What Are Copilot Plus PCs? Microsoft’s New Era of AI Laptops

Microsoft's breakthrough in edge computing has ushered in the most significant changes to the Windows platform in decades.

As artificial intelligence continues to redefine the boundaries of personal computing, Microsoft has just unveiled Copilot Plus – a new category of AI-powered Windows devices that promise to be the fastest and smartest Windows PC ever built, and outperform competitors like Apple’s MacBook.

By running artificial intelligence models locally – rather than in the cloud – Copilot+ devices leverage the power of AI without connecting to the internet, and are already being manufactured by Microsoft’s major laptop partners like Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and HP.

With Apple’s alternative rumored to be coming at the end of the year, Microsoft’s recent release gives the company a head start in the race for a dominant AI PC. But with its entry-price sitting just south of a grand – will investing in Copilot+ devices be worth it for the average consumer?

What Is Copilot+?

It’s official – AI laptops have entered the market. After integrating more and more Copilot AI tools into Windows devices in recent years, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced the arrival of Copilot+ as the 2024 Break event  – a new category of Windows PCs that brings AI computation directly into your laptop.

According to a blog post by the software giant, Copilot+ PCs are the fastest, most intelligent Windows devices ever built, thanks to newly integrated silicon chips capable of an impressive 45 trillion operations per second (TOPS), and the deployment of large language models running Azure Cloud and targeted small language models (SLMs).

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In simpler terms, thanks to Microsoft’s new powerful AI architecture, its Copilot+ PCs can perform leaps and bounds above competitors, while delivering all-day battery life, and keeping users secure with Pluton security processors being enabled by default on all devices.

Its utilization of state-of-the-art AI models and smaller SLMs helps to unlock a set of new experiences for users too – overcoming previous limitations associated with external processing like latency, cost, and privacy as a result. We explore just some of Copilot+’s in-house AI features next.

Copilot+ Offers AI Features In-House

One of the most noteworthy features announced in Microsoft’s 2024 Build event has to be Copilot+’s Recall capability. Recall allows users to search for anything that has historically been on the device’s display. It harnesses advanced processing capabilities to take images of your active screen every few seconds, before encrypting these images and storing them within the device’s storage.

Recall aims to work in a similar way to photographic memory, and is able to get more refined over time as the user gets more accustomed to the feature.

Copilot+ also offers new AI-powered image creation and editing capabilities built directly into Windows. For example, by leveraging NPUs alongside small-but-mighty language models, Microsoft has given an AI makeover to creative applications like Paint. The PC’s new Cocreator feature lets users combine ink strokes with text prompts, enabling them to create AI-generated images in real time.

Additionally, Copilot+’s Restyle Image tool lets users transform their personal photos into a new style using a suite of pre-set styles and editing tools. Since this Restyle feature is built directly into Copilot+ PCs, users are able to generate and edit limitless images for free, and with much less lag than with other popular AI-editing apps and text-to-image generators.

Microsoft's new Restyle Image feature

Microsoft’s Restyle feature lets you reimagine your personal photo’s with a new style. Source: Microsoft

Copilot+ PCs also come with automatic Live Captions and Live Translation features to make content more accessible to a greater proportion of users. The AI capabilities work across all Copilot+ apps and even have the power to translate over 40 languages instantly, even when you’re offline.

Has Microsoft Won The AI PC Race?

As leading software manufacturers race to optimize laptops with AI, Microsoft’s Copilot+ launch is a pretty big mic-drop moment for the company.

Not only does Microsoft promise its new era of PCs can outperform Apple’s Macbook Air 15″ by up 58%, but it also claims they can deliver 20% more battery in local video playback than its competitor. In short, Microsoft’s boundary-breaking technology currently has the upper hand over Apple in just about every category – and it’s being launched by some of the largest PC markers in the world – but how long can this last?

While Apple has famously dragged its heels when it comes to AI development, analysts predict the iPhone retailer will announce its most powerful Mac line-up yet next month, thanks to its newly developed M4 Neural Engine. The chip, which has already been integrated into Apple’s new iPad Pro, is capable of an astounding 38 trillion operations per second, giving Microsoft’s GPU a great run for its money.

According to Linn Huang, an analyst at global market intelligence firm IDC, the technology being developed by Microsoft and Apple will be ubiquitous by the end of the century. However, for the time being, Copilot+’s entry price of $1,000 will likely provide a barrier to entry for many curious AI aficionados who are still capable of accusing many of the PC’s exciting features in the cloud.

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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at Tech.co with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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