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What to expect at Microsoft’s March 21 event

The company may brand its next Surface Pro and Surface Laptop as “AI PCs.”

Microsoft

Microsoft is holding a digital event titled “Advancing the new era of work with Copilot” on March 21. Among the possible announcements are new Surface devices, potentially the first branded as AI PCs. If we do see those, it would make this the second Windows hardware event — and first mainline Surface Pro launch — without former chief product officer and longtime keynote presenter Panos Panay, who left for Amazon last year. Here’s everything we could see at the company's first launch event of 2024.

The company describes the event as breaking down “the latest in scaling AI in your environment with Copilot, Windows, and Surface.” There are conflicting reports about exactly what we’ll see this week.

Windows Central claims an OLED Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 will headline the event, with their upgraded processors enabling “huge performance and efficiency gains” over their predecessors. However, a report from The Verge suggests this month’s event will only cover the business and commercial-focused versions of the devices — with much subtler upgrades than the consumer versions. The outlet claims the consumer variants with “a larger redesign” will follow later this spring.

The new devices will allegedly be powered by Intel Core Ultra or Snapdragon X Elite silicon with next-generation neural processing units (NPUs) for advanced AI tasks. The Intel variants are expected to launch in April, while the Arm-based Snapdragon ones will reportedly arrive several months later in June. If the reports are accurate, this would be the first time the Surface Laptop line has included an Arm-based version.

At least in the consumer models, the Surface Pro 10 is rumored to switch from LCD to an anti-reflective OLED screen. The device would be brighter than the Surface Pro 9’s screen and support HDR content. Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 6 is rumored to include thinner display bezels (with rounded corners) and a haptic touchpad. Its updated port selection is said to include two USB-C and one USB-A on its left side.

The commercial / business models (which may be all we see at this month’s event) are rumored to include a built-in Common Access Card (CAC) reader and options with up to 64GB of RAM.

Image of a Windows keyboard with a dedicated Copilot AI key between the left arrow and Alt keys.
Image of a Windows keyboard with a dedicated Copilot AI key between the left arrow and Alt keys. (Microsoft)

Whether at this month’s event or later, the new consumer-facing Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are expected to kick off Microsoft’s push for Windows 11-running AI PCs. They’ll reportedly be among the first to include an on-device version of Copilot. Other rumored AI features include real-time captioning and translation, upscaling and frame-rate smoothing for games, upgraded Windows Studio Effects and a feature called AI Explorer. Both devices will reportedly include a dedicated Copilot key.

AI Explorer is rumored to include a built-in timeline that’s searchable using natural language. Perhaps similar to the third-party Rewind AI app for macOS, the feature will allegedly log everything you do and see on your device, letting you sift through it with Copilot. It would let you ask the assistant things like, “Find me that thing about dinosaurs,” and see every moment in your PC’s history relating to them. (It could be a privacy nightmare if not handled properly, but expect Microsoft to offer security assurances like encryption and entirely on-device processing.)

The feature would also allegedly “understand context, help jumpstart projects or workflows, and even suggest tasks based on what’s currently on screen.” Other rumored features include the ability to tell Copilot to remove the backgrounds of onscreen images from third-party apps in the Photos app.

The AI features, which aren’t expected to be exclusive to the Surface devices, will reportedly arrive in this year’s annual feature update for Windows 11 (version 24H2), expected in the fall. Windows Central noted it isn’t clear whether Microsoft will discuss the features during this week's launch.

You can watch Microsoft's event via its website, or just come back, as Engadget will have full coverage of the announcements on March 21 at noon ET.

Catch up on all the news from the Microsoft Surface and AI event right here!