Intel throws chips on the table, Microsoft plays the Copilot card in wild bet on AI PCs

Does anyone actually want one?

Intel has muddied the AI PC waters by sharing some of Microsoft's broad, non-vendor-specific requirements for running Copilot locally on Windows while insisting that such computers really do need Intel silicon at their heart.

The PC industry is banking on the machine-learning hype bubble not bursting any time soon. Expensive AI-capable hardware is heading to the shelves in hope of invigorating a market that had previously bet on the requirements of Windows 11 driving a hardware refresh, only to be left disappointed by sluggish sales.

Intel unveiled its AI PC concept in December with the launch of the Core Ultra processor family, which combines a CPU, GPU, and a neural processing unit (NPU). Yesterday, it added a pair of initiatives to its AI PC Acceleration Program, including the AI PC Developer Program and the addition of independent hardware vendors.

But the question remains: What exactly is an AI PC? From Intel's standpoint, it's pretty much anything running a Core Ultra processor with an integrated NPU. For Microsoft, it's a personal computer with the latest NPU, CPU, and GPU silicon – not necessarily Intel's – capable of running its Copilot AI model on Windows and featuring the infamous Copilot key.

Any halfway decent PC – ideally with a GPU – is capable of running AI workloads. However, as Microsoft demonstrated with its controversial Windows 11 hardware requirements, having enough raw power for the task at hand might not always qualify.

Microsoft launched its own range of AI PCs last week as new Surface devices with keyboards sporting that all-important Copilot key and Intel's AI PC chip lurking within.

AMD has its own approach and claims "millions of Ryzen AI PCs have now shipped to every major OEM," although all must have the Copilot key to qualify for Microsoft's approval. Other chipmakers, like Qualcomm, have similarly jumped on the AI bandwagon.

Besides the chip requirements and the inevitable demand for a Copilot key, Microsoft has not revealed what else an AI PC might need. For example, how much memory will qualify? It has also not gone into detail regarding what NPU will be needed.

All of which adds to the understandable confusion surrounding the platform and amplified warnings that holding fire on purchases until the dust has settled would be prudent.

Some customers have already been stung by purchasing new hardware that Microsoft then made obsolete, thanks to the Windows 11 hardware requirements. The AI PC waters will need to clear to reveal more than just a Copilot key before the PC industry stands a chance of the buying wave it craves.

The Register asked Microsoft for a list of AI PC requirements and will update this piece if one is forthcoming. ®

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