China's homebrew openKylin OS creates a cut for AI PCs

China has jumped on the AI PC bandwagon, with the team behind local OS openKylin creating a cut of its Linux-based software that can run AI models on the desktop.

Revealed on Sunday, openKylin for AIPC was touted as including "a series of intelligent functions including AI assistant, intelligent text map, intelligent fuzzy search, etc", all using on-device models rather than needing to reach a cloud. The AI functions are supposedly deeply integrated into the UI and will fundamentally change and improve the experience of using a PC, according to the outfit's post.

Which sounds great ... but sadly at the time of writing the OS is absent from the openKylin download page. So is info on the models the OS will use, and what openKylin's developers consider as the specs for an AI PC.

The OS does, however, run on x86, Arm, and RISC-V silicon. Some PC processors built on the first two architectures already include neural processing units (NPU) - co-processors dedicated to handling AI workloads that are generally accepted to be an essential requirement for an AI PC. When Intel championed the concept of an AI PC, it defined them as any laptop packing its Meteor Lake processors, which included NPUs that can process around 11.5 trillion operations per second (TOPS).

Microsoft later created a new category of AI PC it called the "Copilot+ PC" and defined as including a 40 TOPS NPU that at the time was only available in Qualcomm's Snapdragon X SoCs, which use the Arm architecture. Intel and AMD assure us they'll match, and beat, that performance in coming releases.

The terms "AI PC" and "Copilot+ PC" are now used interchangeably, but as Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has lamented, benchmarks to compare machines do not yet exist.

Chinese processor-makers, meanwhile, are yet to debut NPUs.

Beijing, however, is increasingly keen for government agencies and businesses to run local technology instead of importing tech developed elsewhere.

Until Chinese chip champs like Loongson step up with NPUs of their own, openKylin's AI experiment won't be on top of many local buyers' shopping lists - perhaps appropriate given that the project's name is taken from that of a mythical beast. ®

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