Artificial intelligence PC to reshape and revitalize the IT industry
Generative artificial intelligence, such as popular apps like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion, has changed the world. Now it is about to reshape and revitalize the personal computer industry with a new type "AI PC."
AI PC, which puts AI capabilities into PC devices locally, can personalize the user experience on a deeper level while protecting data privacy. It will make millions of computers truly "create and learn," to automatically build artwork presentations, make music, synthesize knowledge, and work smarter and safer.
"It is the deep integration of AI technology with PCs, equipped with higher computing power processors and fused with multimodal algorithms," said researcher Sigmaintell.
Compared with cloud-based generative AI services, AI PC generates and uses data locally, rather than forcing it into the cloud. This safeguards personal privacy, business patents, or other sensitive information protection and copyright issues, according to industry officials from Intel and Microsoft.
Researcher TrendForce said vendors are likely to launch more innovative and competitive products, further stimulating market demand.
"The rise of AI can be considered a shot in the arm for the industry that has suffered depressed sales for several years," said TrendForce.
Another researcher International Data Corp said AI PC is regarded as an industry's watershed as it is expected to stimulate demand for chips, software, and hardware in the AI era.
Almost all tech giants, from AMD, Intel, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and NVIDIA to Qualcomm, released AI PC plans and upgrades in recent months. This created new demand, heated up competition, and is reshaping the landscape among the tech giants.
The Coming AI PC era
Though the tech giants have slightly different definitions of AI PC, no one denies its surging demand, fueled by generative AI applications such as ChatGPT.
Lenovo, the world's biggest PC maker, unveiled its first AI PC, which will be commercially available in 2024. It is a part of the company's strategy "AI for All," with total investment of US$1 billion in artificial intelligence innovation, chairman and chief executive Yang Yuanqing said recently.
The company aims to deliver "pocket-to-cloud" computing services, offering personalized, tailored knowledge while protecting privacy and data security for AI PC, Yang said.
Apple, though in different words, is also eying the coming era of AI PC. During an online Apple event at the end of last month, it emphasized new machine learning (AI) capabilities of processor M3, which is equipped with Apple's latest generation Macbook Pro computer.
In November, Hewlett Packard revealed its plan to debut AI PC in 2024. The US-based PC firm expected the AI PC penetration rate would gradually rise from next year.
Intel plans to enable AI on more than 100 million PCs through 2025, the US-based computer chip giant said recently.
Globally, AI PC sales would grow rapidly, from 13 million units in 2024 to 150 million units 2027, according to researcher Sigmaintell. The first year of AI PC shipments at scale would be 2024, and they were expected to be a mainstream choice by around 2025,
With AI PC's influence, the global laptop market would rebound slightly with 3.2 percent growth expected in 2024, according to TrendForce.
Chips: The brain behind AI PC
Chips, often regarded as the brain of smart devices, are a key component to issue on-device AI acceleration.
When PC vendors revealed their plans for 2024, chip giants began a bunch of competitive releases for the coming AI PC, which may define the market landscape for the next decade.
In the traditional PC era, chip architecture included a central processing unit and graphics processing unit. In AI PC, a new processor neural processing unit is required to optimize the performance and power efficiency for AI workloads, while the boundary between the CPU and GPU is blurring.
Intel, the world's top CPU vendor, announced its AI PC Acceleration Program recently. It plans to enable AI on more than 100 million PCs through 2025, and Intel is working with more software partners to support more AI-accelerated features. It will release its Core Ultra next month as the first Intel processor with an NPU, a clear signal for AI PCs.
"AI will fundamentally transform, reshape, and restructure the PC experience," said Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger. "We are ushering in a new age of the AI PC.
"We are bringing AI to where the data is being generated and used rather than forcing it into the cloud," he added.
AMD, which offers both CPUs and GPUs, said that PCs are "undergoing a new round of transformation with the AI era."
During the China International Import Expo held in Shanghai this month, AMD showcased AI demonstrations, including dialogue between text and text, video conference image optimization, and old photo image quality restoration. AI PC also protects privacy and data for users, making personal information more secure, the company said.
Qualcomm, a mobile chip giant, also has ambitions in the AI PC era.
In October, Qualcomm launched platform Snapdragon X Elite for AI PC, which outpaces competing laptop CPUs (offered by Apple and Intel) and "sets a new bar in AI performance."
The platforms showcase high-energy efficiency and speeds in generative AI tasks, such as on-device chat assistants and image generation, less than a second using Stable Diffusion, a popular open source text-to-image generation model nowadays.
It is not the first time Qualcomm has tried to expand into the PC market, but have only received a lukewarm market response previously. AI PC gives the company another chance to reshape the chip industry landscape.
In 2024, PC vendors such as Acer, Honor, HP, and Lenovo will launch AI PCs powered with the Qualcomm platform.
NVIDIA: AI PC is ready
NVIDIA is expected to consolidate its leading role in the AI market landscape, with new releases and resources for on-device AI operation.
In the third quarter, NVIDIA's revenue reached US$18.12 billion, up 206 percent from the previous year. Data center revenue jumped 279 percent to US$14.51 billion.
"Our strong growth reflects the broad industry platform transition from general-purpose to accelerated computing and generative AI," said NVIDIA chief executive Jensen Huang. "The era of generative AI is taking off."
In November, NVIDIA announced latest upgrade of software tool TensorRT-LLM (large language model) for Windows, which offers up to four times faster on-device LLM inference. It is worth mentioning that the upgrade will soon support a chat API (application programming interface) from OpenAI, ChatGPT's developer.
It is a great leap as it turns over 100 million existing computers, which feature Windows and NVIDIA's RTX GPUs, into potential AI PCs with on-device generative AI capabilities, at almost no extra cost.
Generative AI is mainly used by big names from car companies to game and film studios online. The AI PC is "revolutionizing AI experiences for gamers, creators, streamers, office workers, students and even casual PC users," NIVIDIA officials said. They may be not tech-savvy users or unwilling to pay more for a new and expensive AI PC. Comparatively, a GPU with Ray-tracing and AI technologies can cost from as little as US$299 (the RTX 4060).
For Stable Diffusion, TensorRT acceleration doubles the speed of image generation, bringing users faster and secure workflow.
A TensorRT-powered PC can complete each image generation within 0.5 second by Stable Diffusion operated on-device, or 100 photos within 49 seconds. It's also up to triple the speed for standard Stable Diffusion operation, according to a hands-on test by Nenly, an influencer on Bilibili.
"The TensorRT makes AI image generation in a remarkable 'second era' now," said Nenly, who has 338,000 followers.
It is ideal for individual professions such as photographers, 3D artists, architects, and designers, who may generate and process hundreds of pictures every day, experts said.