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Microsoft announces new PCs with AI chips from Qualcomm

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a company event on AI technologies in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 30, 2024.

Dimas Ardian | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft is touting new computers with advanced chips designed to run artificial intelligence features of software for Windows, without quickly using up battery life.

The company on Monday announced Surface Laptop and a Surface Pro tablet with a Qualcomm chip that can run some AI tasks without an internet connection. Other computer makers like Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Samsung are also launching AI-ready PCs powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus processors, which promise longer battery life and will run Microsoft’s Copilot AI chatbot.

The computers adhere to Microsoft’s new Copilot+ standard that feature a minimum amount of performance, storage and memory. Copilot+ PCs with AMD and Intel chips will follow, Microsoft said during a press keynote on its campus in Redmond, Washington. The PCs will be able to translate audio, recommend responses to incoming messages and suggest changes in the Settings app and even talk with people about what’s on screen.

A Recall feature will be able to search through a log of previous actions on PCs. Recall relies on AI models that run directly on the device, so it can run offline, and an index of the data never goes to remote servers. And AI models will be able to generate images based on written descriptions as well as drawings.

Microsoft is banking on Qualcomm’s energy-efficient Arm-based chips that can handle AI models to defend its Windows franchise. Apple has gained market share in PC shipments with MacBooks containing its Arm-based chips, having moved away from Intel, which remains the top provider of computer processors.

The development marks Microsoft’s latest effort to surround consumers and corporate workers with ChatGPT-like capabilities. OpenAI released the ChatGPT chatbot in late 2022, and it quickly took off as a tool for quickly obtaining computer-generated poems, email drafts and summaries of historical events. Within nearly two months, 100 million people were using it.

Microsoft and other large technology companies were soon working to augment their products with generative AI. A Copilot chatbot drawing on ChatGPT’s underlying AI models came to the Bing search engine, along with the Windows 10 and 11 operating systems. Those with Office productivity software subscriptions could pay extra to have a Copilot refer to their documents for written responses.

But the GPT-4 model inside ChatGPT has only done its necessary computing work in Microsoft’s Azure cloud. These new PCs models can run AI some models locally, without requiring an internet connection. The launch comes nearly four months after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told analysts on the company’s earnings call that “in 2024, AI will become a first-class part of every PC.”

Microsoft has had little success in getting people to adopt Arm-based Windows computers. They haven’t always performed as well as computers running Intel or AMD chips, and certain applications have been incompatible. But running generative AI locally means computers will need more power, and strong battery life will be more critical. That might make Windows on Arm more compelling.

Analysts with Morgan Stanley expect Arm systems to be 14% of all Windows PC shipments in 2026, up from 0% in 2023, according to a note distributed to clients earlier this month.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

WATCH: AI PC race speeds up ahead of significant chip launches

AI PC race speeds up ahead of significant chip launches

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