March 27, 2024
Intel, Copilot Key Required for Microsoft's AI PCs

Intel: Copilot Key Required for Microsoft’s AI PCs

Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and AMD have been championing the concept of an “AI PC,” aligning with the trend toward AI-powered features in Windows. While Microsoft has yet to unveil the specifics of its AI plans for Windows, Intel has begun sharing Microsoft’s requirements for OEMs aiming to construct AI PCs. A key requirement set by Microsoft is the inclusion of the Copilot key.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Requirements for AI PCs

Microsoft’s vision for AI PCs involves a combination of hardware and software, including a Neural Processing Unit (NPU), the latest CPUs and GPUs, and access to Copilot. OEMs are required to integrate the Copilot key, as per Microsoft’s guidelines. However, certain laptops, like Asus’ ROG Zephyrus, lack the Copilot key despite featuring Intel’s new Core Ultra chips, thus falling short of Microsoft’s strict requirements.

Todd Lewellen, head of the PC ecosystem at Intel, emphasized the alignment between Intel and Microsoft on the definition of AI PCs, focusing on Core Ultra, Copilot, and the Copilot key. He highlighted that although certain systems may not have the physical Copilot key, they still incorporate Intel’s integrated NPU.

The AI PC requirements. Image: Intel

Uncertainties Surrounding OEM Adherence and Incentives

Both Intel and Microsoft anticipate OEMs to eventually adhere to Microsoft’s AI PC requirements and integrate the Copilot key. However, it remains uncertain what incentives OEMs will receive for complying with Microsoft’s definition. While Microsoft has branded its latest Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 devices for businesses as AI PCs, details regarding additional marketing support or incentives for OEMs remain undisclosed.

Despite the lack of clarity surrounding OEM incentives, Intel is expanding its AI PC acceleration program, initially launched in October. This initiative aims to engage software developers in creating AI-powered features for their applications. Intel plans to reach smaller developers through an AI PC developer program, hosting events throughout the year and providing hands-on experience with AI models and tools.

Intel’s Strategy for AI PC Acceleration

Intel is also targeting hardware vendors as part of its AI PC acceleration program, encouraging optimization and enabling hardware for Intel’s AI PCs. The focus on developers aims to increase the adoption of NPU hardware, particularly in optimizing apps for AI PCs. Currently, Microsoft’s Windows Studio Effects, which utilizes the NPU to blur backgrounds in video calls, represents one of the primary use cases for NPUs in Windows.

The competition in the AI PC landscape intensifies with Qualcomm’s impending launch of Snapdragon X Elite laptops, promising significant performance improvements for Windows on Arm. Additionally, Google’s optimized version of Chrome for Windows on Arm signals a shift towards enhanced user experiences on Qualcomm-powered Windows laptops. Amid these developments, Microsoft is rumored to transition exclusively to Arm for its consumer versions of the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6.

Intel’s AI PC development kit. Image: Microsoft

Looking Ahead: Microsoft’s AI and Surface Event

Microsoft’s upcoming AI and Surface event on May 20th, featuring CEO Satya Nadella, is expected to provide insights into the company’s vision for AI hardware and software. As the AI PC race escalates, with competing efforts from Intel, Qualcomm, and Google, the event will likely shape the trajectory of AI innovation in the PC industry.

Photo by Pok Rie

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