Microsoft is poised to reveal its vision for AI-powered PCs at the Build developer conference

The Microsoft Build developer conference is beginning on Tuesday, allowing the company to showcase its latest artificial intelligence projects. This comes after high-profile events hosted by OpenAI and Google earlier this month.

One area where Microsoft has a distinct advantage in the AI race is its ownership of Windows, which gives the company access to a massive PC user base.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in January that by 2024, AI will become a “first-class part of every PC.”

The company already offers its Copilot chatbot assistant in the Bing search engine and in Office productivity software for a fee. Now, PC users will learn more about how AI will be integrated into Windows and what they can do with it on new AI PCs.

The build comes shortly after Google I/O, where the search giant unveiled its most powerful AI model yet and showcased how its Gemini AI will work on computers and phones. Prior to Google’s event, OpenAI announced its new GPT-4o model. Microsoft is OpenAI’s lead investor, and its Copilot technology is based on OpenAI’s models.

For Microsoft, the challenge is twofold: maintaining a prominent position in AI and boosting PC sales, which have been sluggish for the past two years following an upgrade cycle during the pandemic.

Morgan Stanley analyst Erik Woodring wrote in a recent note to investors that he remains “bullish on the PC market recovery” due to positive feedback from customers and recent “upward revisions to notebook” original design manufacturer (ODM) builds.

According to technology industry researcher Gartner, PC shipments increased by 0.9% in the quarter after a multi-year decline. Microsoft CFO Amy Hood stated on the company’s quarterly earnings call last month that demand for PCs was “slightly better than expected.”

New AI tools from Microsoft could provide another reason for enterprise and consumer customers to upgrade their aging computers, whether HP, Dell, or Lenovo make them.

While Microsoft will provide the software to handle some of the AI tasks sent to the internet, its computers will be powered by chips from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm for offline AI jobs. For example, this could include using your voice to ask Copilot to summarize a transcription without an internet connection.

The key hardware addition to an AI PC is a neural processing unit (NPU). NPUs surpass the capabilities of traditional central processing units (CPUs) and specifically handle artificial intelligence tasks. Microsoft hasn’t yet disclosed what AI PCs will be capable of without an internet connection.

Intel expects to release computers with its latest Lunar Lake chips featuring a dedicated NPU in late 2024. Qualcomm will make its Snapdragon X Elite chip with an NPU available in the middle of this year, while AMD plans to release its latest Ryzen Pro sometime during the quarter.

Intel says the chips allow for things like “real-time language translation, automation inferencing, and enhanced gaming environments.”

One of Microsoft’s sessions will discuss “the Next Generation of Windows on Arm,” likely covering how Windows runs on Qualcomm chips and how that’s different from Intel and AMD versions of Windows.

In the past, Qualcomm has promoted Snapdragon Arm-based computers by highlighting their longer battery life, thinner designs, and other benefits like cellular connections. However, earlier versions of Qualcomm’s chips were limited in what they offered consumers. 2018 for example, the company’s Snapdragon 835 chip couldn’t run most Windows applications. Microsoft has since improved Windows to handle traditional apps on Arm, but questions remain.

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