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Shoeleather Journalism
in the Digital Age

What are AI PCs?

Photo of AI PC
Surface book laptops sit on display at Microsoft’s new Oxford Circus store ahead of its opening in London, Britain July 9, 2019. Picture taken July 9, 2019. (REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo)
Staff Reports | REUTERS

The PC just got an AI makeover, raising hopes that the buzzy technology would help revive an industry that has been on a steady decline over the last few years.

Here’s everything we know about AI PCs:

WHAT DOES “AI PC” MEAN?

Manufacturers say these devices process data more swiftly than traditional PCs and can handle a greater volume of AI tasks directly on the device, including chatbots. That means they do not have to rely on cloud data centers that currently power most AI applications, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Some models can even support the training of AI models, a task that requires significant computing power and is typically performed on servers.

PC makers are hoping such features will help draw in buyers as more people lean on generative AI for everything from sending emails to planning vacations.

Research firm Canalys estimates AI PC shipments will surpass 100 million in 2025, constituting 40% of all PCs shipped.

WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS USED IN AI PCS?

AI PCs come with specialized processors called neural processing units (NPUs) that handle the majority of on-device AI workloads.

These NPUs work in tandem with central processing units and graphics processors to manage complex tasks, deliver enhanced processing speeds and power applications such as AI assistants.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE AI PCS AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET?

Brands including Dell, HP, Samsung Electronics, Lenovo, Asus and Acer have unveiled new computers under Microsoft’s Copilot+ branding, which was announced on Monday.

Among these, Microsoft’s refreshed Surface Laptop and Surface Pro tablet are some of the most affordable Copilot+ devices, starting at $999.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6, expected to start at $1,699, stands as the priciest option based on the pricing disclosed by some manufacturers.

ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS?

A new flagship feature from Microsoft called “recall” has raised some privacy concerns. The Windows maker’s Copilot+ PCs “recall” capability within the AI assistant allows it to search and retrieve information on any past activity on the computer.

The recall feature tracks every action performed on the laptop from voice chats to web browsing, and creates a detailed history stored on the device. The user can then search this repository and go through past actions.

Some social media users have expressed fears that the feature could enable spying, while billionaire technologist Elon Musk compared it to “Black Mirror,” the Netflix series that explores the harmful effects of advanced technology.

The main concern with the feature is whether the data is stored on the device or centrally, International Data Corp analyst Ryan O’Leary said, adding that there would be “significant privacy risk” if Microsoft stored the data.

On the other hand, some experts say that managing more AI-related tasks directly on the device offers greater privacy.

Research from Forrester showed AI PCs could help avoid the use of personal data to train AI systems, as well as copyright and patent violations, making them preferable for enterprise use.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by Arsheeya Bajwa and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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