Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Surface and Lumia, thoughts on the Microsoft event

The WOW factor

It is like the domino effect you know, one comes after the other and Microsoft just concluded the final chunk of hardware offerings for the year. This special October event comes after Google's keynote last week and Apple's iPhone event from several weeks back. These keynotes from tech's biggest giants has shown that the hardware/device strategy is now preceding the importance of software. Sure, software is still an important part of the experience but today, software offerings from Apple, Google and Microsoft are becoming increasingly similar and the hardware is where these tech giants can differentiate themselves from the crowd.

The thing about the Microsoft event today was that it was quite a show because it’s a long time sinc I have tuned into a keynote live about a un-leaked product. I'm talking about the pair of new Surface laptops Microsoft just announced, the Lumia 950 family and also the Microsoft Band 2 has been extensively leaked over the course of the year making it not that surprising and Microsoft didn't spend too much time talking about it. There were reports regarding the Surface tablets but those were just specifications and a sly description of the products themselves. In reality, the actual hardware part was pretty impressive.

Two makes a family?

It comes to no surprise but Microsoft has two new flagship Lumia devices which are competitively priced at $549 and $649 respectively which also includes a mobile desktop experience. We have all seen this design countless times through all the leaks and exclusive reports and Microsoft knew that so they skipped the detailed introduction and jumped straight into the key features that gives these pair of Lumia devices their flagship tag.

Besides featuring top of the line hardware that has a hybrid liquid cooling system, the Lumia 950 family is all about Windows 10. The new software is what enables these two devices to be a pocket computer, Microsoft's new Continuum feature builds upon the Universal Windows Platform by scaling applications and providing a desktop style experience all from a smartphone through the Display Dock accessory.

The actual design and color choice might not be the most enticing thing about Microsoft's new flagship Lumia devices but the software enhancements paired with the new set of hardware like the high end 64-bit processors and Pureview cameras with 5th gen OIS make it a pretty compelling package. But the big question surrounding all of this is still how does Windows 10 Mobile stack up against the latest and greatest versions of iOS and Android.

Bigger and thinner

Over the past few weeks, there has been reports stating that Microsoft will be making two Surface sizes this time around and that is what exactly Microsoft showed off. But, that's not technically true because the new Surface Pro 4 only comes in one size but there's a new brother in town and that is the Surface Book which is Microsoft's answer to the MacBook Pro. The naming might be a little off but you get the idea.

While Apple happily called Microsoft the productivity masters during their iPad Pro announcement, Microsoft was not shy to compare Apple's products with their new hybrid tablet offerings. Panos Panay did not directly compare the new Surface devices to Apple's iPad Pro but instead did a more subjective comparison between similar products in Apple's lineup namely the humble MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
Now that's what you call premium lapability
By far the most impressive thing about Microsoft's new Surface Pro 4 is that it does not compromise on core features while being stylishly thin and yes the full size USB port comparison is a jab out of Apple's decision to only include a single reversible USB Type C connector on the new 12" MacBook even if it's what the future holds. The same can be said about Microsoft's new Surface Book laptop, which is just 7.7mm thin and about 1.6lbs thick which is indeed about the same dimensions of the upcoming $799 iPad Pro. But the unraveling difference is that the Surface Book has the raw performance of the MacBook Pro and is definitely capable of running two streams of 4k video.

From an idea brought to life from a desktop operating system that desperately needed to be a tablet sparked a new category of hybrid devices. For once, Microsoft actually outdone the competition in terms of hardware and the engineers at Redmond should continue to 'hack' out more innovative devices.


Through the words of Panos Panay, Microsoft's vision in hardware products is to give users what they want because not everyone buys a Microsoft branded hardware product. It seems like Microsoft is trying to change that fact by putting in some ingenuity and realism in their lineup of hardware which does not look like a bland copy of another fruit branded product (Apple).

In essence, Microsoft has shown through this event that their mindset has evolved for hardware has evolved. The core experience is what that matters, while Panos Panay did take time to show out slide decks which had some key specifications, he did not emphasize much on the actual hardware powering the device because whatever they managed to pump into the device will be sufficient to power up that vision they have with the device.

You see, Microsoft's grand vision is not to break any sales record, they don't need to do that as Microsoft is a software company at heart and software is where they are looking for the money to roll in. Instead, their motive for hardware products is to create something that includes what users want in a device running Windows 10, in short Microsoft hardware is built for the people and in return they might have cracked the customer satisfactory code.

Repeating on Staya Nadella's flagship Windows 10 term is that Microsoft wants to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows and loving Windows.

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