What was the name of this fancy hotel we recently booked? And who suggested this amazing restaurant we wanted to try? What was that called again? And where can I find the presentation that I should rewrite?

If you have ever asked yourself such questions, you might be interested in the new “Copilot PCs” that Microsoft has just introduced. These laptops, which will be available from mid-June, are equipped with a “recall” function. This simply remembers everything you have seen, typed or heard on the computer – and processes it using AI tools (i.e. artificial intelligence) so that you can find everything again using Windows search.

This is possible because, firstly, the laptops are equipped with new types of chips that are particularly good at computing AI models. And secondly, because Microsoft has done a lot to shrink some AI models so that they run on a laptop – and don’t have to work in the cloud on third-party data centers somewhere in the world.

This is basically the counter-trend to the increasingly great things that OpenAI’s language model can do. Just last week, ChatGPT impressed with a new version “4o”, which speaks fluently, reads along on paper while solving math problems – and can also correctly interpret facial expressions. Such high performance only works with the help of large data centers on which the actual language model runs.

Who wants everything they watch and do on their computer to end up somewhere in the cloud?

By the way, software like Microsoft is currently proudly introducing with “Recall” has been available for MacBooks for a year and a half. Until now, these were equipped with faster processors, so something like this was possible. The tool is called “Rewind”. The provider is a small start-up of the same name that claims to have already raised $33 million in venture capital for this idea. This software also promises absolute data confidentiality. But who wants to trust a small startup with such a sensitive issue?

Microsoft, on the other hand, is more likely to be trusted – even if data protection advocates don’t agree with everything the company does. However, there is a great temptation for all providers to ultimately obtain consent somewhere in the small print to extract as much information as possible from such data. This would allow companies to train the next AI models – and would be a little ahead of the competition again.

There is also a great temptation for us users not to take data protection so seriously. Finding your way around your work computer or your own computer at home is just as big a challenge as finding out something on the Internet. Just finding a specific photo among thousands of cell phone pictures on your smartphone can drive you crazy.

Just last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai fittingly revealed that the company is working on very similar problems. Pichai demonstrated an AI tool with which you can automatically fish out all images from your photo library, for example showing the swimming progress of your offspring.

And Google’s Internet search should also become easier in the future: anyone who types in a search query will not only receive the usual list of links back, but will also be shown a summarized overview of the hits. It will also be possible to ask several questions at the same time.

By the way, a small start-up has already anticipated this idea: Perplexity.ai. And while Google initially only offers the new search in the USA, Perplexity has long been working here too. Not only does this AI tool understand search intent pretty well, it also analyzes the hit lists and prepares them into answers. Inquiries are also possible. (However, the tool uses Google and Bing searches as well as chatbots.) Anyone who has tried this for a while is reluctant to use Google searches anymore.

The goal of the tech industry has always been “to build computers that understand us, instead of us having to understand computers,” explained Microsoft Satya Nadella at the presentation of the “Copilot” laptops. We would now be much closer to that. He has had around 40 small AI tools stuffed into Windows 11, which will run on the fast “Copilot PCs” in the future. Microsoft is proud that the laptops are even faster than Apple’s current MacBook Air models. However, “Copilot PC” devices are no longer that much cheaper: customers will have to shell out upwards of 1,000 euros for the new laptops from Microsoft and its technology partners Acer, Dell and Co.

It remains to be seen how well the tools work. So far, Microsoft has received mixed reviews for its AI tools in Office. And the competition is also gearing up: Apple is generally expected to present what its AI strategy looks like at its developer conference in three weeks. It’s clear that Apple has to do something, because its “Siri” voice control seems completely outdated compared to ChatGPT. Apple has a big advantage over Microsoft: its market power also extends to smartphones. No matter what its solutions are, they will be linked to the iPhone. A big advantage for users.

Sources: Microsoft, New York Times, DPA