I believe Microsoft has done a great job of bringing Windows into the modern era of UI design, experience and productivity. I have been using Windows 11 since its inception, and you can read my thoughts on Windows 11 Preview edition here. I have also written here about my experience of using Windows 11 on the Surface Pro 8, and specifically about how the touch and tablet experience of Windows 11 is much better than Windows 10.
Windows 11 Moment 2, its second major update, was released last week. The update includes new UI changes, updates to default apps and integrations of Bing AI into the search bar. Let’s look at the update.
Bing in the search bar
Microsoft recently made a huge change to Microsoft Bing, introducing its Prometheus AI model to the search engine. You can read Melody Brue, Vice President of FinTech at Moor Insights & Strategy coverage of Microsoft’s Bing Chat announcement here. I was given the opportunity to preview it, and while it has its kinks to work out, I believe it is already changing much of how I search and browse the internet.
In the bigger picture, I believe Microsoft’s Bing Chat AI could showcase not only greater efficiency in search, but also how big of a game-changer generative AI can be within Windows and Microsoft 365. Where ChatGPT showed the world that generative AI can give natural, human-like answers, Microsoft Bing Chat now does the same thing within the practical context of a search engine.
Bing Chat in the search bar of Windows 11 brings Bing’s AI search within a few clicks, regardless of what users are doing on their systems. The accessible location makes it much more convenient to use Bing AI; users can click on the search bar at the bottom of the screen and access Bing from there, or simply press the Windows key and start typing.
I am interested to see whether Microsoft takes it a step further by keeping users in the Start menu when using Bing Chat instead of opening a new Edge tab. The first option could make it easier for users to do a quick and efficient search without disrupting their current workflow. For example, if I have a Word document snapped to the right of my screen and the Windows Experience blog snapped to the left side and then I do a search, it opens a new tab on the left for the search. I then have to click back to the blog to continue my workflow. This particular example is probably me being nitpicky, but nonetheless this would be a feature that would maintain my workflow momentum. If there were an option to keep Bing Chat in the Start menu, my fingers would never have to leave the keyboard. I could press the Windows key, start typing, press enter, wait for my answer and then simply press the Windows key again to stay within my workflow.
Windows Phone Link
Microsoft also announced that it is bringing Phone Link to iOS, which will include basic support for calls, messages and contacts. This extends to iMessage, which will be able to send and receive texts through a Bluetooth connection between the iPhone and the PC. It will also be able to make and receive phone calls through the PC.
As someone who carries two phones—an iPhone almost exclusively for family group iMessages and an Android—I believe this implementation of iPhone connectivity will be a big convenience for many users.
Windows Phone Link also enables users to connect multiple phones to a single PC and vice versa. As someone who tests and uses many different mobile products in a year, it is very convenient to connect all of my mobile devices to the computer I am using. While Apple’s APIs currently limit the scope of compatibility—something I wish Apple would open up—I still look forward to using the enhanced functionality just added.
More updated apps
Microsoft has also announced updates to some of its core apps that bring these apps more in line with the overall user experience of Windows 11. For one thing, Microsoft added a preview of the camera to the Teams Chat function on the taskbar so that users are better prepared to jump into a call. This is definitely a convenient feature to have on the go and when preparing to start a call.
Microsoft is also bringing Studio Effects to the taskbar so that it’s easier to adjust these AI-enhanced visual features. Microsoft says you can now instantly adjust background blur, eye contact and automatic framing for communication applications. I think this is a big deal as it was a bit… no….. very hidden. These Studio Effects can mean the difference between a good or poor interaction.
Microsoft also updated the widget bar to include Phone Link, Xbox Game Pass and apps from partners such as Meta and Spotify. I like the direction that Microsoft is taking the widget bar. It is handy to see the weather in the bottom left corner and receive a reel of news at a glance. While I would like to see more widget diversity, I do understand Microsoft’s desire to open it up slowly for developers. I’d also like to see Microsoft tighten up it standards for delivering the kind of news based on my self-selections.
Meanwhile, partners like Meta and Spotify are already poised to make the widget bar more useful. While Microsoft does enable some customization to what news you can see, I believe it could be even better to include an RSS reader so that I could include more of what I want to see.
Another update that Microsoft made that I am really glad to see is the Snip It tool. This is something I used regularly in the past, but I shifted to ShareX because of the lack of investment and improvement in Snip It. Microsoft has started to rectify this by giving Snip It the ability to capture video through a built-in screen recorder, so it may be time for me to take another look. While I like that the tool automatically saves files to a default folder, I have noticed that the screen recorder does not capture audio from the device, limiting it somewhat. Although this is not a deal breaker, audio does matter.
Microsoft has continued to enhance the Windows 11 experience, making it a productivity powerhouse. It has brought Bing Chat to the Start menu, putting its revolutionary generative AI search engine within convenient reach. I am excited to see Microsoft continue to integrate Bing Chat and other AI enhancements to Windows and Microsoft 365. I believe AI enhancements and Bing Chat could boost productivity in Microsoft 365 and Windows 11 in unimaginable ways.
I also believe that Microsoft is pulling ahead of the competition with its AI integrations and productivity features. It is giving more people less of a reason to use macOS and ChromeOS, and its support of the iPhone in Phone Link puts a wrench in Apple’s connected ecosystem by eliminating a reason to use another Apple product to have a complete ecosystem. Microsoft continues to get it right with Windows 11, and I am excited to see it carry this momentum into the era of integrated AI.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.