AI PC Shipments to Hit 167 Million by 2027

Shipments of PC systems equipped with specialized artificial intelligence computing capabilities are expected to increase by 60 percent in the next three years, according to a report by IDC. The forecast indicates that shipments of PCs with dedicated system-on-a-chip (SoC) hardware for AI tasks will rise from an estimated 50 million units in 2024 to 167 million by the end of 2027.

"As we enter a new year, the hype around generative AI has reached a fever pitch," said Tom Mainelli, VP of the Devices and Consumer Research group at IDC, in a statement, "and the PC industry is running fast to capitalize on the expected benefits of bringing AI capabilities down from the cloud to the client. Promises around enhanced user productivity via faster performance, plus lower inferencing costs, and the benefit of on-device privacy and security, have driven strong IT decision-maker interest in AI PCs. In 2024, we'll see AI PC shipments begin to ramp, and over the next few years, we expect the technology to move from niche to a majority."

The growth is attributed to manufacturers expanding their offerings of AI-specific SoCs. Traditionally, general AI tasks have been processed using the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU), which can lead to increased stress and wear on systems. The introduction of new SoCs is expected to alleviate this issue and reduce energy consumption for AI tasks.

IDC noted that PC silicon vendors have begun incorporating AI-specific silicon into their SoCs, known as neural processing units (NPUs), to execute these tasks more efficiently. The firm outlined three types of NPUs that are expected to drive growth in AI-accelerated PCs:

  • Hardware-enabled AI PCs feature an NPU capable of less than 40 tera operations per second (TOPS) and typically support specific AI features within apps to run locally. Companies such as Qualcomm, Apple, AMD, and Intel are currently shipping chips in this category.
  • Next-generation AI PCs include an NPU with 40–60 TOPS performance and an AI-first operating system that enables widespread AI capabilities within the OS and apps. Qualcomm, AMD, and Intel are slated to release future chips for this category, with availability expected to begin in 2024. Microsoft is also anticipated to release major updates to Windows 11 to leverage these high-TOPS NPUs.
  • Advanced AI PCs will offer more than 60 TOPS of NPU performance. Although no silicon vendors have announced such products, IDC expects them to emerge in the future. These advanced AI PCs are not included in the current forecast but will be in future updates.

Despite the promising outlook for NPU-based systems, IDC predicts that the number of PC systems capable of leveraging cloud-based AI services will double that of NPU-based systems.

The growth of AI-accelerated PCs and NPUs is further supported by a report from Gartner, which predicts that the number of general AI PCs and smartphones will increase from 29 million units at the end of 2023 to 295 million units by the end of this year.

Ranjit Atwal, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, commented on the trend, stating, "The rapid adoption of on-device GenAI capabilities and AI processors will eventually become a standard requirement for technology vendors. This ubiquity will pose challenges for vendors in differentiating themselves from competitors, making it harder to create unique selling points and drive increased revenues."

The IDC report, The report, "Worldwide Artificial Intelligence PC Forecast, 2023–2027," presents IDC's first forecast for the worldwide artificial intelligence PC market for 2023–2027. The report forecasts the market by three primary categories (non-NPU, <40 TOPS NPU, and 40–60 TOPS NPU) as well as by processor architecture (Arm-based SoCs shipped by Qualcomm and Apple and x86-based SoCs shipped AMD and Intel). The report also provides forecasts by product category (desktop and notebook) and segment group (commercial and consumer).

About the Author

Chris Paoli (@ChrisPaoli5) is the associate editor for Converge360.