Disclosure: Microsoft and AMD are clients of the author.
The AMD keynote at CES 2023 was worth watching this year because AMD stepped away from its typical “speeds and feeds” presentation about processors and GPUs. Instead, the presentation was dominated by partners who spoke about what they’re doing with AMD technology. That allowed AMD to step out from under Intel’s shadow as one of the major companies enabling its partners to define the future.
AMD, of course, highlighted its technology and aggressively pointed out how it’s outperforming rivals. But this time, it had full back-up from partners on stage who could validate the results. What was also fascinating was that each partner seemed to know AMD CEO Lisa Su and obviously liked her. This is important in a partnership and showcases AMD’s unique advantage in the x86 space. (One interesting comment in passing: Teslas plan to feature AMD for in-car gaming in the future. One undercurrent from the show was that almost every car maker showcased some kind of gaming partnership, suggesting that once cars drive themselves, we’ll all become gamers.)
But the presentation that truly caught my eye was when Microsoft’s Panos Panay, one of my favorite presenters, was asked about the future of Windows. He gave a hint that could change everything, although, if you’ve been watching what’s been going on with the Microsoft Surface, it shouldn’t be surprising.
Windows 12: When AI comes to play?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the desktop has been evolving slowly from Microsoft’s old Clippy and Cortana efforts into something far more powerful. For instance, the company is working with OpenAI to bring what many think is the most powerful chatbot, ChatGPT, to Bing.
To do so, Microsoft will need a dedicated AI engine to keep power requirements low and performance high. AMD’s approach to AI technology is that it doesn’t create a separate AI model or tie it to the GPU; instead, it’s tied to the CPU. From a cost and execution perspective, this is brilliant. This approach puts the technology where the volume is (most laptops don’t have discrete GPUs) and does so without increasing the complexity of the device by adding another component to the build list. It’s in the processor, which is always part of the equation.
While this use of AI will initially be focused on improving Zoom meetings by more effectively implementing creative or blurred backgrounds, or adjusting your eyes dynamically so that you are always “looking” into the camera (a technology I wish we’d had when I was on a syndicated TV show). This focus undoubtedly flowed from our lock-down experience during the pandemic and Microsoft’s aggressive use of remote options for its workforce.
Panos’ comments suggest Windows 12 will be an AI powerhouse with vastly improved verbal capabilities (advancing out of tools like ChatGPT) and changes to make you look and sound better on Zoom calls. I can imagine Deep Fake technology that makes you look younger, better, more put together, and more engaged — even if you aren’t. While I’m still hoping for a 3D-rendered Cortana, it’s more likely her avatar will be backed by stronger ChatGPT-like technology, resulting in a fully conversational AI that works better than anything Siri has yet offered.
Other capabilities, such as creating entire written works, also become more likely, although I’d expect that to be more closely tied to Office, as would similar AI features like GauGan, which can do similar things for graphic arts.
While Windows 12 isn’t expected until much later in the decade, it promises to be an AI powerhouse where the productivity capabilities of that-generation PC will make what we have today look like horseless carriages.
We should begin to see this trend this year as AMD’s next generation AI-enabled PCs come to market, and then we can begin to wonder whether our laptop is becoming smarter than we are.
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