Yesterday Microsoft held an event in New York City to talk about...well, they didn't really tell us what. The name "Surface Studio", rumored to be an all-in-one desktop PC, had been tossed out on the net so we were all expecting some new hardware. And that's exactly what we got, and more.
Windows 10 Creators Update
I may be alone in saying this (I really don't think I am), but Windows 10 is the greatest version of Windows we have seen to date. We all know the rule of thumb with Windows: every other version is worth upgrading to. That may still hold true. Windows 7 was solid and 8 (rather 8.1) was a good step towards unifying experiences between devices, but it largely left out the desktop user. Windows 10 is a perfect happy medium, and a very good, modern experience. That is why Microsoft is sticking with it and, almost quarterly now, are pushing updates to it. With Windows 10 Creators Update coming next spring, it is going to get even better.
Windows 10 Creators Update may seem like an odd update to the masses. It's primary focus is on 3D and the big reveal was a new version of Microsoft Paint that features 3D capabilities. So why is this important? It's less about the features presented for Creators Update, because honestly they aren't that impressive. It's more about the capabilities and the long term roadmap.
There is a reason Microsoft is so invested in Windows 10. It is building a new platform and Windows 10 is it. PC's, the Xbox, phones, Holo Lens and various other devices are all running some version of Windows 10. The hardware of each device is the only thing holding it back from sharing the same experience as another. I am a software developer by trade, and I work with Microsoft technologies. The code I write for Windows 10 can also run on the Xbox and Holo Lens without (hardly) any modification. With the addition of 3D support to Windows 10, and the addition of easy to use tools like Paint 3D, Microsoft is prepping us all for a 3D world, where we can all start to develop experiences like we've seen in the Holo Lens demos. I wouldn't be surprised if before long Microsoft dropped the '10' from Windows 10 and just starts promoting the Windows platform running on any device you may have.
This wasn't a major focus of the event, but even though Microsoft didn't spend a lot of time on it, I feel like it will make a huge impact. We are all aware of the Holo Lens, and Microsoft's push towards augmented reality. This past week Microsoft introduced us to their full mixed reality platform, demoing a new VR headset for us.
It appears as though Microsoft is understanding of the fact that augmented reality still has a ways to go, in both terms of technology and pricing. These new VR headsets from Microsoft are a low cost alternative to mixed reality content. It's no secret that VR is much more accessible than ever, but the general public is still slightly alienated due to the cost and ease of use. Headsets like the Rift and Vive require additional sensors and various cables running from the headset to a PC. These new headsets from companies like hp, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus feature a new tracking system that is said to be more accurate and require less peripherals than previous devices. These devices will be available next year and start at $299.
The other half of the Windows 10 Creators Update was, surprisingly, a focus on gaming. Updates are being made to the OS to support true UHD gaming and Dolby Atmos audio. This is a huge win for gamers. We've really seen Microsoft acknowledge and appreciate its gaming community recently. With the addition of the Xbox One S to the lineup, and these announced updates, Microsoft is clearly devoting resources towards building the best gaming platform it can.
After it's acquisition of Beam earlier this year, we were all a little curious how they were going to utilize it. Well, as part of Creators Update, Microsoft has made it easier than ever to share your gamine experiences with friends and the gaming community. With the touch of a button you will be able to stream your game via Beam and interact with watchers. It is very Twitch-like, and while you may not want to manage another platform, the initial reception of it is overwhelming positive. We'll have more coverage on that closer to it's launch in early 2017.
Another huge win for gamers was the announcement of Arena for Xbox. Gamers will now have the ability to stage custom tournaments and interact with each other like never before. There have been multiple times my friends and I have wanted to stage a Madden tournament, and we never had a platform to do it before. Now we do. I am really looking forward to learning more on Arena for Xbox, and using it early next year.
Microsoft is still new to the hardware world, launching Surface as it's first ever first-party device in 2013. It didn't really hit the scene until launching the Surface Book late last year. Not only did Microsoft update the Surface Book, making it "pound for pound the most performant laptop on the market," as well as refresh the Surface Pro 4, it dove head first into the desktop market. And it made a splash.
The Surface Studio is an all-in-one desktop PC, highlighting an amazingly thin display, and a very sleek, clean look with just a single power cable. Go ahead and say it; this is Microsoft's answer to the iMac. Yes, sure it is. Regardless of who did it first, Microsoft definitely did it right. I wouldn't even say the two devices (Surface Studio and iMac) are even that comparable.
The 28" display is rocking 13.5 million pixels and looks absolutely stunning. It is also entirely touch screen, and compatible with the Surface Pen. The screen is held up by an innovative zero gravity hinge, allowing you to set the screen almost flat to the desk. At this point, it functions a lot like a drafting table, especially when coupled with the Surface Pen and the new Surface Dial (which we'll get into in a bit).
Performance wise, the Surface Studio is a high-end machine, and you will pay a premium for it. The base $2,999 model will come with a mid-range i5 CPU, 8gb RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GPU, and a 1TB HDD. If you're looking for one place to drop your entire savings account, you can configure the Surface Studio with a high-end i7, 32gb RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GPU, and a 2TB HDD for $4,199.
Microsoft also launched a new Surface keyboard and mouse to match the style of the Surface Studio. They also added a new peripheral to the family with the Surface Dial. The Surface Dial is a puck-like device that sits on the screen, and when recognized, brings up a radial menu. The application you are in dictates how the Surface Dial will function, but it's basically an oversized volume knob that may allow you to select different colors, scrub through a video timeline, or page through a document. It's an interesting little device, and I'm curious to see what apps take advantage of it. I'm all for introducing new ways to interact, but for $99, the Surface Dial is one I may wait on. Although, Microsoft is currently giving you a free one with your Surface Studio purchase.
Microsoft had a couple surprises up it's sleeve for us. We got what we expected and a little more. I am blown away by the engineering innovation currently happening at Microsoft; always with the software, but now with the hardware. I am loving this new Microsoft. Well done, Satya.
What do you guys think of the Surface Studio and some of the other announcements made? Sound off in the comments below!