Computex 2024: Unveiling the Challenges and Opportunities Shaping the Future of the PC Industry

June 8, 2024 / Carolina Milanesi

All eyes were set on Computex this week. Historically one of the world’s most influential tech expos in semiconductor business, Computex return to its glory as the who is who of the business descended onto Taipei to talk compute and AI. AMD, Qualcomm and Intel’s keynotes all provided a good opportunity to hear about product announcements but also to understand the challenges and opportunities the Windows PC ecosystem is facing in positioning Gen AI as a must have in consumers and business users’ computing experiences.

The Rise of Copilot+ PCs

AI’s integration into personal computing isn’t new, but what we’re seeing now goes beyond mere enhancements. Copilot+ PCs, a term that’s becoming synonymous with the next-generation laptops and desktops, are equipped with AI capabilities that promise to transform how we interact with technology. These machines are designed not just to meet but to anticipate user needs, offering a seamless blend of performance, intelligence, and efficiency.

Windows PC makers have today the broadest choice of silicon they have ever had giving them the opportunity to differentiate their offering and tailor designs to specific experiences and workloads. Yet choice brings complexity, especially in messaging.

I have pointed out many times before that when talking about a brand listening carefully how they position their products will help you understand what they consider their strength and differentiator. This is also true when it comes to the Computex Keynotes.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Series chipsets are powering the first set of Copilot+ PCs that start shipping on June 18. As Microsoft’s launch partner, the company underlined its NPU capability to deliver 45 tops while providing an exceptional battery life.

AMD announced it will have products coming later in the year built on the upcoming Ryzen AI 300 Series mobile processors and Ryzen 9000 Series desktop CPUs. By combining the latest Zen 5 CPU cores, RDNA 3.5 graphics, and the XDNA 2 neural processing unit, these SoCs are poised to deliver a massive leap in on-device AI performance and efficiency from AMD prior SoCs. The XDNA 2 NPU itself is a significant milestone, packing 50 TOPS of AI compute, which as of now, is the most NPU TOPS by any vendor. AMD claims this enables higher precision AI vs competing mobile NPUs without compromising performance.

And finally, Intel who kicked off talking up its data centers’s solution underlining how the entire Xeon-6 platform and processor family was specifically designed to help drive cost savings and achieve sustainability goals and includes both E-Core (Efficiency) and P-Core (Performance) SKUs to handle a wide range of use cases and workloads, from AI and other high-performance computing requirements to scalable cloud-native applications. On the PC front, Intel announced Lunar Lake the solution that by the end of the year will deliver 120 tops across its CPU, GPU and NPU for Copilot+ PCs. Gelsinger took time to explain that the future of computing will require a platform approach that brings together CPU, GPU and NPU so that developers can choose how to distribute compute how they prefer. Yet, because Intel’ s current solution Meteor Lake does not deliver the number of tops required by Microsoft for a Copilot+ PCs, the company used the term AI PC to refer to the design currently in the market. While Intel might be seen as playing catch up to Qualcomm, the company has considerably narrowed the time to market gap they had. Furthermore, it is important to underline that not everyone will need a Copilot+ PC so the long tail of AI capable PCs will be important for both PC markers and Windows.

The Compelling Value Proposition

One of the standout themes at Computex 2024 is the industry’s commitment to delivering real value through innovation. Unlike previous attempts to create new product categories with limited practical applications, Copilot+ PCs focus on tangible improvements:

Enhanced Productivity: AI in Copilot+ PCs assists in automating routine tasks, smart scheduling, and real-time optimization based on user behavior.

Seamless Integration: From voice commands to intelligent assistance in applications, these PCs aim to make computing more intuitive and less intrusive.

Energy Efficiency: Advanced AI-powered power management techniques ensure longer battery life without compromising performance.

The Ecosystem Challenge

However, the path forward is not without challenges. One essential component to the success of this new category has very little to do with tech and all to do with marketing. It is paramount for the entire ecosystem—PC manufacturers, Microsoft, and silicon vendors—to cohesively explain the value of Copilot+ PCs. There’s a risk of confusing both IT decision-makers and consumers if the communication isn’t clear and concise. Effective messaging is crucial to avoid a scenario where potential buyers hold off purchases or explore alternatives like Apple’s offerings. This is because Apple has the advantage of owning the end to end experience, has established its silicon and NPU as a top of the line solution and it can control the narrative which traditionally has been able where others failed to position features as a must have.

Avoiding the Bloatware Pitfall

As I sat through the different keynotes I noticed how the OEMs talked up their pre-installed software solutions a differentiator. While I understand the need to differentiate and the limited opportunity beyond hardware I want to warn PC manufacturers in going down this path as it might end up having the contrary effect. History has shown that additional software, especially when perceived as unnecessary, is quickly dismissed by users as bloatware. With Gen AI, there is also a question of trust and users might have reservations about their own data being used to deliver an AI experience they do not necessarily want.

It’s vital for PC makers to ensure that AI integrations remain useful and non-intrusive, enhancing the user experience rather than detracting from it. Lenovo spoke about Smart Connect which is a great example of a feature that delivers clear value to users on a real pain point of sharing workloads across devices. With Gen AI I can see a lot more automation being added to the experience.

Focus on Today’s Deliverables to Shape Tomorrow’s Desires

Computex 2024 has painted a vibrant picture of the future of personal computing. With Copilot+ PCs at the helm, we’re looking at a more intelligent, efficient, and user-centric era of technology. The advancements showcased offer a glimpse into devices that don’t just work for us but work with us, anticipating needs and delivering unparalleled performance. As the industry gears up for this next leap, it’s clear that the PC market is not just evolving; it’s being revolutionized.

It’s crucial to recognize that the industry is embarking on a transformative journey. Laying the groundwork for Generative AI to deliver its full potential will take time, but the rewards will keep expanding, driving substantial benefits for the PC market. To avoid disappointment, brands must deliver today’s abundant real value. This strategy will not only fulfill current expectations but also build excitement for the innovations of tomorrow. By focusing on delivering what’s achievable now, they can pave the way for a future brimming with even greater possibilities.

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