Get ready to learn about what Windows 11 of the future looks like at Microsoft’s March 21 event

Closeup of woman working and typing on a tablet PC.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Gordine N)

We’ve begun getting hints of what Microsoft is gearing up to announce for Windows 11 at its March event, and now we’ve got new pieces of the puzzle. We’re expecting information about a new feature for the Paint app, Paint NPU, and about a feature that’s being referred to as ‘AI Explorer’ internally at Microsoft

Microsoft has put up an official page announcing a special digital event named “New Era of Work” which will take place on March 21, starting at 9 PM PDT. On this page, users are met with the tagline “Advancing the new era of work with Copilot” and a description of the event that encourages users to “Tune in here for the latest in scaling AI in your environment with Copilot, Windows, and Surface.”

It sounds like we’re going to get an idea of what the next iteration of Windows Copilot, Microsoft’s new flagship digital AI assistant, will look like and what it’ll be able to do. It also looks like we might see Microsoft’s vision for what AI integration and features will look like for future versions of Windows and Surface products. 

A screenshot of the page announcing Microsoft's digital event.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What we already know and expect

While we’ll have to wait until the event to see exactly what Microsoft wants to tell us about, we do have some speculation from Windows Latest that one feature we’ll learn about is a Paint app tool powered by new-gen machines’ NPUs (Neural Processing Units). These are processing components that enable new kinds of processes, particularly many AI processes.

This follows earlier reports that indicated that the Paint app was getting an NPU-driven feature, possibly new image editing and rending tools that make use of PCs’ NPUs. Another possible feature that Windows Latest spotted was “LiveCanvas,” which may enable users to draw real-time sketches aided by AI. 

Earlier this week, we also reported about a new ‘AI Explorer’ feature, apparently currently in testing at Microsoft. This new revamped version which has been described as an “advanced Copilot” looks like it could be similar to the Windows Timeline feature, but improved by AI. The present version of Windows Copilot requires an internet connection, but rumors suggest that this could change. 

This is what we currently understand about how the feature will work: it will make records of previous actions users perform, transform them into ‘searchable moments,’ and allow users to search these, as well as retract them. Windows Latest also reinforces the news that most existing PCs running Windows 11 won’t be able to use AI Explorer as it’s designed to use the newest available NPUs, intended to handle and assist higher-level computation tasks. The NPU would enable the AI Explorer feature to work natively on Windows 11 devices and users will be able to interact with AI Explorer using natural language

Using natural language means that users can ask AI Explorer to carry out tasks simply and easily, letting them access past conversations, files, and folders with simple commands, and they will be able to do this with most Windows features and apps. AI Explorer will have the capability to search user history and find information relevant to whatever subject or topic is in the user’s request. We don’t know if it’ll pull this information exclusively from user data or other sources like the internet as well, and we hope this will be clarified on March 21. 

Person working on laptop in kitchen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What else we might see and what this might mean

 In addition to an NPU-powered Paint app feature and AI Explorer, it looks like we can expect the debut of other AI-powered features including an Automatic Super Resolution feature. This has popped up in Windows 11 23H4 preview builds, and it’s said to leverage PCs’ AI abilities to improve users’ visual experience. This will reportedly be done by utilizing DirectML, an API that also makes use of PCs’ NPUs, and will bring improvements to frame rates in games and apps.

March 21 is gearing up to bring what will at least probably be an exciting presentation, although it’s worth remembering that all of these new features will require an NPU. Only the most newly manufactured Windows devices will come equipped with these, which will leave the overwhelming majority of Windows devices and users in the dust. My guess is Microsoft is really banking on how great the new AI-driven features are to convince users to upgrade to these new models, and with the current state of apps and services like Windows Copilot, that’s still yet to be proven in practice.


Computing Writer

Kristina is a UK-based Computing Writer, and is interested in all things computing, software, tech, mathematics and science. Previously, she has written articles about popular culture, economics, and miscellaneous other topics.

She has a personal interest in the history of mathematics, science, and technology; in particular, she closely follows AI and philosophically-motivated discussions.