We’re getting closer to the next generation of Windows, which most people expect will be Windows 12, and during Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite event, which took place this week, we got a look at some potential Windows 12 features.
Qualcomm, a company that specializes in wireless semiconductors, software and services, has unveiled a flashy new processor chip, the Snapdragon X Elite, and made some bold claims. This chip is said to give a big boost to Windows on ARM devices and will play a crucial role in the functionality of the next generation of Windows devices.
During the event, Qualcomm shared the stage with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and CVP (Corporate Vice President) Pavan Davuluri, to discuss the Snapdragon X Elite processor and the topic of NPUs (Neural Processing Units) in the context of future Windows machines.
The discussion was more about broad strokes and less about details, as there were no demonstrations of the new hardware or even explicit mentions of “Windows 12,” but we did learn about some features in the pipeline, which many people thought were hints at what the next version of Windows might look like.
What AI will look like in future Windows versions
As Windows Central reportsNadella first described his (and Microsoft’s) vision on the way AI is shaping computing. Nadella thinks generative AI (gen AI, as he called it) could be as important as smartphones and mobile computing (something he previously stated at the Envision event we attended last week), the rise of cloud computing, the the internet and the personal computer are in the recent past. He thinks generation AI will influence human-computer interaction, potentially making it more intuitive and friendly to us and making it easier to change human behavior.
According to Nadella, generation AI will transform what operating systems (OSs) are as we know them, what a user interface (UI) looks like, how we interact with applications on devices, and more. UI changes are signs of bigger, more fundamental changes in general, and Nadella calls this “a big UI change.”
Nadella then discussed Microsoft’s new reasoning engine, a system that “reasons” and mimics our own thought process. He gave the example of Microsoft’s Github Copilot, an AI coding assistant, which allows you to brainstorm and create ideas. The overhaul of user interfaces and a modern reasoning engine will mean that, as Nadella puts it, “all categories of software are changeable.”
The big bet on hybrid computers from Microsoft
Nadella then highlighted hybrid computing, which Windows Central notes is an ongoing topic of discussion about what next generations of operating systems like Windows 12s could look like, and is another key area of development for Microsoft. According to Nadella, Microsoft’s vision includes hybrid computing being crucial for improving computing capacity for low-power or older devices, by processing some things locally on the device and using the cloud for other things.
This is apparently a key area of innovation that leverages the new generation of high-performance NPUs to simultaneously maximize the potential of on-premises and cloud computing. A hybrid approach to computing is also important because the scale of some AI processes and functions requires more processing power than a standard PC can handle. Hybrid computing essentially expands the scale of what’s possible from your PC, especially when it comes to AI, although it does mean you’ll need an internet connection.
This is how Microsoft’s new brainchild, the AI assistant Windows Copilot, functions. Many of the functions it performs are done in the cloud, and its functionality is a mix of on-device and cloud. Microsoft is also developing a new system architecture to make all this possible, allowing developers to create what Microsoft calls “hybrid apps.” Microsoft is looking to components like the Snapdragon X Elite chip to make this a reality.
High stakes and potentially high rewards for Windows Copilot
Nadella calls Windows Copilot a “great experience,” so Microsoft is clearly betting big on it. It wants it to be the next Start button, which is certainly bold – that iconic element of Windows had a huge and lasting impact when it debuted in Windows 95. Nadella claims you don’t even have to give it any direction or instruction – you can describe your intention and Copilot will deliver what you need. It can support our workflows and activities such as learning, creating, queries and more.
At this point, you should go to Start, find the application you want or navigate through your file explorer to find a specific file, and then continue with your work. With generative AI, the idea is for you to express your intention (your wish, if you wish) and for your wish to become a reality, with Copilot providing you with everything you need.
We’ve already seen Microsoft put a lot of effort into Copilot, showing us examples of the things it can do. If you try Copilot for yourself, you’ll see that it’s not quite there yet, but the vision is intriguing. Rumor has it that Microsoft is developing natural language models (a type of logical and systematic model that supports what we currently call AI) that will improve file searching and better recover previous activities. Davuluri spoke at length about other platform-related developments to facilitate app emulation and how generative AI will help shape each user’s individual experience.
So it’s a long discussion that provides an interesting look at Microsoft’s future, but keeps the discussion vague enough not to spoil too many surprises. For example, we still don’t know what “Windows 12” will be officially called. What we do know is Microsoft’s clear intent with an AI-focused user interface that could revolutionize the way we use PCs and devices, context-aware AI functionality that will personalize user experiences, and a focus on integrating hybrid computing. It all sounds very exciting and it’s great for buzz-word bingo, but I think users would like to see some solid details about what to expect in the next version of Windows OS.