‘Windows 12’ leak just teased powerful AI upgrades — here’s what we know

Windows 12 image on phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Work on Windows 12 or something like it may be well underway at Microsoft, and a new report suggests powerful new features could be in the cards for the Windows 11 successor.

Most notably, a future version of Windows could rely far more on machine learning algorithms to try helping you out by providing context-sensitive assistance in day-to-day computing.  We're talking integrating machine learning with Windows in a far deeper way than Microsoft did back in February, when Bing with ChatGPT arrived on the Windows 11 taskbar.  

According to a new report from Windows Central, the team at Microsoft have been testing out some of these ideas while working on the next Windows, which has reportedly been known internally by codenames like "Next Valley" or "Hudson Valley" during development. This lines up with a screenshot Microsoft shared at its Ignite 2022 event which appeared to show a redesigned Windows UI along with a "Next Valley Prototype Design" label.

This image appeared briefly during a demo at Microsoft Ignite 2022, and is believed to show the next version of Windows in development. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Based on the word of sources trusted by Windows Central, Microsoft appears to be working out how to build a version of Windows that's more modular and customizable than ever before. This version of the OS may be codenamed "CorePC", and it's reportedly being designed with the goal of being as secure as Windows 11, yet more customizable and designed from the ground up in a more modular way so it's easier to install on a wider variety of devices than traditional Windows PCs, laptops and tablets. 

Though we can't say for sure how true that is, it would certainly make some sense given that the best Windows laptops are often far less appealing to organizations like schools and businesses than the best Chromebooks, since Windows 11 is more complicated than ChromeOS and more time-consuming to manage.

According to Windows Central's sources, this more modular and lightweight Windows 11 successor would be smaller and easier to install, not to mention faster to update, which could make it a more compelling ChromeOS competitor. The future Windows version would be designed to come in multiple editions appropriate for different platforms, and the company is working on a layer of compatibility software (reportedly codenamed "Neon") that will bridge the gap when trying to run apps that require legacy Windows features on the newer, slimmer versions. 

A version of this lightweight Windows successor is reportedly already being tested internally, and is "roughly 60-75% smaller than Windows 11 SE" according to Windows Central's trusted source. At least one version is being designed with a focus on optimizing hardware and software to the fullest and leveraging the hardware's machine learning capabilities "in a way similar to Apple Silicon", according to Windows Central. 

That would make an awful lot of sense given how much success Apple has seen switching its MacBooks from Intel CPUs to its own in-house Apple Silicon. The best MacBooks tap the power of their Apple M-series chips not just to help you speed through spreadsheets, but also to help out with tasks like touching up your webcam image quality during video calls. 

A Windows 11 successor that offered similar features by taking fuller advantage of the hardware it's running on would be awfully compelling, and Windows Central claims Microsoft is developing potential Windows 12 features like automatically analyzing what's on-screen and popping up contextual prompts, or allowing you to highlight text in images and copy it into another file. 


While there's no reason yet to presume the software will be called Windows 12, there's plenty of good reasons to assume Microsoft is working on a follow-up to Windows 11. While it's still a perfectly good operating system that will be supported for years to come, Windows 11 hasn't exactly been the most popular Windows in history, and with fierce competition from Apple and Google, Microsoft would be foolish not to be working on a Next Big Thing in Windows. 

Certainly the recent frenzy over LLM-trained chatbots like Google Bard or Bing with ChatGPT makes the suggestion that such AI-adjacent technologies will end up in the next Windows seem like a safe bet. We'll have to wait and see, of course, but it seems highly unlikely the tech craze for putting "AI" in everything will peter out before Windows 12 (or whatever Microsoft ends up calling it) hits store shelves in its predicted 2024 release window.

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Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.