What to Expect from Microsoft Build 2024

Microsoft Build 2024

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Microsoft is gearing up for its Build 2024 conference, the company’s annual developer event, set to begin next week in Seattle.

Traditionally, Build serves as a straightforward celebration of Microsoft’s commitment to productivity, with some on-stage programming to engage the developer audience. However, this year, the company is preparing for some significant AI announcements following the debut of Bing Chat powered by ChatGPT in early 2023.

In addition to AI advancements, there are rumors about new Surface devices, making Build 2024 potentially one of Microsoft’s most significant events ever.

Before Build, Microsoft will host an event on May 20 to introduce new Surface devices and AI features in Windows 11. Build will commence the following day, on May 21.

Key Highlights Expected at Build 2024:

New Surface Devices

While Microsoft released updates to the Surface family earlier this spring, those devices were primarily aimed at enterprise customers and are not available for purchase in regular retail stores. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the company’s ongoing commitment to consumer devices, indicating that the business-focused product announcements were just the first part of this effort.

The upcoming consumer hardware refresh is expected to include new 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 6 models with thinner bezels, larger trackpads, improved port selection, and the aforementioned Snapdragon X Elite chip.

There is a good chance that we will also see an Arm-based version of the Surface Pro 10 at the May 20 event, featuring a design similar to the business model released in March but with refreshed accessories. According to The Verge, Microsoft believes these new systems can outperform Apple’s M3-powered MacBook Air in terms of speed and AI performance.

Reportedly, Microsoft has also improved the x86 program emulation on the Arm-based version of Windows 11, a crucial enhancement given the poor emulation performance that plagued the Surface Pro 9 5G, which used Microsoft’s SQ3 Arm chip based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3.

Microsoft Build 2024

Given the previous frustration with the Surface Pro 9 5G, which was marketed as a “Pro” device despite its subpar performance, we remain skeptical about any miraculous performance gains from another Qualcomm Arm chipset.

It will also be interesting to see if the new consumer devices look different from their enterprise counterparts, which were essentially chip swaps in the Surface Pro 9 and Laptop 5 enclosures. If Microsoft is indeed betting on mobile chips for its consumer Surface devices, there is potential for a complete redesign, similar to how Apple reshaped its laptop lineup around its M-series chips.

AI Explorer

Apart from the updated hardware, one of the biggest upgrades to the new Surface devices will be the significantly enhanced on-device AI and machine learning performance, thanks to the Snapdragon X Elite chip, which can deliver up to 45 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of neural processing unit (NPU) power. This is crucial since Microsoft previously stated that PCs would need at least 40 TOPS to run Windows AI features locally.

This leads to several additions in the next major release of Microsoft’s operating system, including what the company calls AI Explorer, expanded studio effects, and more.

What to Look For?

While Microsoft will certainly draw a lot of attention, it’s important to note that it won’t be the only manufacturer producing new AI-powered PCs. Alongside the refreshed Surface devices, we expect to see a range of new laptops featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite (or possibly X Plus) from other major vendors like Dell, Lenovo, and more.

Given the intense focus on AI at Google I/O 2024, some might be weary of hearing more about AI. However, at this point, like most of its competitors, Microsoft is heavily betting on machine learning to enhance and expand the capabilities of Windows PCs.

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