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ISSUE 20.39.F • 2023-09-25 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates
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Susan Bradley

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In this issue

MICROSOFT NEWS: Windows 11, Surface, and Windows Copilot

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

WINDOWS: Why File Explorer keeps me on Windows

FREEWARE SPOTLIGHT: Uninstalr — “World’s best cup of coffee”

ON SECURITY: Locked out of your refurbished computer?

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Windows 11, Surface, and Windows Copilot

Will Fastie

By Will Fastie

In case we didn’t realize it already, Microsoft told us where we are headed.

Last week, Microsoft held an event in New York. The bulk of the presentation was about AI, specifically Windows Copilot. Not Copilot, but Windows Copilot.

This is deeply significant.

I felt that the overall presentation was good but that it might have been prepared hastily. For one thing, it was not streamed in real time. Important events usually are, so I wondered why. I thought that the information provided was important enough for such treatment.

In the same week came news of the departure of long-time Microsoft executive and, by my measure, the best spokesperson in the company’s history, Panos Panay, who is headed for Amazon to lead its consumer hardware team. Perhaps there are insiders who knew about this, but it caught me completely by surprise. My instant conclusion: Panay’s departure would be viewed as a distinct negative by the financial community and was thus a matter that Microsoft had to deal with. Bloomberg called it a “blow to the hardware unit.”

So I think the timing of the event was a way to signal that everything is fine — no shakeup, nothing to see here, we’ve got this well in hand. This was done by having recently promoted Yusuf Mehdi to take over the reins. One of Mehdi’s areas of concentration has been Microsoft’s initiatives in AI, and therein lies what I think may be the bigger story. I’ll get back to that.

The event was kicked off by Satya Nadella. As you may recall, I consider Nadella an excellent businessman but lacking in stage presence. He has too often spoken in generalities and platitudes. This time, however, he drilled in directly to the key theme of the event: AI. I was pleased to see this more forthright approach.

The presentation centered on Copilot, with Windows 11 and Surface announcements on the periphery. You can watch the event on Microsoft’s microsite. I recommend it.

Windows 11

A Microsoft blog headline reads, “New Windows 11 Update delivers over 150 new features, including bringing the power of Copilot to the PC.” Here, I make passing mention of those features, aside from Copilot, that Microsoft called out.

Paint — The new version of Paint will include layers, transparency, and background removal. Layers is an enormous change to the program. Microsoft has resisted adding this feature to Paint for decades and, in effect, allowed Rick Brewster’s Paint.Net program to thrive. So why now? Because Paint “has been enhanced with AI for drawing and digital creation [and] the power of generative AI.” You simply can’t have such advanced features without the right set of core features. We’ll soon see how good the core features are.

Photos — “… has also been enhanced with AI including new features to make editing your photos a breeze.” (I’m sensing a theme here.)

Snipping Tool — There are many new features; we’ll review those when we see them in action. Screen capture has undergone many revisions over the years, so we’ll want to see for ourselves whether Microsoft is chasing Snagit or just adding a few more capabilities.

Notepad — In Windows 11, Notepad already has a new tabbed interface, allowing multiple files to be edited simultaneously. Taking a page from Notepad++ and other modern text editors, you will now be able to close Notepad and have it reopen just where you left off, even if the contents of a file have not been saved.

File Explorer — It’s been “modernized” for Windows 11. Good. Maybe that means the many complaints about it will be addressed. We’ll see.

Windows Backup — Susan has written about this new app just showing up. She points out that it uses OneDrive and does not allow you to back up your files to any location you desire, as is the case for backup programs galore. However, Microsoft is touting this as a way to move to a new PC in a seamless manner. Consumers are coming to expect this for phones in particular, so this may ultimately be a useful feature.

Outlook for Windows — This is a new app, already available in the Microsoft Store for Windows 11. I’ve tried it and it gave me trouble, so expect to see us cover this soon. It’s a free app, just as Outlook for Android and iOS are free, and it is more fully featured than the Mail app that comes with Windows. See this Tech Community post for details.

Of all the features I saw in the event, Paint is the one that most interests me. Microsoft has an absolutely terrible history when it comes to multimedia software. I am very interested to see whether that has changed.


Microsoft announced two new Surface devices. (As usual, I’m rounding up all prices ending in 9.)

Surface Laptop Go 3
Surface laptop Go 3Courtesy Microsoft Corporation

The Surface Laptop Go 3 is a 2.5-pound, 12.4” laptop (about the size of a piece of paper) sporting an Intel Core i5-1235U processor. This is a ten-core processor with eight efficiency and two power cores, as well as Intel Iris Xe Graphics. It comes in four colors. The PixelSense touch display is 1536×1024 (3:2 aspect ratio, less than FHD). There are only two models, one with 8GB of RAM at $800 and one with 16GB of RAM at $1,000. Both models have a 256GB SSD.

Interestingly, the SSD is removable, but only by a Microsoft-authorized technician. I say “interesting” because this might hold out the possibility of increasing the amount of storage, although inconveniently. It also means that an SSD failure is not fatal to the laptop, as would be the case if the SSD were integral.

I’m not sure of the target market for this form factor. However, it would not make sense for Microsoft to expand the Go line if it were not already selling. I think 256GB for storage is not enough for a laptop, but it might be perfect for a student using Microsoft 365 and OneDrive, or for other mobile users who need a keyboard and value the small size.

The base unit is 20% less expensive than a similar M1-based MacBook Air but is less customizable.

Surface Laptop Studio 2
Surface Laptop Studio 2Courtesy Microsoft Corporation

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a 14.4” 2-in-1 laptop sporting an Intel Core i7-13700H Evo processor, with eight efficiency and six performance cores. Notably, this is a more powerful processor than the i7-11370H used Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2+, its desktop Surface model. The Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU AI Accelerator is also included. Although VPU stands for visual processing unit, I’m sure AI acceleration is the key feature. The PixelSense Flow touch display has a resolution of 2400×1600 (3:2 aspect ratio).

There are several configurations of graphics processor, the choice of which slightly affects the laptop’s weight. If the onboard Intel Iris Xe Graphics are used, the weight is 4.18 pounds. If one of three NVIDIA GPUs is chosen, the weight balloons by three ounces, to 4.37 pounds.

The price range is $2,000 to $3,700, depending on the choice of RAM (16, 32, or 64GB), SSD (512GB, 1TB, or 2TB), and graphics (Iris or NVIDIA). As of this writing, the Microsoft store shows just six configurations, so not all combinations of these components are possible. The least expensive configuration is the only one with Iris graphics.

A built-in storage spot for a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 is part of the case. I say “spot” because it does not appear to be a bay; the pen simply tucks in beneath the front of the laptop. However, the pen is not included and costs $130.

The signature Studio feature is, of course, the folding display, which mimics the way the desktop Surface Studio models work.

As for the market, this is clearly a mobile creator’s device and Microsoft’s most expensive laptop. I find it hard to grasp how multimedia work is done on smaller displays; I do photo and video work on two 24” displays. But having watched dozens of “behind the scenes” YouTube videos about how creators do their work, it’s clear that devices like this are prized. If you want an interesting exercise, check out how the Surface Laptop Studio 2 compares to a 15” Surface Pro 9.


This is where things get complicated.


Microsoft presented some convincing demonstrations of Copilot in action. Watching them in the event video is much more compelling than anything I could write here. Instead, a deeper dive into some key points is in order.

Note the use of the word “companion” in Microsoft’s graphic to the left. The second I saw that, I worried. The primary definition of companion means “one that accompanies another” or “one that keeps company with another” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, 2020). “One,” in this case, obviously refers to a person.

Are we ready to personify AI? Microsoft evidently thinks so, but we’ve discussed lack of ethics before.

There is also the word “everyday,” as in “Copilot will be with you every day and in every way.” Unfortunately, this is no exaggeration.

The Windows architecture is not much different from the design of any other operating system. It basically comprises hardware at the bottom and a series of software layers above. The most commonly understood layers, from the bottom up, are the O/S kernel, drivers, services, application programming interfaces (APIs), and applications. Many of you have seen such diagrams.

During Microsoft’s presentation, Windows Copilot was mentioned casually, almost in passing. Yet I think this is the single most important piece of information from the entire presentation — Copilot is being built into Windows.

If so, where in the layer cake is it going? Is it simply a feature of the API layer? That sounds reasonable, in that any application written for Windows would be able to access AI capabilities.

But it’s also possible that AI will be deeper in the kernel, where services are provided. This makes more sense to me because it gives Microsoft the greatest possible flexibility to provide AI-based services without having to build bits and pieces into major subsystems at the API level. It would also make it easier to create a natural-language API, which simply passed human queries to the services level without needing to make specific programmatic calls to the O/S.

This could change the entire character of Windows. In the future, we could be running Copilot on our PCs, not Windows as we know it.

I admit to rampant speculation here. Over time, we’ll have a better sense of how Microsoft is integrating AI into all things Windows — and we will have some firm answers.

Key takeaways

Windows 11 23H2 is barreling down upon us with dramatic changes to in-box apps as well as a host of features that Microsoft’s event did not touch upon.

A changing of the guard at Microsoft’s hardware division has occurred, with AI-centric Yusuf Mehdi taking over from departing Panos Panay. Microsoft doubled down on the Surface Go line and introduced its most powerful and expensive Surface Laptop to date.

Copilot and AI will be built into Windows 11.

There will never be a dull moment in our ongoing effort to Tame Our Tech!

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Will Fastie is editor in chief of the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.


Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Lance Whitney

Why File Explorer keeps me on Windows

By Josh Hendrickson

I own both a fairly powerful Windows PC and a Mac Studio.

Technically, the Mac Studio, with its M1 processor, far outstrips my desktop PC. And yet my PC continues to be my daily driver. Why?

File Explorer.


Deanna McElveen

Uninstalr — “World’s best cup of coffee”

By Deanna McElveen

In the movie “Elf,” Buddy discovers the world’s best cup of coffee. He may take the signage on the building a bit too literally as he bursts in to congratulate the staff of the coffee shop. Well, today I am Buddy, but I actually tasted the coffee.

Uninstalr by Macecraft Software has the words right there on their website: “Uninstalr is the best Windows uninstaller.” Well, anyone can put that on their website. I was, of course, skeptical, because I have used all the uninstaller programs.


Susan Bradley

Locked out of your refurbished computer?

By Susan Bradley

Corporate “leftovers” may impact your new computer.

All of us want to purchase a good deal. Often I will look for refurbished computers, many of them systems coming off corporate leases, because they are an excellent value. Many times, they are less than three years old and support Windows 11. Some even come with Windows 11.

Most of these systems have been reset to factory defaults, so the configuration process is basically the same OOBE you would get with a new PC. You start the boot process, set it up with either a Microsoft account or a local account with the email trick, and off you go. You’re happy: you have a well-built computer that is cheaper than anything you’d purchase elsewhere.

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