2024 in laptops: Expected to be a big year for Windows

2023 has been a fairly quiet year for laptops. Apple continues to dominate in both performance and battery life, while Microsoft has only had incremental upgrades to its Surface line, and Intel has waited until the end of the year to try to respond to Apple's dominance. But 2024 looks set to be one of the most interesting years for laptops since the days of Windows 8, thanks to a new version of Windows, a big push for AI, and another attempt to make Windows on Arm a reality.

Apple's iPad prompted Microsoft to create Windows on Arm more than 10 years ago, and laptop makers have followed suit with some weird and wonderful designs to match Windows 8. While I don't expect a major design overhaul for Windows 12 (or whatever Microsoft calls it), The changes in laptops in 2024 and beyond will focus heavily on the chip side of the AI ​​era.

Intel is kicking things off as early as December with the Meteor Lake Core Ultra chips. These are the first Intel processors to have different chips for each component, the first on the Intel 4 process (equivalent to 7nm), and the first to have an AI coprocessor inside. Hopefully all of this will result in improved battery life that can rival Apple's MacBook lineup, and perhaps even decent performance.

Intel's new Core Ultra chip contains dedicated AI silicon.
Image: Intel

AI co-processor inside

It's the AI ​​coprocessor inside that's what interests me, especially since both Intel and Microsoft have dropped hints about a future version of Windows arriving soon and how “AI will reinvent how we do everything on Windows.” Rumors indicate that Windows 12 will include a heavy focus on AI and take advantage of the AI ​​coprocessors that Intel is building into its Core Ultra chips. (Intel isn't the only one: AMD also has its own Ryzen 7000 mobile processors that include a dedicated AI engine, and these types of Neural Processing Unit (NPU) chips are common in Windows and Arm-powered laptops.)

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Intel held an AI event to launch its Core Ultra chips this month, ahead of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where we'll see all the new laptops powered by Intel's new chips. Lenovo, MSI, Acer, and Asus are all launching laptops with these new chips inside them. While Intel has talked a lot about “AI everywhere,” the missing piece of the puzzle, a new AI-focused version of Windows, remains a mystery for now.

Intel has publicly teased a 2024 “Windows Update,” which aligns well with its new push for AI-focused chips and rumors of an AI focus for Windows 12. Microsoft has not acknowledged any plans for Windows 12, but given that it brings AI features to Windows 12. Windows 11 and even Windows 10 At a rapid pace, it seems inevitable that the next version of Windows will focus heavily on artificial intelligence. “As we start developing future versions of Windows, we will think about other places where AI should play a natural role in terms of the experience,” Youssef Mahdi, head of Microsoft's consumer marketing department, said in an interview with Instagram. the edge Earlier this year.

Two of the latest laptops powered by Intel Core Ultra chips.
Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto/The Verge

Another Windows component is Arm. 2024 looks set to be the next major push for Windows on Arm, with Qualcomm claiming its Snapdragon Laptops with the Snapdragon

Microsoft co-designed a custom Qualcomm chipset for the Arm-powered Surface Pro variants, but performance didn't quite match what you'd expect from a Windows laptop. Microsoft has largely resolved the app compatibility issues, but unless developers fully port their apps to the Arm architecture, they won't run as well. Microsoft Edge, built on the Chromium engine, works great on Windows on Arm because Microsoft did the work, while Google Chrome (also built on Chromium) lags far behind because it's still an x86 application.

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Qualcomm's extra performance could help force Windows on Arm into a good place, but ultimately Microsoft and developers need to do more to make Windows on Arm good enough for all applications. Recent reports indicate that both Nvidia and AMD are planning to launch Arm PC chips as soon as 2025, so it looks like next year could be a big year for Windows on Arm.

Microsoft has been trying to push Arm-powered Windows devices for more than 10 years.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Kralis/The Verge

Arm on the Roof: Too Little Too Late?

Microsoft originally shipped the first Arm-powered Surface RT in 2012, more than a decade ago, so it's about time Windows on Arm finally became an option for the masses and not just executives browsing the web on an expensive Surface Pro Otherwise, Windows on Arm quickly became a meme, like the year of desktop Linux.

I also expect to see new Surface devices next spring. Microsoft is said to be working on a smaller Surface Pro with an 11-inch screen, so if that device is still in the works, 2024 and a new version of Windows seem like the perfect time for a new Surface. The flagship Surface Pro and Surface Laptop systems are also scheduled for an upgrade, so this could be a busy year for Surface devices.

There are still a lot of questions about the future of Surface, especially after Panos Panay, the main force behind Microsoft's hardware efforts, left for Amazon just weeks before the Surface event earlier this year. We haven't seen what Panay is working on at Amazon yet, but he helped revive the Surface as a secret project more than 10 years ago, so he's bound to have big ideas for Amazon's hardware.

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Now we need to see how Microsoft will reinvent Surface under new leadership, and how the company will surpass the success of the Surface Pro. With the PC industry keen to push AI features as a selling point for laptops, all eyes are on 2024 to see exactly how this new era of AI begins to change the devices that millions rely on every day.

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