A keyboard sticker can turn your new laptop into an AI PC. Probably...

Microsoft Copilot
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Copilot AI functionality recently got some upgrades, allowing it do complete a wide range of OS grunt work such as renaming a batch of files, cleaning up your storage drives or telling you your IP address. Amazing!

But you know what really makes your PC an AI PC? Not just the Copilot functionality in Windows. Not merely the 'AI' hardware in your shiny new CPU. Nope. You need the 'Copilot' button on your keyboard, too. Oh, wait, you've got a fancy new laptop with an Intel Meteor Lake CPU or AMD Phoenix APU, both of which come complete with an AI-accelerating NPU, but no Copilot key? Then you're bang out of luck. Your PC is not an AI PC.

This, essentially, is what Microsoft's requirements for AI PCs boil down to. And this news, ironically, is according to Intel. Microsoft has yet to roll out its full definition of an AI PC. However, The Verge has spotted an Intel presser listing Microsoft's requirements.

The list goes like this. First, you'll need "new NPU, CPU and GPU powered silicon", though it's not clear if you'll need all three. We'll assume it's all three. Then you'll need Copilot itself as part of Windows 11. Finally, you must have the Copilot key. And then? Well, then you're an AI PC, baby!

The implication, of course, is that numerous new laptops with Intel's Meteor Lake and AMD Phoenix APUs, which both have CPU, NPU and GPU elements, and Windows 11 with Copilot are not AI PCs. Because they don't have the Copilot key.

The all-important AI key... (Image credit: Intel)

“Our joint aligned definition, Intel and Microsoft, we’ve aligned on Core Ultra, Copilot, and Copilot key,” Intel's PC ecosystem head Todd Lewellen told The Verge.

One interesting question that emerges is whether a sticker therefore maketh an AI PC. At CES earlier this year, Dell reportedly fitted its XPS laptops with makeshift Copilot stickers, presumably because the whole Copilot key thing was dreamt up too late for Dell to have begun manufacturing the keys in full.

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The Copilot key replaces the existing menu / application key on a standard MS keyboard, though non-MS keyboards may have a secondary control or Windows key, a function key or some other proprietary key in the same position. But the question remains, if you put a sticker on it and map it to Copilot, does that make your PC an AI PC?

Even more pressing, what if you have a Copilot key, but it doesn't have the official MS logo, like these alternative Github Copilot key stickers? Let's hope that counts, because at 50 cents a pop, that makes adding AI functionality one of the cheapest upgrades ever!

Either that or Microsoft's AI requirements are marketing driven and largely irrelevant. And an NPU with a few TOPs of processing power plus access to an online LLM that can't do basic math or recognise simple facts doesn't turn your PC into a sentient being. But whatever.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.