Microsoft Surface and AI event: 5 biggest announcements you might’ve missed this week

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Microsoft Logo at MWC 2024

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Microsoft is arguably the leader in the AI space right now, constantly releasing new offerings and updates to stay ahead of the curve. Therefore, it is no surprise that the company took to its March Surface and Windows AI event this week to unveil a handful of new AI features and hardware.

Also: Microsoft unveils Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 with AI features. Here’s what’s new

As Microsoft’s event description, “Advancing the new era of work with Copilot,” implied, the event focused on the company’s AI offerings specifically for its enterprise customers. Instead, Microsoft Build, taking place in May, will have announcements better suited for general consumers. Until then, here’s everything the company unveiled at its Surface event.

1. Copilot in Microsoft 365 is now on Windows

windowscopilot.png

Microsoft

The headlining AI news at the event is that Copilot capabilities in Microsoft 365 are finally coming to Windows. This is a major win for working professionals because now within the Copilot in Windows interface, they can select a “Work” option to enable Copilot in Microsoft 365, as seen in the photo above. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Copilot in Microsoft 365 is a workflow game changer because it infuses Copilot assistance across all of the 365 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more, to assist with tasks such as creating PowerPoint presentations, writing assistance, and interpreting spreadsheet data. Basically, Copilot can understand the user’s entire universe of work data to provide even deeper assistance. 

2. New Copilot accessibility features in Windows 11

Microsoft Copilot

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

At the end of the month, there will be a new release of Windows 11 preview which will feature a host of new Copilot skills for accessibility. For example, users will be able to ask Copilot to turn on the narrator and screen magnifier, change text size, or start live captions. 

Also: Windows 11’s big new update is full of AI and rolling out now – here’s what’s in it

Asking Copilot to help adjust PC settings enables users to have more control of their device, making it easier to access crucial settings instead of having to navigate through a series of different tabs and struggle to find what they’re specifically looking for.

3. The first AI-powered Surface PCs for business

Microsoft Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6

Microsoft/ZDNET

After launching the Surface Pro 9 or Surface Laptop 5 two years ago, Microsoft finally unveiled the succeeding models — the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6. Because this was Microsoft’s first hardware launch in the era of the AI PC, the business devices got under-the-hood upgrades, including a new processor, to better support AI and productivity tasks.

Also: Surface vs. MacBook: Can Microsoft’s new Arm-based AI PCs compete with Apple?

Both models sport a new Intel Core Ultra (5 or 7) processor which features a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) for better device performance and battery efficiency, especially when performing AI-related tasks. As seen in the photo above, the appearance of the Surface devices remains relatively unchanged. 

For a full rundown of what the new products feature, you can read ZDNET’s Senior Reviews Editor Kerry Wan’s roundup.  

4. Windows 365 GPU support 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 at NYC event

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Although this feature doesn’t use AI, it can certainly be helpful for tasks related to it. Windows 365 GPU has the potential to improve many professionals’ workflows by allowing users access to GPU-empowered cloud PCs. The improved graphics performance of these machines will be essential for tasks that require more power such as in graphics design, image and video editing (and rendering), and more.

Microsoft says Windows 365 GPU support, currently available in preview, was highly requested by customers who wanted access to a GPU in a Software-as-a-Service solution.

5. The first Copilot key on a Microsoft device

The Microsoft Copilot key on the ThinkBook 14 2-in-1 Gen 4 from Lenovo.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

It wouldn’t be the launch of an AI PC without the mention of a Copilot key. Both the new Surface devices and the new Surface Pro Keyboard, pictured above, include a dedicated Copilot key to make it easier for users to get direct access to AI assistance. It certainly helps that Windows users without the latest PC or Surface device can still access the feature by clicking the Copilot icon from the Windows 11 taskbar. 





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