Microsoft Copilot+ PC faces enterprise challenges

To succeed with enterprises, pricing for Copilot+ PC will have to come down for high-volume sales and business software will need to run well on Arm-based systems.

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Microsoft has caught the attention of the enterprise buyer with its newly introduced AI-focused Copilot+ PC. Experts say going forward, its success with business customers will hinge on price and how well it runs software.

Microsoft launched the new category of Windows PC on Tuesday, with all the major computer makers introducing Copilot+ PCs on June 18.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite Arm processor will power the systems until Intel and AMD launch supporting x86 chips. Intel plans to ship its Copilot+ silicon, code-named Lunar Lake, in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, manufacturers taking pre-orders for the Arm-based Copilot+ PC include Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and Samsung. Microsoft's version of the AI PC will be part of its Surface line of computers.

The unveiling of Copilot+ PC was well-received, analysts said. It captured the industry's excitement with AI and highlighted the necessary support of PC makers and chipmakers. There was also support for the Arm-based systems from a few enterprise software makers, such as Adobe and Zoom, with Salesforce's Slack promising to jump on board later in the year.

Most importantly, Microsoft said its ubiquitous 365 Office apps, including Teams, PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel and OneDrive, will run natively on Qualcomm's Arm chip.

Despite the solid start, Microsoft needs to do more to succeed in the enterprise market, analysts said. Copilot+ PC pricing will have to fall, and business software will have to perform well on the Arm systems running Windows.

To capture volume sales for the office, the PCs will have to sell for less than $1,000, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. Current pricing, which ranges from $1,000 to $1,800, places the systems in the premium category, targeting prosumers, executives and on-the-road employees who need the long battery life that Arm offers.

"They're pretty high-priced," Gold said. "They're not cheap."

The largest competitor of the pricey systems is Apple's MacBooks, which run the company's custom-designed Arm-based M series processors. Analysts expect the Qualcomm chip to match Apple's power-to-performance ratio. Microsoft promises 20 hours of battery life in the upcoming systems.

The Copilot+ PC will stand out against Apple in its AI capabilities, especially since Apple has yet to outline its AI strategy for the Mac. Analysts expect Apple to unveil its plans at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

"Some people want a Mac because they can get super-long battery life and really good performance," said Bob O'Donnell, president of Technalysis Research. "Now you have a Windows alternative for that."

Surface Copilot+ PCs.
Microsoft will release its Copilot+ PCs, with the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, on June 18.

Business software compatibility critical

Enterprises won't be watching just the Microsoft vs. Apple rivalry. They will also be focusing on how the software they use in business operations runs on Arm-based Copilot+ PCs. Microsoft has revamped Windows to run on the CPU, GPU and neural processing unit comprising Snapdragon. In the past, Windows overhauls have caused software compatibility problems, including the drivers that connect the operating system to other hardware, such as printers, network adapters, monitors and video cards.

"Microsoft supposedly takes care of that. But we've seen in the past when Microsoft jumps operating systems that sometimes drivers get screwed up," Gold said.

Just as important is how well business applications will run on the emulation software that lets applications developed for x86 PCs run on Arm systems.

"Most enterprises are more concerned about their apps than they are about the operating system or the chip in their devices," Gold said. "Microsoft absolutely has to prove that Windows 11 running on an Arm-based Snapdragon will not have any glitches with any of the installed apps that most companies have."

Some people want a Mac because they can get super-long battery life and really good performance. Now you have a Windows alternative for that.
Bob O'DonnellPresident, Technalysis Research

O'Donnell agreed and said he expects enterprises to test Windows 11 on Arm thoroughly.

"Early reports are that it's very good, but [software compatibility] is absolutely critical," he said.

Many enterprises are starting to refresh their PC fleets following the buying spree that occurred during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Analysts expect organizations to buy Arm-based Copilot+ PCs in relatively small quantities to test as an Apple alternative.

Enterprises tend to be conservative buyers, so purchasing could increase substantially when the more familiar Intel introduces its Copilot+ PC chip. The success of Intel-powered AI systems will depend on their price and how well Lunar Lake stands up against Qualcomm, assuming business software runs well on the latter.

"The question is going to be price to performance," Gold said. "If Qualcomm prices effectively, then it's going to be a real issue [for Intel] competitive-wise."

Microsoft's AI features in the Copilot+ PC are modest. They include a feature named Recall for finding and remembering what the user has seen on the PC, including documents, images, video and websites. Other capabilities are a Cocreator application for generating and refining AI-produced images as well as Live Captions for translating audio from more than 40 languages into English.

The features are promising, but enterprises will still want more than what's inside Windows.

"It'll depend on what the app providers are able to do with AI because, at the end of the day, I'm going to spend an awful lot of time in apps, not just in Windows," Gold said.

Antone Gonsalves is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial, reporting on industry trends critical to enterprise tech buyers. He has worked in tech journalism for 25 years and is based in San Francisco.

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