Copilot + PC: A New Level of Performance

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I’m sure Microsoft’s announcement of the Copilot+ PC hasn’t passed anyone by. Previously mooted as the ‘Next Gen AI PC’, these Copilot+ PCs represent a transformative leap that redefines the landscape of personal computing. Over recent times, we've become accustomed to what a traditional PC is and, latterly, an AI PC. This raises the question: what's different about a Copilot+ PC and is it worthy of consideration for today's enterprise organisations?

In its simplest terms, an AI PC and a Copilot+ PC differ from what we know as a traditional PC by the fact that they have an additional silicon component, known as a Neural Processing Unit (NPU). The NPU is a low-powered processor that has been designed to allow tasks, that would normally rely on either the CPU or GPU, to be off-loaded so it can carry on performing the heavy lifting without impacting on overall system performance or battery life. You may have experienced this impact when on a traditional PC and in a Teams call, when you enabled the background blur feature, and your system became a little sluggish? Well, these types of tasks are those that can now be off-loaded to the NPU to help deliver a better user experience. The NPU is an enabler that will process ‘local’ AI language models and workloads going forward.

A New Level of Performance

The Copilot+ PC takes NPU performance to the next level. Typically, AI PCs that are available today have an NPU that provides less than 20 Trillion of Operations Per Second or 20 TOPS as it’s known. Whilst less than 20 TOPS maybe sufficient to deliver features such as background blurring or other elements of the Windows 11 Studio Effects suite, they cannot deliver the performance required to power the new Copilot+ AI features that will be released as part of Microsoft’s Windows 11 24H2 operating system update. To deliver and enable these experiences, the new Copilot+ PCs must offer more than 45 TOPS from their NPU.

The Platform for Copilot+ PCs

In terms of what platforms will be powering the new Copilot+ PCs launching in mid-June 2024, there will only be one silicon manufacturer: Qualcomm, with their Snapdragon X Series CPU. These devices will be supported by five PC OEM partners in the commercial or business market—Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Samsung.

Qualcomm has certainly been busy since launching its first competitive commercial CPU 18 months ago. Their new Snapdragon X Series not only boasts an industry-leading 45 TOPS NPU but also offers other significant advantages over its rivals. Who doesn’t want all-day or even multi-day battery life from their PC or a PC that can outlast the battery life of their smartphone? Due to the amazing efficiency of their CPU or SoC as they term it, these battery life claims appear to be very real and will instantly increase user experience. One might expect impressive battery life to come at the cost of raw performance. However, the Snapdragon X Elite surprises by holding its own against all competitors, both within the Windows ecosystem and those running on non-Windows platforms.

Test for Success

So, what’s the catch? Well in truth, the big difference between the Snapdragon CPUs and those traditionally available from both AMD and Intel is the architecture. The traditional silicon provided by AMD and Intel is based on x86 whereas the Qualcomm Snapdragon is ARM-based architecture. What this means is that to adopt or transition to the Snapdragon platform, businesses must ensure that their current software applications are compatible with the ARM architecture. This type of testing is normal to many large enterprises, especially when it comes to new operating system launches or major updates are released. Through collaboration on Copilot+ PC testing, Qualcomm and Microsoft have ensured compatibility with leading business applications. Additionally, the upcoming Windows 11 24H2 update features an improved ARM emulator, allowing even non-native ARM applications to function with good performance. To navigate the transition to ARM-based PCs, Computacenter has developed comprehensive ARM adoption services.

So, what should we consider when we think about our buying decisions?

Many organisations are utilising a "persona-based" approach to device selection, ensuring the right tool goes to the right workstyle and user community. For creative professionals, Copilot+ PCs stand out immediately due to their generative AI features that can directly benefit their workflows.

Microsoft's integration of innovative Copilot AI features within the Windows 11 24H2 update will further fuel interest and adoption of Copilot+ PCs. This translates to potential user experience and productivity gains for businesses, particularly those already leveraging Microsoft Copilot within M365, who are likely to be early adopters of Copilot+ PCs.

While Copilot adoption may not be on your immediate horizon, it’s important to consider the long-term benefits. These AI-powered devices may offer significant benefits within the lifespan of your current hardware. Should you dismiss them entirely, or invest in future-proofed options with the potential for AI integration down the line?

Cloud-based AI services have been dominant (think Microsoft Copilot M365), but on-device processing offers advantages. Local AI models can potentially reduce costs and provide greater data security control, a critical concern for many businesses.

Copilot+ PCs represent a significant leap in personal computing, promising exceptional user experiences. With on-device AI processing, they redefine the possibilities. We're only at the beginning of this exciting journey.

Computacenter is here to support our customers with insights and knowledge to help navigate these new market trends. Please reach out to us for more information on how our ‘Readiness’ service can help you easily adopt these new technologies and maximise your returns on your IT investments.

Mark Kennell

Lead Technologist - End User Computing

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