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Intel: Microsoft AI PCs need a Copilot Key
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Quote:Microsoft hopes that 2024 will be the year that so-called AI PCs will take off. Tidbits and rumors about this new breed of PCs are found everywhere, but Microsoft itself has been tight lipped when it comes to requirements.

Intel has now published Microsoft's requirements for an AI PC. It was clear from the start that AI PCs require a neural processing unit (NPU) and modern CPU and GPU silicon. Intel says that for a PC to be called AI PC, it needs to meet two additional requirements: it needs Copilot and also the Copilot key.

[Image: Intel-AI-PCs-requirements.jpg]

While it was clear that Copilot plays a role on AI PCs, as it is makes the core of Microsoft's artificial intelligence strategy, it may come as a surprise that the dedicated Copilot key on the keyboard is also a requirement.

Microsoft announced the Copilot key in early 2024. It is a dedicated key on the keyboard that activates Copilot functionality when used. The key's full functionality is unknown at this point, but it seems likely that it is going to bring Copilot's interface to the front when activated. The introduction of the key is the first major change to Windows keyboards in almost 30 years. The last addition was the Windows key.

Back then, Microsoft said that the Copilot key was optional. That manufacturers could select a position for it on the keyboard or skip it altogether. Now, it appears, that AI PCs at the least require this key, at least according to Intel.

These requirements mean that some laptops and PCs cannot be called AI PCs even though they come with a dedicated NPU and Intel's latest Core Ultra silicon. One example of such a laptop is ASUS' new ROG Zephyrus, which has a dedicated NPU but no Copilot key on the keyboard.

It is unclear at this point whether non-AI PCs will be at a disadvantage when Microsoft launches the next version of Windows 11. It is expected to turn regular Windows 11 systems into AI PCs. How much of that is marketing remains to be seen. It is possible that manufacturers may not advertise their products as AI PCs, if they lack one of the requirements. Functionality-wise, it is possible that Windows provides full AI functionality if the PC has a NPU and modern silicon.

The NPU requirement could hint at local processing. Currently, all interactions with Copilot require an Internet connection. User data, e.g., the text that you type, is submitted to Microsoft servers. It is processed there and then returned. That's costly and also bad for performance, as it may take a couple of seconds before replies appear on the user's screen. Local processing could finally make the Windows-specific Copilot options useful, as they would speed up these significantly.

Most manufacturers will likely jump on the AI PC bandwagon eventually. This means that most PCs that will be released will have the dedicated Copilot key on the keyboard.

Microsoft pushed a dedicated Copilot app recently on Windows devices. The purpose of the app is unclear, as it is a placeholder app for the moment.

Now You: have you tried Copilot? What's your take on it?
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