When Everything Is AI, Is Anything AI?

Image via Microsoft

AI isn’t mainstream. As we’ve progressed with our AI training courses, we’ve found folks who have been ChatGPTing for a year already and some who haven’t even used autocomplete in Gmail. This wide disparity in experience is expected – the technology is brand new – but that isn’t stopping the big guys from dropping hardware and software that purports to be AI-powered.

To wit, Microsoft’s new Surface laptops that feature Copilot keys right on the keyboard which, ultimately, has replaced the Windows key.

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From the Verge:

Microsoft is gearing up for its “year of the AI PC” with two new Surface devices that won’t be sold directly to consumers. The Surface Pro 10 for Business and Surface Laptop 6 for Business both feature Intel’s latest Core Ultra processors, Microsoft’s new Copilot key, and a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) to accelerate some existing and upcoming AI-powered features in Windows 11. Microsoft is calling them “the first Surface AI PCs built exclusively for business.”

These new laptops aren’t much different than the old Surface laptops. The addition of the Copilot key, however, points to a shift in how we will soon be marketing technology. There is a curious dance happening now and it’s expressing itself in a number of realms. First, like icebergs calving in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, fear of AI is forcing companies to blast away layers of middle management and content creators in the expectation that ChatGPT will replace their PR people, heads of content, and marketers. This is patently false but when did CEOs ever do anything sane?

Next, the technology story has changed drastically almost overnight. A year ago, you could sell a laptop on its own merits. The laptop had certain speeds and feeds, it had a certain screen size, and it looked nice in the airline lounge. Phones had pretty screens and could play nicer video games.

Now, however, AI is the perk. The screen size is a commodity. The chip is standard. But if you stick AI in there, you’ve got a stew going. It’s the upsell.

But here’s the trick: people don’t sign up to stuff to pay more for a product. They sign up to stuff to pay less for other products. I use ChatGPT because I don’t have to hire a native English speaker. I press the Copilot button because I don’t want to hire a PHP expert. The problem is once AI becomes a commodity, people will find ways around paying for it. Hoping for recurring revenues from the Copilot button is a pipe dream.

In the end, AIing everything in hopes of making subscription cash is dumb. There are places where AI works and places it doesn’t. All of those magical icons and breathless announcements mean very little if the companies using all of that compute power to make your teeth a little shinier don’t get a return on their AI investment. Spoiler alert: they won’t.

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