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Microsoft Copilot has so far brought no major improvements to the Windows experience. The AI assistant can help perform tasks that would otherwise require the user to dive into the settings. Major improvements to boost productivity are now not given by Microsoft to Copilot directly but come through a plug-in via Power Automate.

Microsoft is letting its AI assistant, Copilot, perform more tasks on Windows. These are very mundane tasks; for example, a user might ask it to empty the device’s memory. However, AI should be able to support a PC user during a workday. An average worker is certainly not going to look up battery information or empty the recycle garbage can every day. Just to name a few things Copilot can perform through the latest update.

Assistant for your work

Microsoft does make more interesting things available for the AI assistant with Power Automate. Specifically, this is a plug-in to link Power Automate to Copilot. That pairing allows the assistant to take over tasks such as writing an e-mail to all colleagues to wish them a happy weekend, compiling an Excel document listing the five highest mountains on Earth or splitting off the first page in a PDF.

Power Automate provides a SaaS solution to automate business processes, while Copilot throws a sauce of generative AI over it. That the plug-in became available for Copilot seemed rather a matter of time. In fact, Power Automate can already pair with a wide range of Microsoft products, including Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Teams.

In principle, every company should be able to use Power Automate if paid for. That is because setting up the SaaS solution is a chore that does not require extensive programming knowledge, according to Microsoft. Users combine triggers, actions and conditions to set up a workflow. Triggers start workflows based on predefined events or schedules, actions perform specific tasks, and in conditions, the user specifies the limits and constraints that must be met for the workflow to be deployed.

Waiting for the AI PC

The Power Automate plug-in also shows what Windows can get out of the AI assistant in the future. Microsoft already invested heavily in AI before this in Microsoft 365, GitHub and Bing. However, the company also has a wildly popular operating system. So, it makes sense for Microsoft to look at AI opportunities there as well. Those are already there, but they are mainly about easy tasks that you yourself can often perform in one click.

Also read: Copilot Windows 11 gets plug-ins and new skills

We have to speculate to determine why Copilot needs another plug-in from Power Automate to reach its full potential. Presumably, part of the explanation lies in the still limited requirements of most PCs running Windows. AI applications such as Copilot now mostly run through the cloud. That would have to change to run an AI-accelerated operating system because the capacity at data centres is far too limited to handle all the AI tasks of billions of consumers. The solution lies with efficient processors specifically suited to AI tasks. So, in short, the AI PC will first have to break through to the general public to provide these capabilities.

Nvidia has already tried to bring the capabilities of AI to PCs rather than the cloud. For this, it released Chat with RTX, which allows users to build a personalized chatbot for themselves. The limitations are in the strict requirements a PC must meet to use the tool. A key requirement for the tool, though, is that it runs only on Windows 11-based desktops or laptops. In addition, these desktops or laptops must have at least an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 Series GPU or more recent GPUs, such as the Nvidia RTX Ampere or Ada Generation GPUs on board. Furthermore, a minimum of 8 GB of VRAM and 16 GB of RAM and driver version 535.11 or later is required. Therefore, a tool like Chat with RTX will mainly target AI enthusiasts.

Revisiting licenses

In addition, Microsoft will need to revisit its licensing models if an advanced Copilot becomes baked into every PC. To use the capabilities of the AI assistant, Microsoft will charge an additional fee. In other words, it is an additional price paid on top of the price for software such as Microsoft 365. For this particular example, companies pay an additional $28.10 per month per user on top of the price for the Microsoft 365 Business Standard or Business Premium subscription.

Also read: Copilot for Microsoft 365 comes to SMBs

For businesses to pay for Copilot, the AI assistant must have more to offer than what Copilot offers by default on Windows 11. That difference is currently still obvious enough to consider the extra cost, but that situation could change once AI PCs become a standard concept.