Microsoft Mandates 16GB RAM, PCs Bulk Up for AI Age

According to recent data from market analysis institutions, the global PC shipment volume, after experiencing consecutive quarters of year-over-year decline, appears to have reached its nadir, with a forecasted resurgence in growth for 2024. This anticipated growth is partly due to the PC refresh cycle, as a substantial number of aging commercial PCs await upgrades, coupled with an urgent need to transition to Windows 11. Additionally, the integration of artificial intelligence features into PCs is expected to catalyze upgrades.

In 2024, with the arrival of the first AI PCs, TrendForce anticipates that these PCs, equipped with AI acceleration capabilities, will be able to leverage several native new features provided by Windows 11 23H2. Presently, Copilot is particularly noteworthy. This project, which Microsoft greatly emphasizes, aims to integrate AI chatbots capable of automation and content generation into mainstream PCs, even incorporating a dedicated Copilot key on Windows PC keyboards.

Microsoft has recently introduced Copilot Pro, a new premium subscription service targeted at individual users, priced at $20 per month. This service brings Copilot AI features to Microsoft 365 personal and family subscribers. Microsoft’s future array of AI functionalities will also rely on certain fundamental hardware for local acceleration, one of which is the Neural Processing Unit (NPU). The new Windows PCs will require a minimum of 40 TOPS of computing power to meet the AI PC threshold. Besides processors equipped with AI acceleration units, another requisite is memory, as AI acceleration is highly sensitive to memory operations, and Large Language Models (LLMs) necessitate extensive, rapid, and frequent memory access.

Microsoft has set 16GB as the minimum memory capacity standard, not only for local acceleration but also for cloud-based Copilot AI functionalities. It is foreseeable that in 2024, PCs will have 16GB as the basic memory specification, with commercial PCs potentially raising the requirement to 32GB or even 64GB, a development that bodes well for the DRAM industry.