As sales of personal computers soared during the pandemic, you could almost hear PC makers saying, “We told you so.”
“The killer app of AI,” says Dell Vice Chairman Jeff Clarke, “will be that you’ll love your PC again.” PC makers are looking to change that paradigm. They are readying AI personal computers, with the first models set to arrive in the next few months. The microprocessor companies are excited, too. The common goal is to enable PC users to run generative AI applications right on their desktops, whether connected to the network or not.
Intel has talked extensively about the opportunity in AI PCs; the company will launch a chip code-named Meteor Lake, its first processor with an integrated neural processing unit, this December. It’s no surprise why the PC makers want in on the action: Research firm IDC recently forecast that enterprise AI spending would reach $143 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 73%.The pandemic-era work-from-home trend triggered a big but ultimately misleading surge in PC demand. Global shipments reached 342 million in 2021, a 23% spike from prepandemic days, according to Gartner data. PC shipments were 279 million in 2019. headtopics.com
AI PCs won’t look different than the one now sitting on your desk. But on the inside, they’ll have a system-on-a-chip that includes three important elements: a conventional CPU, or central processing unit; a GPU, or graphics processing unit; and—here’s the new wrinkle—an NPU, or neural processing unit. Neural processing is a way of processing very large data sets efficiently. And the NPU will pick up most of the AI-specific computing requirements.