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Why Microsoft’s Plan for AI Laptops Isn’t Optimized for All Users

Prepare yourselves, because the AI PC revolution is gaining momentum, engines firing – all aboard!

Intel and Microsoft have unveiled a new set of requirements for ‘AI PCs’, which are AI-powered laptops and desktops that Microsoft has been promoting recently, including its Copilot AI assistant being rolled out to more Windows users.

These requirements are quite simple, outlining the three key components of what an AI PC should have:

  • Ability to run Microsoft Copilot
  • Equipped with a dedicated NPU (along with a modern CPU and GPU)
  • Features a dedicated Copilot button

The first two requirements make sense, as a Windows ‘AI laptop’ without Copilot would just be a regular laptop, and the prevalence of Neural Processing Units (NPUs) for AI tasks makes them essential for running local AI processes. However, it’s the third point that raises some concerns.

While Intel has largely agreed to Microsoft’s demands, there are already laptops on the market that meet the first two requirements but lack the dedicated Copilot button. According to Microsoft’s guidelines, these laptops, like the new Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro, technically do not meet the criteria for an ‘AI PC’. Intel believes that these laptops should still be considered eligible for the label.

“From an Intel perspective, our AI PC includes the Core Ultra and an integrated NPU,” said Todd Lewellen, Intel’s PC ecosystem head. He added, “We have great alignment with Microsoft, but there may be systems out there that lack the physical key but have our integrated NPU.”

Opinion: Imposing Hardware Design Changes like This is Problematic

Personally, I have reservations about this requirement. When I look at my laptop keyboard (the compact 13-inch HP Spectre x360), I wonder, ‘Where would they even fit a Copilot key?’

Moreover, I don’t use – nor do I want to use – Copilot. This is not to diminish the value of Microsoft’s AI assistant; it offers useful features that some users may appreciate. But I do not want a dedicated feature on my physical laptop that I won’t utilize.

Microsoft’s guidelines do not specify the specifics of the Copilot button, such as its size or placement. Some OEM partners may come up with innovative solutions, but many might simply add the button awkwardly on the keyboard, potentially sacrificing other important keys.

You Can’t Halt Progress

It seems inevitable that this change will happen, and we will have to adapt. Avoiding AI-compliant laptops may not be an option, as the International Data Corporation forecasts that AI PCs will make up nearly 60% of all computer sales by 2027. As a Windows user, I cannot escape Microsoft’s strong push for AI-compliant hardware.

Microsoft is not alone in enforcing such changes. While Google has not officially stated that Chromebooks will require a dedicated Google Gemini button, there are reports of a Chromebook in development with an ‘AI key’. Additionally, Apple’s upcoming M4 chip with its own NPU suggests that future MacBooks may also feature an AI key.

While my objections may go unheard, I find this trend unnecessary. Windows 11 already has a Copilot button on the taskbar, which is just as accessible on touchscreen devices. I am wary of operating system makers imposing requirements on laptop manufacturers, as it could restrict innovation and lead to more demands in the future.

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