The generative AI boom could make the OS cool again

2 min read
The generative AI boom could make the OS cool again

What products and services will benefit the most from recent developments in AI technology? We’re keeping close tabs on the question, and we’re curious if startups will be able to best lever AI improvements or if cloud platforms are the best positioned. Or maybe it’ll be the companies building generative AI models themselves?

I wonder if we’re missing a key type of software in the discussion: the operating system.

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Last week, Microsoft announced a slew of new products and features, including Microsoft Copilot for Windows 11. Calling it an “everyday AI companion” that will live in Windows and other Microsoft products, the company says the product is an extension of the company’s previous efforts to bring Bing’s early AI tools to Windows. It’s also the first update to an operating system that I have been excited about in ages.

Ask yourself how much your computing experience has really changed from Windows 10 to Windows 11, or from the last version of macOS you used to whatever you are on now. (It turns out that I am running Ventura 13.5.2 at the moment. Who knew?!) The same question works for iOS and other operating systems I touch day to day. I bet that your answer is similar to my own: not much. Unless you’re using some variant of Linux, of course.

That’s because operating systems have become docile computing layers that mostly serve as a base to run other applications off. I don’t care much about what OS I use, because I use Chrome across all of them. I don’t really need to know much about the operating system that is running Chrome for me at that particular moment; I just need to use web apps, thank you very much.

This contented stagnation is not a bad thing, mind. The fact that iOS still shows you an app grid when you fire it up is because it’s a simple and intuitive way to show a user their arsenal of applications. Microsoft is similarly invested in the Start Menu, which has worked pretty well since I was trying to keep my parents off the phone so that I could stay online as a child. And the various flavors of Android have their own takes on the app drawer.

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