Qualcomm spends millions on marketing as it is found better battery life, not AI features, is driving Copilot+ PC sales

Snapdragon X-powered Microsoft Surface laptosp
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft and Qualcomm just launched Copilot+ PCs highlighting so-called game-changing AI features. However, a Bloomberg report says that most buyers have purchased these laptops for their battery life, instead of their on-device AI capabilities. Microsoft introduced three AI-powered features exclusive to Copilot+ PCs — Cocreator, Windows Studio Effects, and Live Captions with Translation. However, many users find that these aren’t essentials in day-to-day use. Microsoft also delayed the release of the interesting Recall feature due to privacy concerns.

Snapdragon-powered laptops have still precipitated some good sales numbers, with Copilot+ AI PCs raking in 20% of global PC sales during launch week. However, industry analyst Avi Greengart said that most users purchased these AI laptops for their better battery life, rather than their AI capabilities.

Although AI capabilities have been gaining popularity in recent months, many software companies still run user-facing AI features on their data centers via the Cloud, instead of running them on-device. The giant software corporations — Adobe, Salesforce, and SentinelOne — declined Microsoft’s request for them to tweak their apps to use the NPUs onboard the Snapdragon chips in time for the launch of Copilot+ PCs.

While tweaking apps to run AI processes locally will save companies processing power, doing so costs resources and manpower. Gregor Stewart, SentinelOne’s VP for AI said, “SentinelOne is looking at optimizing its products for AI PCs in future development, but it will likely take years for these devices to reach a ‘sufficient proportion of deployed machines.’” Salesforce is also developing on-device generative AI tech, but it didn’t give information about when it will deliver this feature to its users.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

With only 3% of PCs sold this year expected to have AI capabilities, it does make sense for major developers to hold-off building AI features into their apps until they have more widespread adoption. Estimates suggest that it will take at least a couple of years before AI PCs are in the hands of one in five new PC buyers. Even by 2028, only 40% of new computers shipped to users will be AI-capable, according to the latest analysis.

Consumers are more likely to purchase AI PCs, especially those who want the longer battery life that Arm-based chips afford laptops (like Apple-silicon MacBooks), but still want to stick with the familiar Windows OS. However, many corporate clients might hold off switching to Windows on Arm, especially those that need legacy apps that run into issues with or aren’t even supported by Microsoft’s Prism emulation software.

Marketing millions

But Qualcomm is still hopeful that the AI boom will help drive sales of its chips and it is taking a page directly from Intel by investing heavily in marketing. Team Blue’s Intel Inside branding was a massive win for the CPU company, with the average PC buyer looking for that sticker when buying a new computer in the ‘90s and 2000s. 

Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs are currently synonymous with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X chips, but it won’t be for long as AMD’s Ryzen AI 300 PCs will get the same treatment later this year. So, the chip maker is investing massive amounts directly in marketing, with the company paying more than $75 million annually, sponsoring Manchester United. It’s also reportedly paying more to computer manufacturers to aid their marketing efforts.

The AI PC is currently just a marketing gimmick, especially with the limited on-device AI capabilities you get with Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs. We expect on-device AI features will eventually receive widespread adoption, but it will take several years for that to happen. 

However, the simple fact that we have another CPU option over Intel and AMD is already a big win among consumers, helping break the duopoly that Team Blue and Team Red have built over the years. Furthermore, the improved battery life with comparable performance that Snapdragon laptops bring will force x86 chip manufacturers to innovate on power efficiency or be left in the dust.

Jowi Morales
Contributing Writer

Jowi Morales is a tech enthusiast with years of experience working in the industry. He’s been writing with several tech publications since 2021, where he’s been interested in tech hardware and consumer electronics.

  • cknobman
    Not surprising one bit.

    I have yet to meet anyone, personally or professionally, that really cares one dang bit about AI.

    Even as a software engineer and given GitHub CoPilot for free, over 60% of our developers and engineers didnt even touch it and had to literally be threatened by management to start using it because it was costing the company money.

    Battery life was the single biggest issue with non Apple laptops IMO.

    In attempts to chase buzzwords ignorant execs inadvertently gave people what the really wanted. LOL.
  • ikjadoon
    The source article for anyone wondering:

  • colossusrage
    I'm sure companies like Microsoft and OpenAI have figured out by now that AI isn't something that needs to be front and center, but rather just a tool in the shed like any other software or app.
  • DougMcC
    colossusrage said:
    I'm sure companies like Microsoft and OpenAI have figured out by now that AI isn't something that needs to be front and center, but rather just a tool in the shed like any other software or app.
    Has to be in the shed though. If you don't have the TOPS you don't have the tool. That's what AI PCs are advertising.
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Well yeah, most people care about laptop battery life, application compatibility, and brand names, in that order, far more than they do local AI capabilities, which will likely be fairly useless if you don't pay for them in the near future. Oh, and don't forget price, if you're charging $2000+ for an ARM based laptop, like the highest end Surface Laptop that's a Copilot+ PC, or even in the area of $1000 like a Macbook Air, you better come up top trumps across the board.
  • KraakBal
    But no one cares about AI? Not news
  • vijosef
    CoPilot itself drains the battery by running for no reason.

    Please bring back removable batteries, because when the notebook is plugged into the wall, the battery still wears out. When you really need it, the battery is broken, and it's super difficult to replace.
  • Murissokah
    So people care more about the useful features than the useless ones? Go figure.