Do Copilot+ PCs still matter? Here’s why Microsoft recalled Recall

What to know

  • Copilot+ PCs launch without Windows Recall, the controversial AI feature that snapshots your screen every five seconds to search through later.
  • Privacy and security issues have forced Microsoft to delay Recall until it is ready, raising questions about the need for special Copilot+ PC.
  • However mismanaged Microsoft’s Recall feature may be, Copilot+ PCs do have stellar hardware capabilities, making Windows laptops several times more efficient and powerful.

Copilot+ PCs are out. But one of its biggest advertised features – Windows Recall – will not be a part of these AI PCs just yet. After receiving major backlash from the tech industry, Microsoft has been forced to postpone the release of Windows Recall until the privacy concerns surrounding the controversial AI feature are addressed. But given how integral Recall was going to be, is there really a point to Copilot+ PCs without it?

How Microsoft mishandled the Recall feature release

Recall was hyped up to be the major selling point for Copilot+ PCs like the Microsoft Surface laptops as well as those by Lenovo, Dell and HP. But the feature, the idea behind which was always going to inspire distrust, was not handled well from the start.

The idea behind Recall was simple: It will take snapshots of what you do every few seconds and store it in a database on your computer so whenever you need to go back, the on-board NPU-powered AI will comb through the data and find what you’re looking for. 

But most people didn’t like the nightmarish idea of software taking pictures of how they use their personal computer. Things took a turn for the worse when it was discovered how shoddily these snapshots were protected, that is to say, not at all. There was no encryption whatsoever to the files stored in an SQLite database, either at rest or transit. Anyone who had even a slight inclination to find them, could. 

RELATED: Why Windows Recall Isn’t as Big a Privacy Threat as You Think

Microsoft failed at dousing the fire

And behold! People did start making tools (like TotalRecall) that allowed them access to these snapshots, even before Recall was released. Public outcry soon reached a tipping point. Even those who earlier looked at the feature with a raised brow now were adamantly against the egregious privacy mismanagement that it stood for.

With the ‘Recall’ feature gaining bad rep left, right, and center, and launch only 10 days away, Microsoft made some key changes to Recall. Recall would be an opt-in feature, so it’ll work only if you proactively enable it. The feature will also require Windows Hello to access the snapshots which are kept encrypted on the device. 

But the horse had bolted by then. Nobody really wants to have a feature that is handled so poorly that changes continue being made on the security and privacy front so close to launch.

Windows Recall recalled

Microsoft has had no other option but to pull Recall from Copilot+ PCs. In a recent blog announcing the AI features on these products, the company mentioned that “Recall is a preview experience that will be available in the coming weeks in the Windows Insider Program (WIP)”.

The blog went on to list all the little features that AI PCs will have, including Cocreator, AI editing and image creator on the Photos app, Live captions, and Windows Studio Effects. Without ‘Recall’, this list looks deflated and, frankly, pointless.   

What’s the point of Copilot+ PCs now?

So, finally, with the launch day now behind us, and the biggest feature riddled with privacy and PR issues, one might wonder – what is really the point of Copilot+ PCs? 

Ever since Microsoft partnered with OpenAI, we’re seeing AI dumped on us like a bag of bricks, and Copilot has been the worst offenders of the lot. From Bing to Windows to Office to the physical keyboard, is there a place where Microsoft hasn’t shoehorned Copilot? And if you were tired of hearing about Copilot, there’s Cocreator as well, injected into Paint, Notepad, and Photos. 

Most people don’t even want AI, though the tech companies will only see what they want to see. However, amongst all the AI mania, it is physical hardware on Windows devices that’s the clear winner. If there’s ever been a silver lining, it’s that PCs are seeing a massive shift in capabilities as well as efficiency. Who would have ever thought that a Windows laptop could have 20+ hours of battery backup, beating even Apple’s M3 processor? 

Starting with Qualcomm silicon for now, Copilot+ PCs will soon see ARM-based processors by AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA as well. All this is taking PCs to a whole new level. However unnecessary AI may seem on a PC, it is forcing the hardware to evolve.

Can Microsoft salvage Recall’s reputation?

Features like Recall, if they’re to become part of the Windows experience, cannot receive the same treatment as other AI features like Copilot or Cocreator for the simple fact that these do not have compromise privacy the same way that Recall does. 

The only way for Microsoft to get people to trust Recall is to get it out and into the hands of users. Even though it’s delayed, Recall is not a feature that’s going anywhere. In most likelihood, it will be released and improved over time. 

It will be interesting to see how the feature fares once it’s available as a preview via Windows Insider. Although it may be some time before Microsoft can stand in good stead with the public, for now, much of its reputation is tied, for better or worse, to how Recall performs, especially in terms of security and privacy.     

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