To make way for AI, Microsoft changes keyboard layout after 30 years

Following through on a January announcement, the company introduced its first new Surface laptops with a dedicated Copilot button. It’s the most relevant change to the Microsoft keyboard layout in 30 years.

Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 for Business are the company’s first products to introduce a dedicated Copilot button in their keyboard layout. By pressing the key to the right of the spacebar, users can open a new Copilot panel, quickly accessing the capabilities offered by Microsoft’s flavor of generative artificial intelligence based on OpenAI’s models. Some tasks available through the panel run locally on the computer. At the same time, most heavy-duty Gen-AI operations are outsourced to Microsoft’s remote data centers, meaning an active internet connection is almost always needed to use the feature.

The company already announced the new button’s introduction in January, shortly before CES. Several OEM manufacturers have already implemented the Copilot key in their laptops, but its debut on the Surface lineup gives the new feature a larger significance. 

While that could be easily archived as a small change in the keyboard layout, it is, in fact, much more than that. Microsoft’s official keyboard layout has stayed the same for about three decades since the introduction of the Windows button, and the new Copilot key shows quite clearly where Microsoft is headed in leveraging its lucrative partnership with OpenAI. 

Interestingly, Microsoft introduced the new Copilot button on two devices explicitly designed for business users, suggesting that the company believes that Gen-AI can now bring the most value to the corporate and office environment. The two new devices won’t be available through the usual consumer reseller, thus limiting the impact of the new Copilot key to professional users.

“We remain committed to consumer devices,” says the company in press comment, reframing the significance of introducing the Copilot button on two business-first devices. “Building great devices that people love to use aligns closely with our company mission to empower individuals and organizations. We are excited to bring devices to market that deliver great AI experiences to our customers. This commercial announcement is only the first part of this effort.”

The Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 for Business are available for pre-order and will ship to customers on April 9th.

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