Microsoft has casually announced that it’s releasing Windows 11 24H2 this year. With it, the company will bring AI to the forefront more than ever before, although even more features will be added.
Central to the 24H2 release is enhanced AI functionality. Earlier versions of Windows 11 already introduced Copilot tools alongside AI support for Microsoft applications. The new release extends this to a full-fledged Copilot button that appears at the bottom right of the taskbar. Users will be able to dismiss the AI assistant functionality with relative ease in 24H2. Likewise, third-party chat services and plug-ins can be adjusted via settings.
Much of this has already appeared in Insider Preview releases of Windows 11 or is set to follow in the upcoming months. Regardless, AI tools will play a pivotal role. New “AI PCs” with targeted hardware for AI applications enable many upcoming and existing features locally. Microsoft is said to be experimenting with more advanced productivity options that, for example, can find previously used files faster based on user behaviour.
The idea is that Copilot will eventually remember all conversations with the user so that the AI tool can respond to a specific person’s needs as much as possible. In the process, all data should be stored locally to avoid privacy issues.
Such features would clearly strengthen Intel’s claim of the “personalized AI PC.” Other parties are also working on similar hardware. The new release is accompanied by a renewed focus on Arm devices. With the Snapdragon X Elite, for example, Qualcomm will offer a chip that powers the AI capabilities of 24H2.
Of interest to business, but more information is required
So far, the AI features are aimed at all users, but some of these options will come in handy for business operations. Should Microsoft be able to set up the predictive Copilot operation at a corporate level, colleagues could collectively work faster in a unified way by pooling their habits. It remains to be seen whether specific features will be more business-oriented in this way.
However, a new AI-focused feature will offer the potential of faster work. Namely, there will be an improvement to Snap Layouts in 24H2. If a user tends to pin certain apps in specific places, this upcoming functionality will offer predicted suggestions.
Beyond AI, 24H2 will also bring many innovations. For example, Microsoft will add an Energy Saver option to the current controls in addition to a binary choice between better performance or battery life (or to set it to automatic). In this case, the focus here is on energy efficiency, but it is still unclear exactly how this will differ from the existing options. What is known, however, is that desktops will now also be able to utilize the energy saving feature, where previously only laptops had the option.
In addition, 24H2 expands support in the area of file compression. Microsoft took decades to support RAR and 7zip, but last year the time had come. However, it only involved native extraction of these types of compressed files. With 24H2, choosing a specific compression method, including 7zip and RAR, will be possible.
There is also broader support on phones. 24H2 will allow a linked smartphone to be used as a webcam. Windows Central stresses that a similar option already exists between iPhones and Macs.
News of a “groundbreaking” new release of Windows has been playing out for some time. Windows Central confirmed back in December that there will be a “next-gen AI release” of the operating system in 2024. Not wanting to further fragment the divided user base between Windows 10 and 11, Microsoft has apparently chosen not to introduce version 12 this year. As an added benefit, all Windows 11 users will be able to upgrade to 24H2 relatively easily.
By contrast, the messaging from Microsoft itself suggests that the 24H2 update is not too groundbreaking. Household announcements such as the final end of the flopped Windows Mixed Reality and old Defender applications get a mention, showing the routine nature of the 24H2 confirmation.
Microsoft stresses that annual releases for Windows 11 are the norm. That does represent a change in direction, however, as smaller, incremental upgrades have also marked Windows 11’s lifespan so far, with so-called “Moment” upgrades to mark a particularly meaningful feature expansion.