If you were already wary about ditching Windows 10, Microsoft just made things worse

copilot plus pc pictured with a colourful background and windows 11 wallpaper

Microsoft has refreshed the default wallpaper and introduced a slew of new AI features for Windows 11-powered devices that qualify for the new Copilot+ PC criteria

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 23/05/2024

- 17:30

Updated: 23/05/2024

- 17:30

There are now first- and second-class citizens in Windows 11

If you missed the memo, there's a little over 16 months before Microsoft pulls the plug on its beloved Windows 10.

From October 14, 2025 onwards, the US company will no longer issue new bug fixes or security patches for the popular operating system — leaving millions of unprotected PC owners at the mercy of malware and hackers. There are only two ways to avoid this free-for-all: pay an annual fee to Microsoft for an extra few years of critical bug fixes, or upgrade to Windows 11.

Despite the high stakes, the number of people who rely on Windows 10 every day has increased in recent weeks. That was already a pretty damning indictment of Windows 11, but believe it or not, Microsoft may have actually made things worse in the last 48 hours.

Introducing Copilot+ PCs 

That's because Microsoft held an event at the beginning of the week to unveil a brand-new class of Windows 11 devices, dubbed Copilot+ PCs, that benefit from a slew of exclusive features. It published slick marketing videos highlighting the benefits of these features, all powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), and called these devices "the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built".

"Copilot+ PCs will enable you to do things you can’t on any other PC," purred Yusuf Mehdi, Consumer Chief Marketing Officer for Microsoft.

Sounds exciting, so what's the issue?

The arrival of Copilot+ PCs splits Windows 11 users into two camps — those with all of the features who can "do things you can’t on any other PC" and those with the basic installation. Interestingly, there was a spate of rumours at the end of last year that we'd see Microsoft announce Windows 12 sometime this summer, a plan that sources within the company later quashed.

Many of the features that were initially rumoured to be exclusive for Windows 12 were announced this week as part of the Copilot+ PC initiative. While these devices ostensibly run Windows 11, you'll need to upgrade your current laptop or desktop PC to unlock the same features as the Copilot+ PCs.

That's because Microsoft has announced strict new minimum requirements for its Copilot+ PCs, including a minimum of 16GB of RAM, at least 256GB of SSD storage, and a system-on-a-chip with a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) to handle on-device AI calculations.

Windows 11 already arrived with several immovable system requirements, something experts predict could send 240 million PCs to landfill.

These PCs were bought running Windows 10 out-of-the-box, but don't meet the criteria to upgrade to Windows 11. And with the advent of Copilot+ PCs, this problem is likely to get even worse.

If you're still using Windows 10 and want to upgrade ahead of the end-of-support deadline, it's possible that your PC meets the requirements to upgrade to Windows 11 free of charge. Microsoft has confirmed that it will continue to issue patches for vulnerabilities, new features, and bug fixes for Windows 11 until at least October 10, 2023 at no cost — so your personal data will be shielded from criminals for the foreseeable future.

But that device won't benefit from the latest advances from Microsoft. Those will be reserved for Copilot+ PCs.

With the dust still settling from the announcement this week, there doesn't seem to be a clear path to upgrade an existing machine to meet the Copilot+ PC criteria. Instead, you'll need to upgrade to one of these all-new devices, like the newly-announced Surface Laptop 7th Edition, Surface Pro, Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge, ASUS Vivobook S 15, and others. With prices starting from £1,049 ...that's not a cheap upgrade.

If you've recently bought a new Windows 11 laptop in anticipation of the upcoming end-of-support deadline for Windows 10, that's an (expensive) kick in the teeth. And for the millions of PC owners who were unsure about switching to Microsoft's most recent operating system — creating first- and second-class citizens within the Windows 11 ecosystem is unlikely to assuage those fears.

That could push wary Windows 10 fans into the arms of Google, which is offering a free upgrade to its Chrome-based operating system and years of security updates. It's also pledged to support all of the Windows 10 devices that don't meet the basic criteria for Windows 11 and would otherwise become expensive paperweights.

For now, the list of features specific to Copilot+ PCs is a little limited: Recall lets you search back through time to find documents, emails, and webpages that you had on-screen at any point within the last month; Cocreator in Paint uses AI to enhance your artwork with deep learning models; Restyle Image is a new application that combines AI image generation with traditional editing tools to boost your photo collection; Live Captions will translation video calls and YouTube videos from over 40 languages into English in real-time with no internet connection needed.

But that list will only grow in the next 16 months before Windows 10 goes the way of Windows XP and Vista.

As Chief Marketing Officer Yusuf Mehdi promises: "This first wave of Copilot+ PCs is just the beginning."

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