Microsoft takes on Apple MacBook Air with its Copilot+ PC

21 May 2024

Image: Microsoft

In what it describes as a ‘complete reimagination’ of the PC, Microsoft has introduced AI upgrades to personal computing as it hopes to take on Apple.

Microsoft has unveiled a new line of AI-powered PCs called Copilot+ that it claims are the “fastest, most intelligent” Windows PCs ever built.

At the Surface and Windows AI event yesterday (20 May), Microsoft said Copilot+ PCs are capable of processing more than 40trn operations per second and provide access to the latest AI models while also maintaining all-day battery life, calling it “just the beginning” as it takes aim at rival Apple.

“Over the past year, we have seen an incredible pace of innovation of AI in the cloud with Copilot allowing us to do things that we never dreamed possible. Now, we begin a new chapter with AI innovation on the device,” said Microsoft executive VP and consumer chief marketing officer Yusuf Medhdi. “We have completely reimagined the entirety of the PC – from silicon to the operating system, the application layer to the cloud – with AI at the centre, marking the most significant change to the Window platform in decades.”

The new PCs combine traditional CPUs and GPUs with a new “high performance” neural processing unit (NPU) that is enhanced by large language models (LLMs) – the brain behind AI systems – running on Azure Cloud.

Microsoft claims that Copilot+ PCs are up to 20 times more powerful and up to 100 times more efficient for running AI workloads than previous personal computers. It singled out Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Air and said that its new PC line outperformed the device by nearly 60pc in “sustained multithreaded performance” while also retaining battery life for a day. It claimed that the new PCs can deliver up to 22 hours of local video playback or 15 hours of web browsing on a single charge.

Of the many features these PCs will offer, one of note is Recall. This feature allows users to find something they are looking for and have seen before on their PC by just inputting a few words as a text prompt. The rest, Microsoft says, is done by the computer. “Just describe it using text or visual search, and Recall will show you snapshots of the most relevant content in a way that feels like having photographic memory,” Microsoft wrote in a blog.

Copilot+ PCs also come with built-in Windows features that allow users to create and edit images with the help of AI. “Combine your ink strokes with text prompts to generate new images in nearly real time with Cocreator. As you iterate, so does the artwork, helping you more easily refine, edit and evolve your ideas,” Microsoft said. Powerful diffusion-based algorithms, the company said, optimise for the highest quality output over minimum steps to make it feel like a user is “creating alongside AI”.

“Use the creativity slider to choose from a range of artwork from more literal to more expressive. Once you select your artwork, you can continue iterating on top of it, helping you express your ideas, regardless of your creative skills.”

Microsoft has taken the lead in a global push to build and invest in AI. The company’s latest quarterly earnings saw revenue reach nearly $62bn, an increase of 17pc for the tech giant compared to last year. Meanwhile, the company’s net income was $21.9bn, with a year-on-year growth of 20pc.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic