Microsoft is relying on artificial intelligence to bring Windows PCs into the future. The core of the plan: the in-house AI assistant Copilot, developed with the technology behind ChatGPT, is to play the main role. The PC architecture is subordinated to this goal. A new additional chip is to deal only with AI applications. This makes the computer faster and extends the battery life.

Microsoft calls the new architecture, which is intended to provide the most powerful Windows computers to date, “Copilot PC”. And the order is no coincidence, emphasizes marketing director Yusuf Mehdi. The computer is subordinate to AI – and is only one of the platforms for it.

Find everything again with the “Recall” search function

A prime example of Microsoft’s vision for the PC of the future is the “Recall” search function, which is intended to help you find everything you have seen or done on your computer. Essentially, the computer saves a screen capture every few seconds and analyzes the content using AI models. This should help if, for example, you can’t remember the name of a travel website you visited – but you can remember that it had a picture of palm trees and the sea. Then it should be enough to type “palm trees and sea” into the search mask to find the website again using the screenshot.

This is more in line with how human memory works, argues Microsoft. The goal in the computer industry has always been “to build computers that understand us, instead of us having to understand computers,” said Microsoft boss Satya Nadella at the presentation at the company’s headquarters on Monday. He feels that this vision brings us “closer to a real breakthrough.”

How helpful “Recall” will be in everyday life remains to be seen for each individual. Microsoft developers, some of whom have been living with the feature for several months, praise it as life-changing. Mehdi, for example, says that he always left too many browser tabs open because he was worried about not being able to find the pages again. He is now breaking this habit.

At the same time, “Recall” has limits. On AI PCs with the minimum memory of 256 gigabytes, the function’s memory will only last about three months. The many screen recordings ultimately take up space – and in order to increase user confidence, “Recall” initially only works on the computer, without the cloud. This means that more than 18 months are not possible, even with larger storage. At the same time, Mehdi assures that the range of functions will be expanded over time.

A small revolution is taking place under the hood of the first new AI PCs: They do not run with Intel processors, but with technology from the chip developer Arm, which is also found in practically all smartphones. In recent years, Apple has switched the entire range of its Macs from Intel processors to chips developed in-house based on the Arm architecture. As a result, they outpaced Windows PCs in terms of speed and battery life.

Comparison with Apple

In Microsoft’s presentation, Apple’s consumer model MacBook Air suddenly appeared as the benchmark to beat. 58 percent faster than the MacBook Air with Apple’s M3 chip! 20 percent longer battery life than a MacBook Air with a 15-inch display! At the same time: Apple recently introduced the more powerful M4 chip, but has so far only built it into the new Pro model of its iPad tablets.

Unlike Apple, Microsoft does not develop the chips itself, but relies on the work of the chip company Qualcomm. Its boss Cristiano Amon has long said that Arm technology is the future, not just for smartphones, but also in the PC market. However, Microsoft is also keeping a place free for its long-term partner Intel. When the next generation of chips with Intel’s architecture is ready, AI PCs will also be available with it. For Microsoft, it is an additional effort to support both chip worlds, but diversity is good, says Mehdi.

Microsoft has been making attempts to bring Windows to Arm chips for years. But the devices always performed worse than Intel PCs. Now there are not only better processors, but also, thanks to Apple, more programs specifically adapted to the Arm architecture and a Windows rewritten for it.

The major PC manufacturers are jumping on the new platform, and Microsoft also presented new models of its Surface brand tablets and notebooks on Monday. A fundamental problem for Microsoft’s AI functions such as the “recall” search is that the company only has extensive data access on the PC. The smartphone platforms, for example, are controlled by Google and Apple. Mehdi points out that the Copilot app is also present there – although so far with fewer functions than on the PC.