Microsoft’s new Copilot key is the first big change to Windows keyboards in 30 years

Microsoft wants 2024 to be “the year of the AI PC,” and it’s kicking things off with a significant change to the keyboard on new laptops and PCs. A new Copilot key will ship on a variety of new PCs and laptops from Microsoft’s partners, providing quick access to Microsoft’s AI-powered Windows Copilot experience straight from a keyboard button press.

The Copilot key is the first big change to the Windows PC keyboard layout in nearly three decades. “Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced the Windows key to the PC keyboard that enabled people all over the world to interact with Windows,” says Yusuf Mehdi, executive vice president and consumer chief marketing officer at Microsoft. “We see this as another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.”

The new Copilot key sits next to the right-hand alt key on Windows keyboards.
Image: Microsoft

This new Copilot key will replace the menu key (application key) that was introduced alongside the Windows key decades ago. It will be placed next to the right-hand alt key on most keyboards, with the placement varying by OEM and across different markets. It’s in the same spot where Microsoft added a dedicated Office key to its own keyboards in 2019. The Copilot key simply launches the Windows Copilot that’s built into Windows 11, offering up a ChatGPT-like chatbot that can answer queries or even take actions inside Windows.

If Windows Copilot isn’t available in your country just yet, the Copilot key will launch Windows Search instead. While the existing Windows key can open the Start menu or be combined with a variety of other keys for shortcuts to Windows features and functions, the Copilot key is just a launch key for now. It’s not clear if Microsoft plans to let you use the Copilot key in combination with other keys in the future.

Microsoft isn’t discussing which OEMs will add the Copilot key, leaving the announcements for next week’s Consumer Electronics Show and beyond. Mehdi says we’ll “start to see the Copilot key unveiled on new Windows 11 PCs from our ecosystem partners, with availability beginning later this month through Spring, including on upcoming Surface devices.”

The Copilot key will launch Microsoft’s built-in Windows Copilot experience.
Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

It feels like Microsoft has been building Copilot into everything throughout 2023, and this new Copilot key is part of bigger AI-powered changes that are planned for Windows throughout 2024. “In this new year, we will be ushering in a significant shift toward a more personal and intelligent computing future where AI will be seamlessly woven into Windows from the system, to the silicon, to the hardware,” says Mehdi. “This will not only simplify people’s computing experience but also amplify it, making 2024 the year of the AI PC.”

Microsoft is working on a Windows “refresh” that will be focused on new AI features, alongside adding AI to more and more parts of its software and services. Microsoft has even started the year by branding Microsoft Edge as the “AI browser,” signaling that Microsoft’s AI push is far from over.


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