Microsoft cancels universal Recall release in favor of Windows Insider preview

Wider release coming real soon – promise – after the Windows faithful give it a thrashing

Microsoft has cancelled the wide release of Recall – the controversial tool for Copilot+ PCs that takes regular snapshots of a machine to create a record of everything users do with their machines – and will instead make it available only to Windows Insiders for the foreseeable future.

Recall was announced on May 20, when Redmond touted it as a handy tool to help users do things like remember the name of that really great website they visited last week but didn't bookmark, or find that email they sent to The Register with a really great tip-off. Recall uses AI to unravel queries that should, in theory, find that website or email – or anything else users did on their PCs and want to dredge up.

That idea was not met with enthusiasm. Instead, it quickly stirred controversy after an FAQ was unearthed in which Microsoft admitted that the tool could also record passwords or personal data – like bank account numbers. The prospect that anyone able to login to a PC running Recall could access such data has obvious privacy implications.

Criticism flowed thick and fast.

Recall was announced on the same day as the Copilot+ PC – Redmond's term for a machine equipped with a 40-TOPS NPU tuned to handle AI applications – and suggested as a demonstration of those machines' power.

Tinkerers, however, quickly found Recall could run on more modest hardware – meaning more PCs might therefore at risk once the tool was widely released.

Microsoft's woes only deepened when it was discovered that the tool was on by default, and disabling it required a journey deep Windows Settings. There be dragons.

A pile-on ensued. Analysts suggested Microsoft had made a big mistake. Science fiction author Charles Stross – who occasionally mentions The Register in his work – opined that Recall is a lawyer's delight as the fact it records everything means every act performed with a PC would be available to discover during preparation for litigation.

Microsoft resolutely backed Recall for 17 days, but on June 7 the mega-developer caved and announced that the tool would be made opt-in instead of on by default, and also introduced extra security precautions –such as only producing results from Recall after authentication, and never decrypting data the tool stored until after a query.

Those decisions didn't end criticism of Recall, as Microsoft's obliviousness to privacy problems was not felt to reflect well on its culture.

On Thursday, the wounded software titan took another step backwards: an update to the announcement of Recall's reversion to opt-in brought news that the tool won't be delivered to all users of Copilot+ PCs as of June 18.

Instead, Recall will be delivered to members of the Windows Insider Program "in the coming weeks."

Once those dedicated Windows aficionados have had their way with Recall and offered feedback, a preview for all Copilot+ PCs will be "coming soon," according to Microsoft's corporate veep for Windows+ devices, Pavan Davuluri.

Delaying Recall's debut is unwelcome for Microsoft after it decided to strike out on its own by coining its own term – Copilot+ PC – at a time its key silicon partners Intel and AMD were keen on "AI PC."

The first Copilot+ PCs to be announced, however, were powered by Qualcomm silicon – a major move for the chip design firm that dominates mobile devices but has struggled to crack the PC market.

In the weeks since Recall caused such consternation it, and now Qualcomm-powered PCs, has been a far more prevalent topic of discussion than the merits of those new machines.

And now Qualcomm's finest won't immediately get the app that Microsoft shows them off to their best advantage.

It could be months before they do. Between the small size of the Windows Insider community relative to the entire Windows user base, and the fact that Recall needs a Copilot+ PC, not many people will be able to put the tool through its paces in the next few weeks. ®

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