Windows 11's big feature update in September included a long list of minor changes, as well as the Copilot AI assistant; This update followed Windows 11 23H2 in late October, which reset the operating system's schedule for technical support and security updates but didn't add much on its own. But Windows development never stops these days, and this month's Insider Preview builds showed us some of the things that could end up in the stable version of the operating system in the next couple of months.
One of the major additions, introduced in the Dev Channel release on January 11 and the Beta Channel created today, is support for 80Gbps USB 4 ports. These speeds are part of the USB4 version 2.0 specification — named USB-IF Exemplar for clarity and consistency — published in 2022. Full speeds of 80 Gbps are still rare and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but Microsoft says Razer will include Blade 18 and a handful of other PCs with Intel's 14th generation HX series laptop processors. We expect the new speeds to spread slowly and mostly to edge systems over the next few months and years.
Another addition to The Dev channel was created on January 11th It is a change in how Copilot's generative AI assistant works. Typically, Copilot is launched by the user manually, either by clicking the icon on the taskbar, pressing the Win+C key combination, or (on some newer computers) using a dedicated Copilot button on the keyboard. In recent Dev Channel builds, the Copilot window will automatically open on certain computers once you log in to Windows, becoming part of your virtual desktop unless you turn it off in Settings.
The Copilot panel will only open by default on displays that meet minimum size and resolution requirements, things that Windows already detects and takes into account when setting your computer's default zoom and showing available Snap Layouts, among other things. Microsoft says it's testing the feature on displays that are 27 inches or larger and have 1,920 horizontal pixels or more (for most displays, this means a minimum resolution of 1,080 pixels). For non-Copilot computers, including those not signed in to a Microsoft account, the feature will remain absent.
Other additions to the Dev Channel releases this month include Ease Snipping tool for editing Android screenshots From phones paired with your PC, custom user-created voice commands, the ability to share URLs directly with services like WhatsApp and Gmail from the Windows Share window, a new weather widget for the Windows lock screen, and app install notifications from the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft hasn't published any of the changes it's made to its Canary Channel builds Since January 4th– This is typical because it changes faster, and tested features are more likely to be removed or modified significantly before they are released to the public. Most of the highlights from this announcement have since made it to other channels, but there are a few things worth noting. First, there's a new power-saving taskbar icon for battery-less desktops, making it easier to know when the feature is on without causing any confusion. The venerable WordPad app, which was originally slated for deletion in September, has also been removed from these releases and cannot be reinstalled.
Microsoft does not release Windows feature updates with a set frequency beyond its commitment to deliver an update with a new version number once a year in the fall. The first major batch of Windows 11 additions rolled out last year at the end of February, so it might make sense to launch the next batch of features in late winter or early spring.
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