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Microsoft claims CoPilot+ PCs are the “fastest, most intelligent”

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Rumours of Microsoft’s so-called AI PCs have finally taken shape at a special event hosted on the company’s new campus. These special Windows PCs focus on running AI models locally. They have reassured Microsoft’s push for Windows on the ARM architecture with direct shots at Apple and its M-series of custom silicon. Microsoft calls these new CoPilot+ PCs the “fastest, most intelligent Windows ever built”.

Of course, running AI models locally would require a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU). Microsoft has currently partnered with Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm on the chip front, while partners like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung will produce the laptops. The Surface line of CoPilot+ PCs has already been announced, with preorders open and shipping set to begin on June 18—starting at $999.

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A new class of Windows PCs

Whether these are the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built remains to be tested, but Microsoft’s bold claims are backed in some form by the requirements of a CoPilot+ PC. To be called a CoPilot+ PC, a system must deliver at least 40 TOPs (trillion operations per second) of NPU performance paired with at least 16GB RAM and 256GB storage.

With Snapdragon’s claims that its X Elite processors can squeeze out 75 TOPs overall, it will be an exciting time for Windows on ARM ahead. Microsoft has kicked the race off with two of its own devices — the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop

The updated Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are the first CoPilot+ laptops to hit the market. | Source: Microsoft

In terms of performance, Microsoft claims that the new PCs are 58 per cent faster than the M3-powered MacBook Air. Battery life is also expected to be significantly higher, with the company promising 22 hours with local video playback and 15 hours while browsing the web. The Surface Pro also brings a new optional OLED screen with HDR support and an ultrawide camera, and the Flex keyboard can now be used when attached or detached. It has a haptic feedback touchpad and Surface Slim Pen storage with integrated charging.

Do keep in mind, though, that comparing it to the MacBook Air might not mean a lot in real-world terms as there are more powerful M3 chips in other Macs, and the M4 has already debuted, albeit in the latest iPad Pro. While numbers are also for the newly announced Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, you can expect specs from other manufacturers to be in the ballpark.

A new Windows 11 powered by AI

Windows 11 has been rebuilt to better support ARM devices, and Microsoft’s serious push in AI means that we’re not starting to see AI-powered features in Windows. To do that, the company has added over 40 AI models to Windows CoPilot Runtime, all part of a new Windows 11 layer. These tools are claimed to be well integrated into the OS, meaning better access to hardware for performance gains, better security and privacy options, and the ability to use them across any Windows app.

As far as AI-powered features go, Recall is first on the list. It is an AI-powered and more powerful version of the Windows 10 Timeline feature that allows users to enter natural language prompts and have their PC come up with information. It can be used across apps, documents, and messages, all on a scrollable timeline.

According to Yosuf Mehdi, Microsoft EVP and Consumer Chief Marketing Officer, Recall was built with ethical AI standards in mind. That means that any data you put through the feature doesn’t leave your PC and won’t be used to train Microsoft’s AI models.

The new Restyle app hopes to make photo editing a prompt game. | Source: Microsoft

Next up is a photo-enhancing tool embedded into the Windows Photos app called Super Resolution, which can revive old images by upscaling them using AI. You’ll also be able to tell a story based on your photos with an in-built AI narrator. The Photos app also gets Restyle, which makes editing images easier using AI in the same manner as you’d generate an image — using a prompt. Since the models power these PCs are running locally, you also don’t have any limitations on how many iterations you can generate.

Another “super” feature in the mix is the Auto Super Resolution tool, which uses AI to upscale game resolutions and improves refresh rates in real-time without impacting performance, akin to Nvidia’s DLSS. Not to be left behind, MS Paint can now generate images from a text prompt and a few brush strokes courtesy of the new Cocreator tool.

Live Captions are also improving with English translation support for up to 40 languages in real-time from live and prerecorded footage playing on your PC. More languages will be added in the future. CoPilot on Windows now gets a dedicated app that can be used in a window or as a sidebar. It works across any app on Windows and supports dragging and dropping elements into the app from anywhere in the OS. You can expect newer keyboards to also come with a dedicated CoPilot button.

CoPilot now comes in a dedicated app. | Source: Microsoft

However, Microsoft’s foray into ARM won’t be as effective as it wants until it can develop a good ARM emulator for x64 and x86-bit programs. On that front, Microsoft has announced Prism, an emulator the company claims is as efficient as Apple’s Rosetta 2. If Microsoft’s claims are true and Prism is a good way to run x64/x84 apps on ARM, this could boost app adoption for the new architecture, fixing a big issue.

That said, major apps, including Zoom, Chrome, and even Photoshop, will run natively on ARM-based Windows. Adobe has gone the extra mile and promised to bring the entire Creative Cloud suite to ARM Windows. Photoshop, Lightroom, and Express are already available at the time of writing, with more tools like Premiere Pro coming later in 2024.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: yadullahabidi@pm.me.

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