Technology

Microsoft is releasing its first Surface PCs featuring a dedicated Copilot button on the keyboard for quickly accessing the chatbot, following through on a promise it made in January.

The addition of the button, to the left of the arrow keys, represents the biggest change to the computer keyboard in decades. While Microsoft is not the largest PC seller — that distinction belongs to Lenovo — it does run the most popular operating system with Windows. Lenovo has announced its own PCs featuring Copilot keys, as have Dell and HP.

But the Surface has in the past been a showcase of what a Windows machine can be, and Microsoft is trying to articulate the convenience of having generative artificial intelligence one keystroke away with the two new PCs: its new convertible Surface Pro 10 for Business and Surface Laptop 6 for Business.

When people type a few words in to the Copilot, which draws on AI models from Microsoft-backed OpenAI, servers in faraway data centers perform the necessary computing work to craft a response.

The Copilot key on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 6 for Business appears to the left of the arrow keys.
Microsoft

Microsoft calls these new machines AI PCs. The new key, which allows users to open the Copilot panel any time on the right side of the screen, helps matters, along with the silicon inside. Each computer comes packed with an Intel Core Ultra processor containing a special neural processing engine, or NPU. Surface computers have featured NPUs since 2019.

When those NPUs are on a PC, the benefits include faster responses and better security. Recently added AI features in Windows 11, such as automatic transcription of audio and simulation of eye contact during video calls, run on the NPU, which frees up the rest of the chip for other tasks.

The introduction comes two weeks after Apple introduced MacBook Air laptops that come with an upgraded Neural Engine accelerator in the custom M3 chip. “MacBook Air continues to be the world’s best consumer laptop for AI,” Apple said in a statement.

The new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop start at $1,199 and can be configured with as much as 64GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. They are available for pre-order today in some markets, and they’ll ship starting on April 9.

Microsoft is not immediately releasing these Surface models for consumers.

“We absolutely remain committed to consumer devices,” a spokesperson told CNBC in an email. “Building great devices that people love to use aligns closely with our company mission to empower individuals as well as organizations. We are excited to be bringing devices to market that deliver great AI experiences to our customers. This commercial announcement is only the first part of this effort.

WATCH: The AI arms race: Microsoft’s new AI division and Nvidia’s AI software

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