Has Microsoft Found a Way to Make PCs Relevant Again?

Microsoft claims that the PC is making a comeback, new Windows and artificial intelligence features have given birth to a new generation of PCs that will offer users a completely new and better experience

by Sededin Dedovic
Has Microsoft Found a Way to Make PCs Relevant Again?
© Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

On Monday, Microsoft introduced new computers with artificial intelligence (AI) built directly into the Windows operating system, unveiling AI-powered PCs that could potentially boost PC sales. At the company's annual developer conference at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, CEO Satya Nadella emphasized the company's long-standing goal to "build computers that understand us, rather than requiring us to understand them." The new line of Copilot+ computers, including the new Surface Pro tablet and Surface laptop, features AI tools that do not require an internet connection—AI processing is performed directly on the device.

The new hardware uses OpenAI's GPT-4 technology, which aims to transform ChatGPT into a digital personal assistant capable of real-time conversations, utilizing text and "vision." According to features announced last week, it can review screenshots, photos, documents, or charts that users upload and discuss them.

The new hardware also supports Microsoft's existing AI assistant named Copilot, which operates within various software tools, including Bing and Microsoft 365, and can assist with tasks such as writing, tracking emails in Outlook, or designing presentations in PowerPoint.

One of the new features, called Recall, acts as a personal "time machine," allowing users to quickly find things on their computer, such as documents, images, and web pages. This feature has also sparked controversy due to the need for the computer to periodically capture screenshots to remember what the user is doing, seemingly without the option for control or deactivation, raising privacy concerns.

Another feature enables real-time translation into more than 40 languages directly on the device. The company also introduced a new tool called Team Copilot, which serves as a personal assistant, allowing it to act as a meeting moderator, create agendas, or take notes on behalf of the entire team, not just an individual user.

Microsoft's innovations come at a time when the PC market is ripe for innovation.

Introducing Copilot+ PCs© Microsoft / Youtube channel

Microsoft is not the only company aiming for AI PCs. Dell and Lenovo have also recently introduced AI-first PCs under the Copilot+ AI umbrella, a category that experts believe will become the next phase of computing.

(Copilot+ is the name of the hardware line that supports Copilot software.) Next month, Apple is expected to announce new AI-powered tools for iPhone and Mac at its annual developer conference. "Over time, AI capabilities will become ubiquitous, but Microsoft and its partners have made a good start," said Geoff Blaber, CEO at CCS Insight, to CNN.

"They must work hard to ensure AI becomes much more than a meaningless descriptor with an increasing number of features." "This is a long-awaited catalyst," added Blaber. Although the Surface line is relatively small within the overall PC market, it serves as an aspirational brand and leader in terms of innovation, according to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC, a market research firm.

But Microsoft's move reflects a larger shift happening in the industry towards AI. In June, Apple is likely to introduce generative AI—artificial intelligence capable of creating images and text—across its iOS and Mac platforms.

Reports indicate that the company might unveil an AI-powered chatbot using OpenAI's ChatGPT technology, the same technology powering Microsoft's new Copilot+ line. Nevertheless, Microsoft has already positioned itself as an early leader in this space with ChatGPT integrated into key products.

These efforts seem to be paying off.

Microsoft takes a leading role in the PC market

Last month, Microsoft reported a quarterly profit of $21.9 billion, up from $18.3 billion a year earlier. Revenues increased by 17% year-over-year, reaching $61.9 billion.

Microsoft's Azure cloud business also saw strong growth—revenues rose by 31%, driven by AI factors. The company continues to invest heavily in AI in other ways. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced a $3.3 billion investment in building a data center in Wisconsin to train employees and manufacturers on the best use of artificial intelligence.

The new center aims to create 2,300 union construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs over time, according to Microsoft. It also plans to use the center to train about 100,000 workers across the state, CNN reports.

AI gaming buddy

Those who enjoy video games know that the gaming experience is better when someone is there to help, or at least react to what is happening on the screen.

Even games made for one player are so much more interesting. Microsoft can help here - Copilot in tandem with GhatGPT-4o acts as a virtual gaming friend. The new Copilot features aren't something that will accelerate the AI revolution, but they demonstrate how Copilot can help with the information it provides in audio format, without having to pause the game.

In addition to instructions, he also says things that a true friend would say in similar situations: "Ugh, that was close," he says at one point, "You did great!"