The International Data Corporation (IDC) has forecasted a big increase in the shipment of personal computers equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Specifically, shipments of PCs designed with system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures that focus on AI tasks are expected to rise from an estimated 50 million units in 2024 to 167 million by the end of 2027. This projection represents an impressive 60 percent growth over the next three years, signifying a significant shift in the personal computing landscape toward integrating specialized AI computing hardware.
The Shift Towards Specialized AI Hardware
Historically, general AI tasks have relied on the computational power of central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs). This reliance, while effective, can lead to increased stress and wear on these systems, alongside higher energy consumption. The upcoming transformation is driven by the adoption of new SoC technologies, including neural processing units (NPUs). These NPUs are designed to run AI tasks more efficiently than their CPU and GPU counterparts, thereby reducing the overall load on the system while simultaneously minimizing energy demands.
According to the report by IDC, the advent of AI-specific silicon within SoCs – notably NPUs – will play a crucial role in driving the growth of AI-enabled PCs. Furthermore, the report identifies three distinct types of NPUs that are expected to contribute to the expansion of the AI PC market. However, despite the anticipated surge in NPU-based systems, IDC predicts that the number of PC systems capable of leveraging cloud-based AI services will surpass NPU-based systems, highlighting a dual approach towards enhancing AI capabilities within the PC sector.
Market Implications and Industry Insights
The rapid adoption of AI technologies into PCs is not solely confined to hardware advancements. Gartner corroborates the trend identified by IDC, projecting a growth in AI-enabled PCs and smartphones from 29 million units at the end of 2023 to 295 million by the close of the same year. This swift integration of on-device GenAI capabilities and AI processors underscores a crucial evolution within the tech industry, marking a transition towards ubiquitous AI functionality across devices.
In conclusion, the integration of specialized AI computing hardware into personal computers marks a significant development in the evolution of technology, aimed at enhancing efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and paving the way for advanced AI capabilities. As the industry moves towards a future dominated by AI, the role of CPUs and GPUs is set to evolve, with NPUs taking center stage in the ecosystem of AI-powered devices.