Microsoft's AI PC with Copilot – some thoughts – Part 1

[German]On May 20, 2024, Microsoft presented its "Copilot+PC" (hardware with AI support and co-pilot). It is supposed to be the herald a new era. But with its A "Copilot+PC", Microsoft may be running into the problem of once again failing to meet demand. I recently came across an assessment by a Google developer that 99% of users do not need AI hardware. And the new development of Microsoft's "Copilot+PC" with the "Recall" function, which is supposed to be able to take screenshots and analyze everything, is already causing controversy online. It seems to be a privacy and security night mare. Elon Musk therefore recommends switching to Linux.


Microsoft introduces the AI PC

Yesterday, May 20, 2024, Microsoft presented its new Windows PC category, machines developed with hardware support for AI and are delivered with Copilot. The new generation of PCs runs under the name "Copilot+ PCs" and is set to usher in a new era. According to Microsoft, Copilot+ PCs will be the fastest and most intelligent Windows PCs ever built.

Microsofts AI-PC mit Copilot
CCopilot+PC video on YouTube

Away from the marketing bluster: the hardware has its own AI chip, which is said to offer 40+ TOPS (trillions of operations per second), all-day battery life and access to the most advanced AI models. Microsoft itself is launching with a range of Microsoft Surface models (the first AI Surface is shown in this video) and OEM partners Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung will also offer devices.

Copilot+ PCs start at 999 US dollars and, according to the Microsoft website, pre-orders will be possible from May 20, 2024. The first devices should be available from June 18, 2024. All the blessings that these AI PCs will bring can be read in this Microsoft article. The Verge has written its hymns of praise here, and published some information about the new Surface with AI in this article and here.

99% of users do not need AI hardware

Apart from the above statement that the PC+Copilot is the "best invention since sliced bread", a statement made by a Google developer some time ago immediately came to mind. This is based on a series of tweets by Google software developer Osvaldo Doederlein, in which he attempts to estimate the future of processors in the next one to two years.


Google Developer about "Need for AI-Hardware"

I have summarized his predictions for the next 1-2 main generations of client CPUs from both Intel and AMD in the following points:

  • A significant silicon budget will be invested in ML accelerators that nobody needs. HW nerds will buy them to test, benchmark and play with local LLM toys, but 99% of customers will have no use for them.
  • "AI PCs" are purely supply driven so far. Real power users who need AI have high-end GPUs with more power than the upcoming accelerators. The demand for this new hardware today is mainly low-power, low-cost devices or background processing for local inference. At best, when it is useful.

The Google developer says: "I need a good local AI/ML, just not what everyone is selling. I don't want copilot or snake oil code editors. I want better grammar checking. Green screen quality background detection in videoconf. Diagnostics for windows event logs. Antivirus that doesn't give false negatives. and I want speech recognition that works."

Even more interesting is the statement: ML/AI stuff that is useful and sophisticated, e.g. GPT4/Gemini/etcc, is cloud-based. This will not change as the cloud provides the required power more easily and can be used on many more devices. The biggest selling point of AI PCs and hardware is the latency of the cloud.

I would only relate the Google developer's statements "Most people are not paranoid about data protection" to the USA, where there is a naïve belief in progress. In Europe, I don't see the "fur of the bear has been distributed yet". Data protection issues will soon be on the table. I have just spoken to an IT specialist from a large federal authority who clearly states that certain processes only run on-premises in a private cloud. The reasons: Data protection and security.

So we have something of a "conflict of objectives" here. If the Google developer is right, Microsoft and its OEMs will produce the next big flop – AI+Copilot PCs that nobody needs. Of course, it could also be that the world is hungry for something like this … but hand on heart, it feels like "whistling in the woods", where a need that doesn't exist is being conjured up. The Google developer's explanations of where AI really helps are sound to me. In my opinion, the future of AI will not be the hundredth summary of a meeting in minutes propagated by Microsoft, but rather in more sophisticated things such as better grammar checking, speech recognition, etc.

Elon Musk recommends Linux

During a short visit at Facebook, the following post by a Facebook member was gaining my attention.

Musk empfiehlt Linux

The article is only available to registered users, but the message is quite clear. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has once again set his sights on Microsoft after the AI PC with Copilot was presented there yesterday. One function that is likely to trigger a very strong reaction is the "Recall" function. This allows Windows to constantly take screenshots of the user's screen and use a generative AI model to process the data and make it searchable. This is then the ultimate surveillance feature in every PC.

Satya Nadella, head of Microsoft, said during an interview where he presented the AI PCs and was asked about people's concerns regarding this recall function: "You have to bring two things together. This is my computer, this is my recall, and it's all done locally. So that's the promise. That's one of the reasons why Recall works like magic, because I can trust that it's on my computer."

Users should also be able to prevent the Recall function from taking screenshots if they are concerned about their privacy or do not want to use the function. But it's the old game: the user gets things flushed onto their system and has to switch them off if they don't want them. And if Microsoft marketing wants it, the functions are reactivated. Musk was not long in coming up with an answer and said: "Maybe it's time to switch consumers' desktops to Linux." Musk has already had a row with Microsoft because he couldn't run his new Windows PC without a Microsoft account (although this is still possible).

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Microsoft's AI PC with Copilot – some thoughts – Part 1
Microsofts Copilot+PC, a privacy and security nightmare – Part 2

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