Intel has big plans for AI-capable PCs, but that may take time to catch on

Intel Corp. is creating an ecosystem to foster the development and use of artificial intelligence on PCs, just as it did for the early days of WiFi, but it will not happen overnight.


big news event on Thursday in New York was replete with appearances — via video — from the major hardware makers supporting its new PC and server chips: Dell Technologies Inc.
HP Inc.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

and Lenovo Group Ltd.
and software companies such as its longtime partner Microsoft Corp.
which touted running its Copilot software on new AI-empowered PCs.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the biggest use cases will be yet, but Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger referenced his own AI-enhanced hearing aids that are helping him deal with a genetic hearing issue. He also tried to ease concerns about AI, harkening back to Intel’s original vision “that we will work on technology that improves the life of everyone on Earth. It is our job to shape it as a force for good.”

Amid the chip giant’s big push to augment intelligence, and bring AI closer to users, it has developed a chip core that can accelerate running AI at the edge. Computing at the edge is where users work with the information on their own devices, instead of in the cloud. Some benefits are that the cost of running queries and seeking assistance will be much less costly, use up less computing power and electricity, and the results will be faster than going to the cloud for AI assistance and queries. It will also provide more security for companies that want to keep their data on their own systems.

“We are not sitting on a bunch of apps that need it today, but that doesn’t mean that that market won’t exist,” said Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research. “But it won’t exist until we get some hardware in the market that we can do something with. What you are seeing is they already had design wins, they are coming to market.”

Intel is partnering with more than 100 software developers right now to help grow the AI app ecosystem. One example it cited was the capability of Zoom Video

to email users an AI-generated summary after a Zoom meeting.

Intel said that edge-computing spending is forecast to surge to $445 billion by the end of the decade, with AI as its fastest-growing workload. It also quoted the Boston Consulting Group’s prediction that by 2028, 80% of PCs will be AI-capable.

While Nvidia Corp.

has completely dominated the AI data-center and cloud-computing systems with their GPUs, Intel has been viewed as largely on the sidelines of the AI frenzy by investors. With its dominance in PCs and servers, as the core processor for both markets, its AI-focused products should reinvigorate both of those areas of chip sales, even as Nvidia continues to dominate the GPU arena.

The big question for investors is whether Intel — and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
which also just launched new server and PC chips designed for AI — will revive the moribund PC market with these new products. Many on Wall Street are looking for growth to begin again, after two years of declining PC sales.

“The introduction of generative AI has all IT decision-makers questioning where to prioritize budgets,” analysts at market researcher IDC said in a forecast in August. “And while AI-capable PCs are not ready today, they are coming and have shifted some of the discussion around device purchasing within businesses.” IDC has forecast the PC market will begin to grow again in 2024, with PC shipments forecast to grow 3.7%.

HP Chief Executive Enrique Lores said his company and Intel are working together “to create an entirely new category of devices.”

“We are going to make 2024 the year of the AI PC,” he said.

Another question is whether Intel’s Core Ultra, which is made up of a central processing unit (CPU), with a built-in graphics processing unit (GPU) and a neural processing unit (NPU), will see competition for software development from ARM Holdings Plc.

-based designs, such as Qualcomm Inc.’s

recently introduced Snapdragon X Elite platform, which was also designed to focus on AI applications.

Lopez said she was impressed with the speed at which Intel has been executing. “They launched a tremendous amount of products in a very short time frame,” she said. “So now they just have to continue to execute.”

It is a good bet that AI will be more pervasive initially on office servers and PCs, where data and research are prized assets, versus potential consumer uses. The impending end of life of Microsoft’s Windows 10, both consumer and pro versions, in 2025 will also be another driver for the PC upgrade cycle, and further fuel purchasing. That gives software developers more time to create more ways for both office workers and consumers to use AI. But it’s won’t happen overnight.

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