Microsoft rethinks the public launch of Recall

  • Recall will now launch as a preview for Windows Insiders on 18th June instead of being released to all Copilot+ PC owners.
  • Windows Insiders will need a PC that supports Copilot+ to access the feature.
  • Microsoft says the decision to restrict the launch of Recall is “rooted in our commitment to providing a trusted, secure and robust experience for all customers.”

At the end of May, Microsoft announced a new product called Copilot+. This software pairs with special hardware to unlock a range of features enabled by artificial intelligence. One of those features is Recall which allows you to search for things you’ve looked at on your PC because it indexes everything you do.

We don’t mean you can just search, you can search for something like “yellow umbrella” and Recall will show you any website or application you used that showcased a yellow umbrella. While it’s a cool feature to be sure, it has also stoked privacy and security concerns.

Now, Microsoft has said it’s pushing the release of Recall back and instead, it will release the feature as a preview to Windows Insiders.

“Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks. Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

The firm says that the reason it’s shifting the initial release to preview is so that it can gather feedback from the Windows Insider community before unleashing Recall to all users.

“This decision is rooted in our commitment to providing a trusted, secure and robust experience for all customers and to seek additional feedback prior to making the feature available to all Copilot+ PC users. Additionally, as we shared in our May 3 blog, security is our top priority at Microsoft, in line with our Secure Future Initiative (SFI). This is reflected in additional security protections we are providing for Recall content, including ‘just in time’ decryption protected by Windows Hello Enhanced Sign-in Security (ESS), so Recall snapshots will only be decrypted and accessible when the user authenticates. The development of Copilot+ PCs, Recall and Windows will continue to be guided by SFI,” the software behemoth added.

One sticking point we foresee however, is that Recall is only available on PCs that support Copilot+ as it requires an NPU which most Windows-based laptops currently on the market don’t sport. PCs that support Copilot+ also only hit shelves from next week onwards and we suspect that the Venn diagram of Windows Insiders and those who want a Windows laptop running in an ARM64 environment is just two separate circles.

To us, this is a signal that a public release of Recall may be a long way out. The good news is that while it’s in Preview, Insiders can break the software and find problems before they hit the wild.

When Recall was announced, folks pointed out that maybe having a visual history of everything you’ve done for the last three months wasn’t the best idea. However, as field chief technology officer at Sophos Aaron Bugal highlighted, Microsoft has collected this data for ages.

“However, this metadata has long been captured by your computing devices since the day you first logged on to it. Log files, cookies, browsing history, application access, recent documents, indexing services… all of these point in time and product logging-artefact generating flows exist already,” Bugal told Hypertext last month.

Microsoft has also made provisions to insure a user’s data isn’t improperly accessed. For instance, Windows Hello must be enabled for Recall to be enabled and users will have to provide proof of presence when viewing their timeline and search in Recall. This friction could get annoying though so hopefully Microsoft is keeping that in mind.

In our opinion, Microsoft jumped the gun here and Recall has been poorly received by the tech community. We suspect that if Recall does reach a public release it won’t be used and it could potentially go the way of Android apps running natively on Windows.


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