Clippy was the worst. The little Office assistant would obnoxiously appear at the side of your screen while you were writing a Word document and have the gall to ask to help you out. Get a life, mate. Thankfully, Microsoft murdered Clippy in cold blood early on in the new Millennium.
Since then we’ve had Clippy unleashed on the desktop, known as Cortana, Microsoft’s attempt at a smarter assistant, and I loathed that nearly as much. At least you could mostly disable it. And even though that brand has largely been swept under the rug now, it’s seemingly being replaced by a new assistant, and this one is powered by AI.
Microsoft has announced a new thing called Windows Copilot, an AI assistant that lives on the desktop and will answer questions about Windows features and settings, suggest playlists, summarise documents, and even send people things in Teams. In Microsoft’s teaser, it’s seen to pop out from the right side of the screen, inviting users to “ask me anything…”
Windows Copilot will integrate Bing Chat, powered by ChatGPT, and ChatGPT itself, which is a double dose of natural language processing.
There’s clearly an accessibility use for this new personal assistant and similar technologies, and if it makes surfing the desktop easier or faster for some, fantastic. The video teaser from Microsoft demonstrating the new feature, arriving from June, actually makes it look pretty decent—if you’re into that sort of smart functionality. I definitely don’t want an AI recommending me music, and already use the Windows search bar to quickly find apps, but each to their own.
But you just know Microsoft is going to aggressively push this new AI assistant onto the desktop, and that’s not what worries me most.
If this ever pops-up in my Notifications, it’ll become the new Clippy.
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If there’s a little guy on screen that’s asking me if I need help, and its responses are filled to the brim with corporate catchphrases and easy going language, like ‘Hey, want me to Bing search that for you?’, or ‘No worries, did you know you can troubleshoot your network connectivity problems in Settings’, I’m going to lose it.
Call me a grouch, and that’s probably fair, but I’ve not loved Microsoft’s approach to funnelling me into using its own search engine, browsers, and services just because I’m using its OS. And I expect a more heavy-handed approach from the company as it integrates deeper AI functionality into the desktop. At least this new Copilot supports third-party plugins, which may be our saving grace.
For now it appears we’re safe from AI-powered pop-ups—the Copilot trailer shows the icon as an app shortcut in the Taskbar—but for how long?
If for some unknown reason you actually wish to have AI-powered Clippy on your desktop, there is actually an app for that. Good luck.
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