Intel has high hopes for the era of the AI PC

Intel AI PC Header
Pictured: New MSI laptop at CES 2024 powered by Intel
// The question isn't whether AI will affect the PC market, but how.
Fergus Halliday
Jan 23, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Intel is dipping its toes into new territory in 2024, but it’s got bold expectations when it comes to both the new PC form factors and the possibilities that the neural processing unit found in its latest chipset promises to unlock. 

Speaking at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, Intel's executive vice president and general manager for the company's client computer group Michelle Johnston Holtaus emphasised the significance of its collaboration with MSI on the first major gaming handheld powered by Intel silicon, the MSI Claw.

“It required a ton of collaboration but I think it speaks to the power efficiency and design changes that we made not only in the chip but also with the Intel Core process,” she said.

Speaking to Reviews.org, Intel’s VP and GM for enthusiast PCs and workstations Roger Chandler expanded on how the handheld came together.

“MSI has long been one of our most important notebook and desktop gaming customers, so we are exchanging ideas with them all the time. They expressed an interest in handheld gaming and we were enthusiastic about supporting them in any way we could,” he said.

Chandler said that both Intel and MSI engineers had to work closely together to squeeze every ounce of performance and battery life we could out of the hardware powering the MSI Claw.

“It was a new platform, a new architecture, a new manufacturing process, so we learned a lot about the performance we were delivering and we’ve been very happy with the results. Specifically, we worked closely with MSI, using a fan design we co-developed, to ensure the best performance while keeping the system nice and cool,” he said. 

As for whether this kind of collaboration would set the tone for Intel’s efforts in the handheld PC space going forward, Chandler kept his cards close to his chest. 

“We talk to all of our customers on an ongoing basis about what’s coming from Intel and how they use our gaming products. This includes handheld and we expect to see other Intel-based platforms in the future,” he said.

Asked whether the new AI-focused Meteor Lake processors inside MSI’s new laptops and its Claw handheld will yield new insights and experiences for consumers, Chandler was similarly aloof. 

“We have some ideas on how the NPU will be used in gaming, and handheld gaming in particular, but it’s so new we will need to explore with customers which use cases will be the most interesting.”

Looking forward, he predicted that the broader AI momentum seen across the PC ecosystem will soon add a “third pillar” of performance to laptop and desktop processors. 

“Similar to how the CPU and later the GPU became mainstream, we predict that the NPU will become mainstream and everyday users will quickly understand the performance, power,  and feature benefits it grants,” he said.

Michelle Johnston Holtaus was similarly excited about the shift towards a more AI-oriented PC market.

“One of the things that’s very exciting to me is that we have 1.5 million PCs in the marketplace today that do not have an NPU. Therefore, there is a distinct difference in the products we just launched.”

According to her, the arrival of newer chipsets with dedicated AI hardware represents a break from the status quo. 

“When you think about other Windows operating systems and upgrade cycles in the past, you could put it on old hardware. You didn’t necessarily have to get new hardware.”

That said, Johnston pushed back against the idea that AI-oriented PC hardware represented a new category of PCs. 

“We’re in the middle of a massive market transition, where AI will be pervasive [and] In my opinion in every PC moving forward. Now it’s really about harnessing the value of that hardware and seeing the software ecosystem innovate [and] create.”

“There are going to be ways that you use your PC that we never imagined and we still don’t today,” she said.

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Disclosure: Reviews.org Australia and Safewise Australia's coverage of CES 2024 is supported by Samsung, MSI and Reolink

Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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