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Tech Bytes: Could Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs revolutionise AI computing?

Published 24/05/2024, 12:31 pm
© Reuters.  Tech Bytes: Could Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs revolutionise AI computing?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is ramping up its AI presence.

At its annual Build Developer Conference, the tech giant unveiled a range of AI-integrated services targeting enterprises and consumers.

In launching the conference, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella stood in front of a giant purple billboard marked by the slogan ‘A new AI era begins’.

And as the conference progressed, it was clear that the $4.8 trillion company was digging in its heels to take on Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL, ETR:APC)., with its new AI computers.

A development to watch is the introduction of a new feature called Recall, aimed at enhancing computer understanding of user intent.

Recall addresses the common issue of locating specific files or documents when users remember the content but not the location. Pavan Davuluri, head of Windows and devices, explained that the new PCs can continuously capture on-screen activity, including files worked on and web pages viewed. Users have the option to disable this feature.

By using generative AI and simple verbal prompts, Recall helps users find previously viewed documents or web pages.

“If you’re searching for a picture of a red barn door, you don’t typically search by saying ‘find me a picture with the red barn door’. You’re usually searching for files and folders, names and dates and all that stuff. And I think now the operating system is going to start making it more simple for you,” Microsoft head of Windows and devices Pavan Davuluri said.

“AI is woven into every layer of these devices, from the silicon to the operating system, with the most powerful PC NPUs capable of delivering over 40 trillion operations per second. This new class of PCs is up to 20 times as powerful, and 100 times as efficient for running AI workloads, compared to traditional PCs from just a few years ago.”

Copilot+ PCs: AI-powered gaming and art

Microsoft has introduced a new class of personal computers optimised for artificial intelligence tasks.

Named Copilot+ PCs, these computers represent a significant milestone for the company, comparable to the launch of Windows 95.

The company claims this marks the beginning of a new era of AI.

These computers use efficient ARM processors, similar to those found in smartphones.

They allow the new AI features built into Windows to run continuously without draining power or slowing computing speed. Computers can be used as normal, while benefiting from longer battery life and cooler-running machines, making Microsoft competitive with Apple, which has used ARM processors in its MacBooks for years.

Microsoft boasts that its Copilot+ PCs are 58% faster than the latest MacBook Air.

The Copilot+ PCs news AI capabilities can teach people to play games like Minecraft using their voice in a conversational style with a bot. Additionally, the AI can create artwork in various styles using a few crude brushstrokes on a screen with a stylus. For Nadella, the launch of the new PCs represents the realisation of a higher ambition.

“If you think about, even going all the way back to the beginning of modern computing, let’s say 70 years ago, there have been two real dreams we’ve had,” Nardella said.

“The first is can computers understand us instead of us having to understand computers? And the second was … as you digitise more artefacts on peoples, places and things, and you have more information, can computers help us reason, plan and act more effectively on all that information?

“And here we are. I think that we’ve had real breakthroughs on both fronts.”

AI-integrated services for enterprises and consumers

Microsoft announced several new AI-integrated services for enterprises and consumers at its Build 2024 conference. These updates are designed to equip developers with the necessary tools to create a diverse array of AI-enabled products. Enterprise AI is a primary focus for Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft, though consumer initiatives are not far behind.

Alongside new products, Microsoft delivered a strategic plan to maintain leadership in AI. The question remains whether integrating AI into every product is the best path forward.

Microsoft Build 2024 highlights

Copilot updates

Team Copilot, Microsoft's generative AI service for Microsoft 365 and Teams users, now extends beyond delivering a conversational experience. It enhances collaboration by managing agendas, taking notes, moderating chats, and answering contextual questions. Microsoft emphasised that "Team Copilot expands Copilot beyond a personal assistant to act as a valuable team member."

Additionally, new integration capabilities in Microsoft Copilot Studio allow users to build custom copilots to automate various business operations. The Early Access Program is available now, with a broader rollout expected in late 2024.

Copilot+ PC

Microsoft's new Windows-based hardware, Copilot+ PC, was highlighted despite being launched a day before the keynote. These devices, including the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, feature semiconductors from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and AMD (NASDAQ:AMD), and promise up to 20 times more power and 100 times the efficiency for AI workloads compared to the MacBook Air M3. Copilot+ PCs start at $999 and are available for pre-order ahead of their general release on June 18.

Phi-3-Vision Small Language Model

Phi-3-Vision, a new small language model (SLM) from Microsoft, is currently in preview. Designed for low-computing tasks on mobile and IoT devices, it features visual reasoning capabilities for text and image analysis. Microsoft claims it outperforms several competitors on multiple benchmarks, although a general release date has not been specified.

Snapdragon Dev Kit

Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon Dev Kit, developed in collaboration with Microsoft, at Build 2024. This device, aimed at developers, features a Snapdragon X Elite processor and supports building, testing, and porting new AI experiences. It is priced at $899.

Microsoft file explorer integration with Git

The integration of Git with Microsoft File Explorer allows developers to manage and track coding projects within Windows' native program, enhancing efficiency and convenience.

Microsoft’s partnerships

Microsoft announced partnerships with Meta to bring Windows Volumetric Apps to Quest headsets, and with Hugging Face to integrate large language models into Azure AI studio. Additionally, the collaboration with Khan Academy will provide free access to AI tools for US-based K-12 educators, aiming to enhance educational content delivery and math tutoring.

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