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Best Buy Trains 30,000 Staff As Microsoft’s AI Laptops Launch

Best Buy, the US equivalent of Australia’s JB Hi-Fi, has trained around 30,000 of its staff to sell and repair Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs in time for their global launch on June 18.

The first wave of AI PCs from manufacturers including the likes of Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung, will contain chips made by Qualcomm.

Best Buy worked with Microsoft and chipmaker Qualcomm to build instruction materials and train tens of thousands of the consumer electronic retailer’s employees, reported Bloomberg.

The retailer has exclusive sales rights to more than 40 per cent of the Copilot+ PC’s models, including the OLED Surface Pro.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad tech support agents will be doing Copilot+ demonstrations in hundreds of stores and answering questions from shoppers.

AI PCs contain neural processing units, a chip that speeds up artificial intelligence work on devices. Employees have been coached on AI-specific concepts like TOPS, or trillions of operations per second, that measure AI performance.

The retailer will also offer AI computers from brands such as Dell and Samsung.

“Especially because AI is such a buzzword and can be misunderstood so easily, we’ve been very thoughtful about the material and how we are putting it together,” said Luke Motschenbacher, president of retail at Best Buy, reported Bloomberg.

Best Buy operates about 1,100 stores and is looking to reverse 10 straight quarters of declining same-store sales.

While it is training staff to handle the anticipated surge in demand for AI PCs, it has also cut some of its sales staff and reduced the pay for others. The layoffs appeared to have mostly targeted in-home sales roles called designers, who would go to customers’ homes to help identify products that would work in their space. Designers who were spared the job cuts were moved to more in-store roles.

As of early February, Best Buy had more than 85,000 employees. That’s down from nearly 125,000 workers in early 2020 and more than 90,000 employees in early 2023, according to company financial filings.

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