Can AI Make Your PC Cool Again? Microsoft thinks so.

The race to bring artificial intelligence everywhere is taking a detour through the good old laptop.

Microsoft on Monday introduced a new type of computer designed for artificial intelligence. The machines, Microsoft says, will run artificial intelligence systems on chips and other devices inside computers so they are faster, more personal and more private.

The new computers, called Copilot+ PC, will allow people to use artificial intelligence to make it easier to find documents and files they've worked on, emails they've read or websites they've browsed. Their AI systems will also automate tasks like photo editing and language translation.

The new design will be included in Microsoft's Surface laptops and high-end products running the Windows operating system offered by Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung, some of the world's largest PC makers.

According to industry analysts, PC AI could reverse the long-standing decline in the importance of personal computers. Over the past two decades, demand for the fastest laptops has declined as much software has moved to cloud computing centers. A strong Internet connection and a web browser were all most people needed.

But artificial intelligence pushes this long-distance relationship to its limits. ChatGPT and other generative AI tools run in data centers full of expensive, sophisticated chips capable of processing the largest, most advanced systems. Even the most cutting-edge chatbots take time to receive a question, process it, and send a response. It is also extremely expensive to run.

Microsoft wants to run AI systems directly on a personal computer to eliminate that lag time and reduce the price. Microsoft has reduced the size of AI systems, called models, to make them easier to run outside of data centers. More than 40 are said to run directly on laptops. Smaller models are generally not as powerful or accurate as more cutting-edge AI systems, but they are improving enough to be useful to the average consumer.

“We are entering a new era where computers not only understand us, but can anticipate what we want and our intentions,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive, at an event at its headquarters in Redmond, State. of Washington.

Analysts expect Apple to follow suit next month at its software developer conference, where the company will announce an overhaul of Siri, its virtual assistant, and an overall strategy to integrate more artificial intelligence features into its laptops and iPhone.

PC AI taking off depends on companies' ability to create compelling reasons for buyers to upgrade. Initial sales of these new computers, which cost more than $1,000, will be small, said Linn Huang, an analyst at IDC, who follows the market closely. But by the end of the decade, assuming AI tools prove useful, they will be “ubiquitous,” she predicted. “Everything will be PC AI.”

The computer industry is looking for a shakeup. Consumers are upgrading their computers less frequently, as the music and photos they once stored on their computers now often live online, in Spotify, Netflix or iCloud. Computer purchases by businesses, schools and other institutions have finally stabilized after booming – and then crashing – during the pandemic.

Some high-end smartphones have already integrated AI chips, but sales have been lower because the features “are not yet sophisticated enough to catalyze a faster upgrade cycle,” Mehdi Hosseini, an analyst at Susquehanna International, wrote in a research note Group. . It will take at least another year, he said, before significant enough progress gets consumers to take notice.

At the event, Microsoft showed off new laptops with what amounts to photographic memory. Users can ask Copilot, Microsoft's chatbot, to use a feature called Recall to search for a file by typing a question using natural language, for example: “Can you find me a video call I had with Joe recently where he was holding a ' THE?” Do you like New York coffee mug?” The computer will then immediately be able to retrieve the file containing such details because artificial intelligence systems are constantly scanning what the user does on the laptop.

“It remembers things I forget,” Matt Barlow, Microsoft's head of marketing for Surface computers, said in an interview.

Microsoft said the information used for this recall feature was stored directly on the laptop for privacy reasons and will not be sent to the company's servers or used to train future AI systems. Pavan Davuluri, a Microsoft executive who oversees Windows, said that with the Recall system, users will also be able to choose not to share certain types of information, such as visits to a specific website, but that some sensitive data, such as financial and private information browsing sessions would not be tracked by default.

Microsoft also demonstrated live transcripts that translate in real time, which they say would be available on any video streamed to a laptop screen.

Microsoft last month released AI models small enough to run on a phone that, it turns out, ran almost as well as GPT-3.5, the much larger system that initially underpinned OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot when it debuted at the end of 2022.

(The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft in December for copyright infringement of news content related to artificial intelligence systems.)

Chipmakers have also made advances, such as adjusting a laptop's battery life to allow for the huge number of calculations required by artificial intelligence. The new computers have dedicated chips made by Qualcomm, the largest supplier of smartphone chips.

Although the type of chip inside new AI computers, known as neural processing units, specializes in handling complex AI tasks, such as image generation and document summarization, the benefits may still be subtle for users. consumers, said Subbarao Kambhampati, professor and researcher. in artificial intelligence at Arizona State University.

Most data processing for AI still needs to be done on a company's servers rather than directly on devices, so it's still important for people to have a fast internet connection, he added.

But neural processing chips also speed up other tasks, such as video editing or the ability to use a virtual background within a video call, said Brad Linder, the editor of Liliputing, a blog that covers computers from almost two decades. So even if people don't buy the hype surrounding AI, they may end up buying an AI computer for other reasons.

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