New devices of Microsoft include the new Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, challenging Apple’s dominance at the top end of the laptop market
Microsoft is bringing “the thunder”. That was the message sent to its competitors on 6th October, when Microsoft unveiled its Windows 10 devices, including the new Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, challenging Apple’s dominance at the top end of the laptop market.
Much is riding on the launches as chief executive Satya Nadella sets out to prove Microsoft can compete with its rivals.
“We have competitors, you might have noticed. They are chasing us,” Panos Panay, head of engineering of all Microsoft devices, said during the hour-and-a-half-long presentation. “What do you do? Do you double down and bring the thunder or do you reinvent the category again?”
Analysts said the new laptop may help revive the ailing PC market.
The laptop, Microsoft’s first, was the highlight of a tranche of new products shown off at an event in New York.
It is designed to take on Apple’s Macbook, with Microsoft directly comparing the products.
It said that, just as its Surface tablet was a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop, so the Surface Book would “reinvent categories”.
“It is a highly innovative, flagship device that will act as a much-needed halo product for Windows 10 and the broader PC market and proves that innovation in personal computing is not just confined to Apple’s Cupertino campus,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.
It seems that the company chose to do both and did not shy from making comparisons with rival Apple, a company whose glitzy presentations have in the past left Microsoft looking stale.
According to Panay, compared to MacBook Pro, Surface Book is twice as fast. In his demo of the device, he transferred 3GB of data in just four seconds by using a Surface connection – eliciting a number of “whoas” from the audience. The demo came with its own dig at Apple – a number of which were sprinkled throughout the presentation – an image of a toaster-fridge hybrid.
The image was a clear reference to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments about tablet-laptops like Surface. “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user,” Cook said in 2012.
Surface Book is the first Microsoft laptop. It comes with a 6th gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and up to 1TB of storage.
It is “the most powerful laptop on the planet”, according to Panay. However, it’s not just a laptop. The 13.5in touchscreen is detachable and works with the Surface Pro 4 dock. The device was designed for everyone – from gamers to architects to scientists to coders, he said.
“I have been using it and it just blows me away. The typing experience on this product is perfect,” said Panay. The laptop comes with a precision glass trackpad that comes with five points of touch, which Panay said “feels so lovely”. “We know what comfort is. We brought it all to the table.”
If there is one thing that will impress potential customers, it will be the battery life, which does not drain when the device is closed.
Surface Book, which will officially launch on 26 October and costs $1,499, will be available for pre-orders on 7 October.
At the very beginning of the presentation, Microsoft demonstrated the latest skills of HoloLens, its mixed reality gaming system. HoloLens creates holograms that you can hold and that move as you move your hand– making them into basically wearable holograms.
HoloLens is expected to launch sometime during the first quarter of 2016, with a price tag of $3,000.
Not exactly a rival to the AppleWatch, the Microsoft Band 2 is geared more toward the health-conscious consumers.
The band is designed to be a “big part of your health story”, said Lindsey Matese, senior communications manager for Microsoft Band and Health. It was designed for golfers, cyclists, runners and “gym rats”. Users will be able to track exercise, calorie intake and sleep. The band also tracks elevation.
Band, which costs $249, is available for pre-orders and will officially launch on 30 October.
The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book may have stolen the spotlight on Tuesday, but it’s the Lumia phones that could really help Microsoft break into a new market given that Microsoft has just 3% of the global mobile phone market.
As expected, the company announced the Lumia 950 with 5.2in display and Lumia 950XL with 5.7in display. Each comes with a 20 megapixel camera and a flash technology that, according to Panay, will get rid of red-eye and make you look like a human and not a ghost.
The phones come with USB-C connector chargers, which provide fast charging: 50% charge in less than 30 minutes. Both phones can run universal Windows 10 apps, including Office, Edge, OneDrive and Cortana.
Microsoft hopes that the new phones will appeal to business users.
“This is supposed to be the most productive phone you’ve ever picked up,” said Panay.
The main demo for the phones consisted of turning them into mini-computers by plugging one into a display deck, which basically transformed it into a desktop.
Both phones will be available in November, Lumia 950 for $549 and Lumia 950 XL for $649.
Surface Pro 4
“This is the thinnest and most powerful core PC ever to ship,” said Panay. The display is 12.3 inches and is capable of displaying more than five million pixels.
Surface Pro 4 comes with a fingerprint sensor, new pen, a quieter key board and bigger glass trackpad. It’s 8.4mm thick and the only reason it’s not thinner, according to Panay, is because of the USB ports.
Surface Pro 4 is 30% faster than the Pro 3 and 50% faster than a Macbook Air, according to Microsoft.
As with other products, preorders start on 7 October, with the official launch on 26 October. Surface Pro 4 starts at $899.
After Apple introduced a pencil for its iPod Pro, Microsoft rolled out a new surface pen. It comes in multiple colors and with interchangeable tips for different pen types – drawing, sketching, writing, etc. The pen, which comes with Surface Pro 4, slides into the surface for easy storage and has a year-long battery life and an eraser.
“We put an eraser on the pen,” said Pansay. “It’s kind of funny, there’s a pencil out there without an eraser.”
Windows 10 began rolling out 10 weeks ago and is, according to Microsoft’s vice president Terry Myerson, now running on 110 million devices.
“With the future of Microsoft and its new subscription-based business model depending heavily on Windows 10, Microsoft must be encouraged by how many devices have been updated so far,” said Mr Wood.
“Windows 10 also seems to be getting a far more positive reception from consumers than the ill-fated Windows 8. The challenge now is to build on this positive momentum, particularly in the area of apps where Microsoft has a huge gap versus rivals.”