Microsoft hasn’t officially announced Windows 12. However, it’s a safe bet the Redmond-based tech giant will eventually release a follow-up to Windows 11. While there’s no definitive word yet on the status of Windows 12, rumors surrounding the expected operating system update have persisted for the past year.
If what we’ve heard is true, Windows 12 could offer a substantial update for the best Windows laptops and the best computers running the OS. Given all the money Microsoft has invested in the technology, an emphasis on generative AI is expected. But we’ve also heard about possible quality-of-life updates for Windows 12 that could make the software more user-friendly.
Recognizing that everything discussed in this article is based on rumors and alleged leaks, here are three of the biggest upgrades that could arrive on Windows 12.
Windows 12 vs Windows 11: AI features
Generative AI will be an integral part of Windows 12, according to rumors. Microsoft invested $10 billion into OpenAI, the company behind GhatGPT. With Microsoft having integrated ChatGPT with Windows Copilot (the rebranded Bing with ChatGPT), the company will likely go further and use this technology in Windows 12.
A recent report hinted that Microsoft could rely a lot more on machine learning to better provide context-sensitive information and assistance when carrying out everyday computing tasks in Windows 12. This alleged leak could hint at potential updates for Windows 12 to add more smart features to the OS.
Whatever Microsoft does with AI tech, it’ll need to be more useful than its virtual assistant Cortana. Originally a core part of Windows 10, Cortana didn't win over users and ended up being somewhat divested into an app rather than a main feature in the Start menu. But the integration of Copilot could be a lot more useful, especially with its ability to better understand questions posed in natural conversational language.
On a related note, Intel is set to debut its new Intel Core Ultra chips, which pack an NPU, or Neural Processing Unit, to handle AI-focused workloads. A recent report claims Windows 12 could launch in June 2024. Because of the timing, an AI-friendly Windows 12 would no doubt utilize the NPU of the Intel Core Ultra or Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite chips.
Windows 12 vs Windows 11: Modular OS
Another intriguing Windows 12 rumor comes to us from Zac Bowden of sibling publication, Windows Central. According to Bowden’s sources, Microsoft wants to make the OS more modular so that certain applications and programs can be enabled or disabled on specific devices.
This wouldn’t be new, as Microsoft tried this with Windows Core OS, which aimed to be a modular, Universal Windows Platform (UWP) OS that removed legacy Windows features and app compatibility so it could be more lightweight, quicker to install updates and more. Windows 10X tried this level of modularity, but Microsoft scrapped it in 2021. However, we might see this concept return in Windows 12.
How would users benefit from a modular OS? Windows runs on a range of devices — including the best tablets and even some of the best handheld gaming consoles. However, not every Windows device requires the full scope of legacy Win32 app support. A modular Windows 12 would let Microsoft configure different versions of the OS for different platforms — ostensibly so these devices can perform better by not being weighed down by applications and programs it doesn’t need.
Windows 12 vs Windows 11: Updated UI
During the IT-focused Ignite 2022 conference, Microsoft quickly showed a Windows interface that could be a glimpse of Windows 12.
As ExtremeTech (via PCMag) reported, those attending the event saw a desktop with a floating taskbar and system icons in the top right corner. There were also screenshots showing a floating search bar in the top center of the center, along with weather in the top left.
It’s important to note that what Microsoft allegedly showed isn’t representative of what the Windows 12 interface will look like at launch. In fact, given how subtle the design changes are, we could even see a form of it in a Windows 11 update. That said, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Windows 12 will have a different UI from Windows 11. What that UI will ultimately look like is anyone’s guess, but given how the company has continued streamlining Windows 11 (both visually and functionally), the new UI should — pun intended — be more user-friendly.
Windows 12 outlook
As I said up top, Microsoft hasn’t officially announced Windows 12. Because of that, it’s best to take all the rumors I discussed with the requisite grain (or two) of salt.
Still, it’s a safe bet that generative AI will be a crucial component of Microsoft’s next operating system — both on-device and via the cloud. This aspect could not only make Windows 12 vastly different from Windows 11 but perhaps bolster the declining PC and laptop markets.
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Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.