The real reason behind Copilot+ PCs goes far beyond AI

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Microsoft has much more at stake with Copilot+ PCs than just their AI capabilities. While AI is currently a hot topic in the tech industry, Microsoft’s push into this new category of PCs also aims to address declining PC sales over recent years and to advance its long-term goal of successfully implementing Windows on ARM.

Why the Copilot+ PC?

The Copilot+ PCs come with AI features, but they seem to be more about reviving a stagnant Windows laptop market. The need for a Copilot+ PC to access Microsoft’s new AI features is attributed to the specific hardware requirements: a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) with at least 40 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS) of power. Current Intel and AMD chips fall short, while the Snapdragon X Elite and upcoming Intel Lunar Lake CPUs meet these requirements.

 

Aiming Higher

The Struggle with PC Sales

The PC market has been in decline, with 2022 shipments at their lowest since 2006. Microsoft’s Surface devices represent a small portion of the market, but more Windows laptops sold is beneficial for the company. The competition from Apple’s M-series laptops and the decade-long effort to integrate ARM with Windows further incentivize the success of Copilot+.

The Snapdragon X Elite chip, which uses ARM instructions, powers AI applications, extends battery life, and offers competitive performance. By promoting Copilot+ PCs, Microsoft aligns its AI ambitions with the push for more laptop sales. However, getting the larger Windows userbase to embrace AI might be challenging due to privacy concerns and practical uncertainties.

Caught in Limbo

Balancing Hardware and Software

Currently, there’s a gap between AI-compatible hardware and software. While Microsoft plans to roll out AI features to a broader userbase through Windows Updates, there’s no set timeline. Users with powerful GPUs or last year’s “AI PCs” might need to buy new laptops to fully experience the AI capabilities.

Eventually, the hardware and software scales will balance, with NPUs becoming standard and more powerful. Until then, Copilot+ serves as a pivotal point for ARM on Windows and aims to revive laptop sales. Microsoft’s ambitions with Copilot+ clearly extend beyond a few new AI features, aiming to transform the entire PC landscape.