Microsoft unveiled their latest hardware projects yesterday. Aimed directly at creative professionals, the company announced the new Surface Studio all in one computer, the Surface Dial accessory, the Surface Book with Performance Base, and the Windows 10 Creators update.
The Surface Studio is without a doubt the crown jewel of the announcement. It is an all in one desktop PC featuring one of the thinnest LCDs on the market. The 28-inch PixelSense Display has touchscreen support and is compatible with the included Surface Pen. The Surface Studio can be pushed down to Studio Mode where the screen sits at the same angle as a drafting board. The Surface Studio starts with a Skylake Intel Core i5, a 2GB Nvidia GPU, and 8GB of RAM for $2,399 USD. Pre-orders are being accepted in the US with shipments starting during the holiday season then stretching into early 2017.
The Surface Dial is a new accessory designed especially for the Surface Studio. When placed on the screen, the Surface Dial serves as a radial controller that compliments the Surface Pen, allowing the user do things like zoom in for detail work then zoom out without needing to move the pen. The Surface Dial is available for pre-order for $99 USD and will launch on November 10th.
Rumours have flown around the past few weeks about a Surface Pro and a Surface Book refresh. Instead of a full blown refresh of the Surface Book, Microsoft has opted to make a new Surface Book model available with beefier specs. Dubbed the Surface Book with Performance Base, the Skylake i5 CPU has been upgraded to an Intel i7 CPU. The Surface Book with Performance Base will start at $2,399 USD for an i7 with 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and a Nvidia dedicated GPU. Pre-orders are available now and will launch in North America and Oceania on December 8th.
Some news everyone should be excited about is the Windows 10 Creators Update coming in early 2017. Microsoft is introducing a new variation of the venerable Paint software, Paint 3D. The new software will allow anyone with Windows 10 to create their own 3D creations and then share them on their new Remix3D community. The software is capable of not only creating 3D objects from scratch, but also scan real-world objects to create 3D images. To encourage everyone to start dabbling in 3D, Remix3D allows the easy import of Minecraft creations. Paint 3D is not yet available to the general public as Office integration is still being developed. Interested testers can participate in the Windows Insider Program to get the first look at the new software.
While on the surface the update seems targeted only to content creators, it actually brings some good news for gamers. Microsoft’s push on the 3D front includes a consumer friendly version of Microsoft’s HoloLens. Microsoft will be relying on manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, and Asus to sell budget friendly variants of the Holo Lens. Prices will start at an incredibly competitive $299 USD and will have much lower system requirements than the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. The new headsets will ship in 2017
Microsoft is also releasing some major improvements to Xbox Live on Xbox One and Windows 10. The new Beam system will allow for interactive broadcasting, allowing streamers to better interact with their audience. Additionally, user made tournaments called the Arena are coming to both platforms.
Finally, the Windows 10 Creator Update greatly improves the operating system’s social functions. The new Windows MyPeople feature allows contacts to be pinned on the taskbar and provide an overall view of all interaction with the contact. Documents, photos, and videos can be sent directly to the contact by simply dragging and dropping on their icon. Windows MyPeople will be available on all Universal Windows Platform Apps.
This week’s announcement is likely one of the most intriguing one Microsoft has put out in the last several years. It’s clear the company has learned some painful lessons after the Zune. Now that the company has a successful foothold with the mobile Surface line, Microsoft appears to be taking another aggressive bite at Apple’s traditional market share of creative professionals with the announcement of the Surface Studio and the Surface Dial. The new products are a mix of Microsoft’s lesser known history of innovative engineering and the company’s more recent push towards beautifully designed products.
For gamers, the announcement of an affordable VR headset with low system specs is exciting. The high starting cost of the first generation VR headsets has been a huge barrier to entry. Partnering with existing manufacturers that build Windows 10 ready laptops is a smart move on Microsoft’s part that may see VR prices drop with competition.