May 20, 2024 - Technology

Microsoft unveils Copilot+, a new brand for AI PCs

A sign at the Microsoft Build event that says "A new AI era begins"

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Microsoft on Monday announced Copilot+ PCs, a new class of personal computers that incorporate an updated version of Windows 11, a "Recall" feature and support for the next generation of Qualcomm processors.

Why it matters: The software giant is hoping to use the excitement around AI to drive a new buying cycle for PCs, pledging that more than 50 million AI PCs will ship over the next 12 months.

Driving the news: Microsoft announced a new feature, dubbed Recall, that's designed to help people find anything that a person has viewed in the past on their computer.

  • Microsoft debuted two of its own Copilot+ PCs — Surface Laptop and a Surface Pro convertible tablet.
  • HP, Dell, Samsung, Acer, Asus and Lenovo also showed off Qualcomm-powered Copilot+ PC models.
  • Microsoft unveiled the new PCs, the Recall feature and the Copilot+ branding at a press event in Redmond, Wash., a day before its Build developer conference kicks off in Seattle.
  • The company also teased a version of ChatGPT, using GPT-4o, coming soon to Windows.

Hands on: Here's a video of me trying out Recall on one of Microsoft's new Surface laptops.

What they're saying: "We're entering this new era where computers can not only understand us, but can actually anticipate what we want and our intent," CEO Satya Nadella said at the briefing with reporters.

Between the lines: While much of Monday's event is focused on Qualcomm's new chips, Microsoft said it is also working with longtime PC chip partners Intel and AMD, with CEOs from all three chipmakers featured in a video.

  • Qualcomm's chips, though, give Microsoft a fresh way to compete against the combination of battery life and performance offered by Apple on its Mac line. Microsoft touted that Qualcomm-powered Windows machines can perform 58% faster than an M3-powered Mac on certain benchmarks.
  • Addressing inevitable privacy concerns, Microsoft said people will be able to exclude any websites or other data from Recall and that all of the Recall information will be stored locally and won't be used to train AI models.
  • Microsoft said the Recall feature is powered by a combination of multimodal small language models running on the device.

The big picture: Microsoft's push comes after both Google and OpenAI showed off their latest capabilities last week. Apple, meanwhile, is set to debut its generative AI strategy at its WWDC event that starts June 10.

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