Microsoft’s Strategic Shift: Targeting Apple with Copilot+ PCs Using new RISC Based Integrated Chip Architecture

Snapdragon SOC Used in Copilot+ PCs Uses Similar Architecture as Apple. Both are based on enhanced version of technology developed by ARM. Photo Source: Qualcomm

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By introducing Copilot+ PCs, which combine advanced AI capabilities with ARM-based integrated processors, Microsoft is setting the stage for a significant shift away from traditional PC architectures depends on technology Intel developed back in 1981. This strategy not only positions Microsoft to compete more effectively with Apple but also aims to leverage AI to enhance user productivity and device performance.

The Rise of AI PCs

The journey began in October 2023, when Intel announced the development of “AI PCs” equipped with its Core Ultra “Meteor Lake CPUs” featuring built-in Neural Processing Units (NPUs). These NPUs were designed to handle AI tasks locally on the device, promising enhanced performance and new features in Windows.

The landscape changed dramatically with Microsoft’s recent unveiling of Copilot+ PCs, which exclusively utilize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X series processors that utilize advanced integrated RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) instead of discreet CISC technology.

Qualcomm-Powered Copilot+ PCs

Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs represent a new class of computers that integrate local AI capabilities directly into the device. Unlike previous AI PCs, which relied on Intel or AMD processors, Copilot+ PCs are built on Qualcomm’s energy-efficient ARM-based chips. This shift is significant as it aligns with Apple’s successful transition to ARM-based processors, which has been a key factor in the performance and efficiency of its MacBooks.

Unlike old Intel architecture, the new systems don’t require discreet graphics cards, those provided by NVIDIA and AMD.

During the recent event, Microsoft showcased new Surface Laptop and Pro models powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. These devices were highlighted as the “fastest Windows PCs” ever built, featuring a re-architected Windows 11 operating system optimized for AI tasks. This optimization includes features like Recall, which allows users to search for previous actions and files using voice commands, significantly enhancing productivity.

Compatibility and Performance

One of the critical challenges Microsoft faces with this transition is ensuring compatibility with existing software. Windows on ARM has historically struggled with compatibility issues, but Microsoft is addressing this with a new Prism emulator, which promises solid compatibility with x86 applications. Additionally, major software developers like Adobe are bringing their Creative Suite to Windows on ARM, further broadening the appeal of these new devices.

The performance metrics shared during the event are impressive. The Surface Laptop Copilot+ Pro, for instance, is said to be 80% faster than its predecessor and capable of running multiple 4K monitors simultaneously. These capabilities, combined with extended battery life, position Copilot+ PCs as a compelling option for power users and professionals.

Competing with Apple


Microsoft’s strategic shift to ARM-based processors and AI integration directly challenges Apple’s dominance in the high-performance laptop market. Apple’s MacBooks, powered by its custom ARM-based M2, M3 and upcoming M4 chips, have set a new standard for performance and efficiency. By adopting a similar architecture, Microsoft aims to offer a comparable, if not superior, computing experience.

Unlike PCs that utilize discreet components comprising of Complex Instruction Set Computing processor, a graphics card, RAM and VRAM, Apple Silicon uses System on A Chip (SOC) that combines these individual components plus a Neural processor in one giant chip.


Apple M4 Integrated SOC Used in Latest Ipads. Photo: Apple


Especially for inferencing component of Large Language Models such as ChatGPT or LLAMA 3, Apple’s architecture has proven ultra efficient given the nature of computing requirements for AI.

Apple’s focus on AI is evident in its new M4 chip which is a generation ahead of current Qualcomm offering. Apple launched the M1 processor which is a SOC based RISC chip with integrated neural engine back in 2020. The baseline version comes with an updated 16-core Neural Engine that can perform up to 38 trillion operations per second. This makes it suitable for handling AI tasks on-device.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, has been vocal about the company’s ambition to outperform Apple. The new Copilot+ PCs are a testament to this ambition, offering features and performance that directly rival Apple’s latest MacBooks. For instance, the AI-driven Recall feature in Windows 11 is designed to offer a more intuitive and efficient user experience, similar to the seamless integration of AI in Apple’s ecosystem.

Market Implications

The introduction of Copilot+ PCs also has significant implications for the broader PC market. Microsoft is not only targeting consumers but also enterprise users who can benefit from the advanced AI capabilities. The new devices are set to launch in June, with a starting price of $999, making them accessible to a wide range of users.

Furthermore, the adoption of ARM-based processors in Windows PCs is expected to grow rapidly. Analysts at Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, project that ARM systems will constitute 14% of all Windows PC shipments by 2026, up from 0% in 2023. This shift indicates a broader industry trend towards more efficient and AI-capable computing devices.


Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs mark a significant strategic shift aimed at challenging Apple’s dominance in the high-performance laptop market. By combining AI capabilities with ARM-based processors, Microsoft is setting a new standard for Windows PCs. This move not only enhances the performance and efficiency of its devices but also aligns with broader industry trends towards AI integration and energy-efficient computing. As Microsoft continues to innovate and refine its approach, the competition between these tech giants will undoubtedly drive further advancements in the personal computing space.