When Microsoft debuted its AI-powered Bing Chat, the obvious point of comparison was Clippy, the virtual assistant users loved and/or loathed in Microsoft Office 97. Now Clippy is back, in a new, unauthorized app that somehow has made it onto the Microsoft Store.
Clippy by Firecube uses Microsoft’s animated paper clip, Clippy (known as Clippit to purists), as a front end for ChatGPT 3.5, the AI chatbot developed by OpenAI. Although the app refers to Clippy by name, the full text description of the app immediately identifies it as “Not by Microsoft” to presumably fend off any lawyers that might be sniffing about the app. Firecube has a good reputation as a developer who looks deeply into new Windows code for unpublicized features.
Basically, Clippy by Firecube looks like a front end for ChatGPT. So why use it? Nostalgia.
Clippy/Clippit, otherwise known as the Microsoft Paperclip, persisted in Office for Windows 97 until 2003, according to Wikipedia. As many may remember, Clippy was just one of various incarnations of the Office Assistant, which could appear as The Genius, Power Pup the dog, Scribble the cat, and more. It was eventually killed off by default in Office XP. Later, Clippy landed in the “it’s so bad it’s good” category of pop culture, and today the paperclip emoji within Windows (type the Windows key, then a semicolon) is Clippy by default.
It’s important to note that Clippy by Firecube probably won’t have a long shelf life. Microsoft is expected to debut Windows Copilot sometime this summer. (Officially, the feature is scheduled to debut before the end of June, which ends shortly.) The difference between Windows Copilot and Clippy by Firecube goes beyond the name. While Clippy by Firecube is essentially a ChatGPT interface, Windows Copilot should have deep hooks into the Windows operating system.
The difference between the two AI bots is further explained by the screenshot Firecube published. In it, Clippy’s ChatGPT interface can tell you how you how to change the Windows background, but that’s all. It’s likely that Windows Copilot will actually perform that task for you, if you ask. Otherwise, both Windows Copilot and Clippy by Firecube both run on top of ChatGPT, so other answers should be similar.
There’s also another small, but key difference: personality. Microsoft has a had a love/hate relationship with injecting personality into its chatbots, from Tay to its recent misadventures with Bing Chat’s AI personality. Windows Copilot will most likely be a no-nonsense chatbot. Clippy, however, was deliberately, er, helpful, and will probably remain so.
Clippy by Firecube, though a free app, does require an API key, a token that identifies you and links to your account. You can sign up for one at OpenAI’s site here. While the signup is free (and so is a trial) the OpenAI API assigns your account free credits that are used up as you use the Clippy by Firecube app. You’ll also need to trust the app itself, as you’ll be supplying a paid token to the publisher. Windows Copilot, however, will likely be entirely free, as is Bing Chat.
Still, if you’re looking for a blast from the past and don’t mind a quick setup process, Clippy by Firecube may be for you.