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Microsoft Weekly: Copilot on keyboards, an upcoming Windows 11 update, accessories, and more

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In this episode of Microsoft Weekly, we look at a Copilot hardware button coming to a keyboard near you, Microsoft-branded keyboards rising from the dead, the first Windows 11 preview builds of 2024, a surprising spoiler from Dell about the next Windows 11 feature update, new app releases, and more.

Table of contents:

  1. Windows 11 news
  2. Windows Insider Program Updates
  3. Updates are available
  4. Gaming news
  5. A blast from Microsoft's past

Windows 11

Here we talk about everything happening around Microsoft's latest operating system in the Stable channel and preview builds: new features, removed features, controversies, bugs, interesting findings, and more. And of course, you may find a word or two about older but still supported versions.

The first Microsoft Weekly of 2024 begins with a fresh drop of stats from Valve and Statcounter. After crossing the 42% mark in November 2023, Windows 11 lost a few users and bounced below 42%. Statcounter reports a similar picture, with Windows 11 going down from 26.63% to 26.54%. As for Microsoft Edge, it reclaimed the previously lost "second most popular browser" title and now holds approximately 11.9% of the desktop browser market.

A Windows 7 logo next to Windows 11

Did you know that Windows has a new lead? Mikhail Parakhin took the lead after Panos Panay's departure, and he wants to bring some much-needed changes to Windows 11. For starters, it appears that the Start menu is about to get a makeover (again). In a reply to a user on X, Mikhail said the need to click "All apps" just to see all available applications "annoys the hell out of" him, and he wants to "make Start menu great again."

A screenshot of Windows 11s Start menu

In addition, Mikhail published a poll asking users and developers about which UX framework in Windows Microsoft should invest more.

We do not know when those updates will be available to try (if ever), but details about the upcoming Windows 11 update are already showing up. According to Dell, the next Windows 11 feature update will bring Wi-Fi 7 support somewhere in April 2024.

Windows Insider Program

The Windows development team is back from holidays with a few fresh builds to try:

Canary Channel Dev Channel Beta Channel RP Channel

26020 with new accessibility features, a new tray icon for the energy saver, printing improvements, and more.

Note: Microsoft confirmed that Canary builds have problems running some popular games.

23612 with a new weather widget on the lock screen, improved accessibility, and more. 22635.2921 with general reliability improvements

No new Release Preview builds this week.

As mentioned above, build 23612 contains a new weather widget for the lock screen. This experience is rolling out gradually for Windows Insiders with EN-US locale, but you can force-enable it using the ViVeTool app. Check out this article to learn more.

It is worth noting that we may see more lock screen-related changes. Windows' new head replied to a user on X, saying that the lack of date and time on the login screen is something that also nags him.

Windows 11s Lock Screen with the weather widget

Another interesting find in the latest preview builds is a code line suggesting that Microsoft might add more Copilot entries across the operating system. Look out for Copilot in File Explorer's context menus in future updates. And if you plan to purchase a new PC later this year, expect it to show up with a new Copilot button on the keyboard. That's right, Microsoft now wants to ship new Windows PCs with a dedicated hardware key for invoking its new AI-powered assistant. It will sit to the right from the spacebar key, right between R Ctrl and R Alt.

windows copilot key

Finally, Microsoft also released an update for the Microsoft Store app. It includes improvements for the recently launched Instant Games, new notifications, and performance improvements when installing apps from search or browsing.

Here is an interesting concept to finish the Windows 11 section. Have you ever wondered what Windows XP would look like if it were released in 2024? This creation is here to answer the question no one was asking. Looks interesting, doesn't it?

Windows XP 2024 concept

Updates are available

This section covers software, firmware, and other notable updates (released and coming soon) delivering new features, security fixes, improvements, patches, and more from Microsoft and third parties.

Here is a hardware update that will delight those using Microsoft-branded PC accessories. The company decided to resurrect its recently discontinued keyboards, mice, webcams, headsets, and speakers. Thanks to a partnership with Incase, those accessories will soon show up in stores under a new brand. And since Incase will use the same components and manufacturing, those keyboards, mice, and other devices will work the same as those with a Microsoft logo on them. Besides, Incase is working on new devices co-developed with the software giant.

Incase PC Accessories

With Microsoft-branded keyboards rising from their grave, another product is heading six feet under. This week, Microsoft updated its documentation, adding more details about the recent Windows Mixed Reality deprecation. The platform and device support will remain available for almost two more years, with the end of support scheduled for November 2026 for regular users and November 2027 for commercial customers.

A windows mixed reality headset

Valve has joined the list of developers abandoning Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. As of January 1, 2024, Steam no longer supports pre-Windows 10 versions. From now on, you need a computer with Windows 10 or 11 to run Steam and receive platform updates. That is because Steam relies on Chrome, which ditched Windows 7 in January 2023. Although you can still run Steam on Windows 7, Valve cannot guarantee its continuous reliability. At some point, you will lose access to your games.

A Steam logo in the foreground with games logos in the background

Do you remember Microsoft deprecating WordPad in 2023? Here is an update to the story: in the release notes for the latest Canary build, Microsoft said it will soon remove WordPad from the operating system. Moreover, you will not be able to install the app back, at least officially. Those still using this old WYSIWYG text editor should start looking for an alternative.

A dump truck dumping WordPad icons into a landfill

Microsoft is working on several improvements for PowerToys. Future updates for our favorite app will soon bring a redesigned Keyboard Manager with new features and a new tool to help you use PowerShell.

Other notable updates and releases from this week include the following:

Finally, here is a recap of all the new features Microsoft added to Teams in December 2023.

On the gaming side

Learn about upcoming game releases, Xbox rumors, new hardware, software updates, freebies, deals, discounts and more.

On the gaming side, Microsoft kicked off 2024 with a fresh drop of games for Xbox and PC Game Pass subscribers. The latest additions include Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Resident Evil 2, Hell Let Loose, We Happy Few, and more.

Xbox Game Pass January 2024

Speaking of Xbox and PC Game Pass, Microsoft quietly updated quests for Microsoft Reward users, bumping up the amount of points you can earn by completing daily and weekly quests.

Following the release of the Xbox Mini Fridge in 2021, Microsoft is back with another appliance for your gaming kitchen. This time, it is an Xbox Series S-styled toaster. You can get it at Walmart for $39.99.

Xbox Series S Toaster

No week goes past without NVIDIA adding more games to its GeForce NOW streaming service. This week, the company shipped a new batch of titles that includes Dishonored, The Finals, Redmatch 2, Scorn, and Sniper Elite 5. At least sixteen more games will join the party next month.

Deals and freebies

The Epic Games Store is giving away Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The superhero-themed title is up for grabs until Thursday, January 11.

Guardians of the Galaxy

If you want more, here is the latest edition of the Weekend PC Game Deals with various bundles and big discounts across different stores.

A blast from Microsoft's past

John Callaham's weekly "Look back" series provides throwbacks into the past, detailing the company's products, partnerships, mishaps, and successes from years ago.

This week, an interesting piece of Microsoft history showed up on the surface of the internet. 86-DOS, the foundation for the legendary MS-DOS, has leaked in one of its earliest forms. A build compiled in July 1980 is now available for download from the Internet Archive.

Very early 86-DOS operating system alongside its disk

To finish this Weekly, here is a look-back article about the first Microsoft-branded keyboard released in 1994, aimed to give PC users a more comfortable typing experience. In addition, that keyboard introduced the legendary Windows key, which, as some suspect, is now at risk of extinction given Microsoft's aggressive Copilot push.

Microsoft natural keyboard

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You can find other issues of the Microsoft Weekly series using this link. Also, you can support Neowin by subscribing to our Newsletter to get regular news recaps delivered directly to your email.

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