Frustrations are being aired about Windows 11’s new Copilot app – but here’s why we’re not worried (just yet)

Person using a Windows 11 laptop
(Image credit: Unsplash / Windows)

Microsoft is seemingly going backwards with Copilot in Windows 11, and things certainly don’t look great in testing for the AI assistant right now.

Windows Latest spearheads a complaint – echoed elsewhere by other denizens of various forums and social media outlets – that the latest incarnation of Copilot sees Microsoft ‘downgrading’ the AI to a “Microsoft Edge-based web wrapper” (we’ll come back to that point shortly).

To take a step back for a moment, this is all part of Microsoft’s recent move – announced in May 2024, and implemented in June – to switch Copilot from being an assistant anchored to a side panel (on the right) to a full app experience (a window you can move around the desktop, resize and so on, like a normal app basically).

As Windows Latest points out, in the latest update for Windows 11 (in testing), changes that are rolling out to some users turn Copilot into a basic web app – although in fact, Copilot has always been a web app (even when in its previous incarnation as a locked side panel, before the standalone app idea came about).

What the tech site is really complaining about is how basic and transparent Copilot’s nature really is in this freshly deployed take. This means the Copilot window shows Edge menus and options, and just opens in an Edge tab – and you can even open any old website in the Copilot app with a bit of fudging and a few clicks here and there. And all that feels rather disappointing and basic, of course.

Acer Swift laptop showing the Copilot key

(Image credit: Future / James Holland)

Analysis: Strip it back, then build it up

We get the criticism here, although as noted, all that’s really happening is that Copilot is being more obviously exposed for what it is – a simple web app that basically just pipes you through to the same AI chatbot experience you get with the Copilot website.

However, there is a twist here - namely that the extra options Copilot offered for manipulating Windows 11 settings in some respects (in the pre-standalone app days) have reportedly been ditched. Not that these abilities were any great shakes to begin with – they’ve always been fairly limited – but still, it does feel like a step back to see them vanish.

Ultimately, this leaves the new Copilot experience in Windows 11 feeling very disjointed and not at all well integrated into the OS – just slapped on top, really. However, we do have to remember that this is still in testing.

Stripping features back in preview can be expected – even if it isn’t a pretty sight right now, presumably Microsoft is going to build it back up, make the new Copilot app more seamless, and reintroduce those powers related to Windows settings. In fact, we’d be shocked if that didn’t happen…

Unless Microsoft does have plans to make Copilot a more basic entity in Windows 11, but that seems very unlikely unless many more future AI powers are going to be forked off exclusively for Copilot+ PCs, perhaps (like Recall – which is another controversial topic in itself).

Time will tell, but eventually, we expect Copilot to become a more well-rounded and seamless app, and crucially, when powerful NPUs become more widespread, the AI assistant will be able to perform a good deal more AI workloads on-device (rather than hooking up to the cloud to get the necessary processing power). That’s when a more fully-fledged app with greater powers to operate locally will likely become a reality.

In its current format, though, which has always been pretty basic, Copilot in Windows 11 doesn’t really need to be any more than a simple web wrapper.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).