs than I was about Windows 95. And I was really excited about Windows 95. The goal to create a product that adapts to you should create greater product loyalty and satisfaction and make for a level of improvement in this OS we have never seen before. But the real benefit is as an example of what should be done that could spread across the growing field of AIs and finally get them to focus more on our needs than on acquiring our money.
In short, I think that this move by Microsoft is a potential game changer across technology and a showcase of the best use of AI: to make our lives and interactions with technology infinitely better. And I should add that I think Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer for Windows and devices, and his team are doing an impressive job with the product.