The killer app—is it Copilot?

Will history repeat itself, or is this a phase?

Jon Peddie

The concept of AI PCs has been introduced by Intel, followed by AMD and Qualcomm, but the question remains, What can it do, and where are the killer apps? Adobe has answered this with its video and photo-tuning tools, while CAD companies and giants like Microsoft have showcased AI involvement. However, these are niche applications, and a universal killer app is still missing. Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs, announced at the company’s developer conference, bring AI processing to the PC with features like Recall and a virtual coach, and will soon include GPT-4 from OpenAI, potentially filling the gap.

Acer App
(Source: Acer)

What do we think? AI-enabled and enhanced PCs are here, and you are going to love them. And their premiere is on an Arm-based processor with an NPU. You will discover by this fall, if you get one of these new machines, that you not only are enjoying what the AI assist is doing for you, but that you will become as dependent on it as you are now on the Internet—and you won’t mind that.

The AI PC is here, ready or not

When IBM brought out its PC in 1981, it was like the microcomputers before it, a solution looking for a problem. The earlier commercial microcomputers like the Commodore PET and Radio Shack TRS-80, and a half dozen other CP/M-based machines had no compatibility with one another, and file swapping, although possible, was a royal pain. Also, the early machines really didn’t have enough power to do the things people wanted to do and were doing on bigger time-sharing and minicomputer systems. Two things came about that changed that dreary scenario—Moore’s law was happening, and a functional spreadsheet program, VisiCalc, was introduced. It was adopted to the IBM PC with the MS-DOS OS by Lotus and named 1-2-3, and it made the PC a must-have tool. It was referred to a few years later as the killer app that fueled the explosive growth of the IBM PC and the demise of all the predecessor microcomputers. Ever since then, pundits and analysts have been trying to predict the next killer app (hint—it was the Internet).

This year, Intel introduced the industry to the concept of the AI PC. AMD quickly followed, and Qualcomm behind them, and now everyone is offering an AI PC or something that makes a PC into an AI PC (2nd hint—a GPU).

And the questions arose (in this channel as well as elsewhere), What can it do? Why do I want one—i.e., where’s the apps? Where is the KILLER app?

Adobe answered those questions and rolled out a plethora of amazing video and photo-tuning tools. Most of the CAD companies showed their involvement with AI, the giants rolled out LLMs and tools like ChatGPT. Games were enhanced with Nvidia’s DLSS for ray tracing, and audio mixers and enhancers showed up on Apple machines. However, each one was a niche, not something universal like a spreadsheet or word processor, although Word did enhance its autocomplete and real-time grammar correction capabilities. But all that ran on existing hardware and, other than Adobe, mostly on the CPU.

There’s an old comical rock and roll song called Along Came Jones, which, if I could, I’d play right now because Jones, the hero who saves the day, just showed up at Microsoft’s annual developer conference on its campus in Redmond, Washington, where CEO Satya Nadella introduced variousCopilot+ PCs and said a range of manufacturers would sell them, including Acer, AsusTek, and Microsoft with its Surface PC.

Copilot+ brings AI processing to the PC by enabling direct data crunching on the computer and introduces Microsoft’s Recall feature. Recall tracks and stores a user’s digital history, encompassing Web browsing, voice chats, and more, which enables seamless searching and recall of past activities, even months later.

The company also showcased Copilot’s voice assistant technology as a dynamic virtual coach, providing real-time guidance and support to a user engaged in the popular Minecraft video game.

And, Microsoft said that GPT-4o, the latest technology from ChatGPT maker OpenAI, will soon be available as part of Microsoft Copilot.

Microsoft’s boss of consumer marketing, Yusuf Mehdi, predicted that 50 million AI PCs will be purchased over the next year. He added that faster AI assistants that run directly on a PC would be “the most compelling reason to upgrade your PC in a long time.” That is, the killer app. Microsoft has commenced pre-orders for Copilot+ PCs (at a starting price of $999), with shipments scheduled for June. But take note—Copilot+ requires an NPU with a minimum of 40 TOPS capability.

The announcement was also a big coming-out party for Qualcomm because all of the AI PC notebooks on display were powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon.

So the AI PC revolution is here, and you’re going to be part of it—like it or not, because all those generative AI systems are going to be harvesting your data, along with everything else that is floating around on the Web. Which reminds me of an old saying, never call a co-worker a son of a bitch—he or she may become your boss one day.