Microsoft's new Copilot switch is the first major 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 big keyboard change on new laptops and PCs. The new Copilot Key will ship on a variety of new PCs and laptops from Microsoft partners, providing quick access to Microsoft's AI-powered Windows Copilot experience right at the press of a keyboard button.

The Copilot key is the first major 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 around the world to interact with Windows.” Youssef Mahdi says, executive vice president and director of consumer marketing at Microsoft. “We see this as another turning point in our journey with Windows as Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on PC.”

The new Copilot key is located next to the right 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 alt key on most keyboards, with its position varying by manufacturer and across different markets. It's in the same place where Microsoft added a dedicated Office key to its keyboards in 2019. The Copilot key simply launches the Windows Copilot built into Windows 11, providing a ChatGPT-like chatbot that can answer queries or even take actions within Windows.

If Windows Copilot is not yet available in your country, the Copilot key will launch Windows Search instead. While the current 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 power key for now. It's not clear if Microsoft plans to let you use the Copilot Key with other keys in the future.

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Microsoft isn't discussing which OEMs will add the Copilot Switch, leaving announcements for next week's Consumer Electronics Show and beyond. “We'll start seeing the Copilot Switch unveiled on new Windows 11 PCs from our ecosystem partners, with availability starting later this month during the spring, including upcoming Surface devices,” says Mehdi.

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

It's as if Microsoft built Copilot software into it Everything Throughout 2023, this new Copilot switch is part of larger AI-powered changes planned for Windows throughout 2024. “It's seamlessly woven into Windows from the system, through the silicon, all the way to the hardware,” says Mehdi. “This will not only simplify people's computing experience, but also expand it, making 2024 the year of the AI-powered PC.”

Microsoft is working on a Windows “refresh” that will focus on new AI features, along with adding AI to more and more parts of its software and services. Microsoft even started the year by branding Microsoft Edge as an “AI browser,” suggesting that Microsoft's AI push is far from over.

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