ACDC’s thunder struck, fedora’s and “productive like a boss”, Microsoft’s October 6 event brought something sexy to what has been a big year for the company. Undoubtedly, the air of anticipation; what was announced in light of all the product leaks, was not high. Jaded as many may have been, there was still a huge surprise.
Not to get bogged down in the real products though. In just a few short months more than 110 million devices are already running Windows 10, the month by month growth has been, potentially, on track to reach the One Billion users that were being focused on at launch.
There was a great hololens demo, but it’s far away from public consumption at the moment. Although the SDK/ Developer Kit was announced as being available early 2016. There’s also some questions around the validity of the Demo’s, they look great, but what do you actually see from behind the lens. It will be interesting to see where it goes, does it have more application in industry, design and engineering, or will it revolutionise Xbox gaming.
This was a long presentation that didn’t excite as much as I would have thought. The focus is still on health, activity tracking, and an added ninth sensor, a barometer. This adds real-time altitude tracking. The overall design has become much more fluid. Virtual assistant Cortana has also been added to the Microsoft Band (2015)
Lumia 950, Lumia 950XL and Continuum
The Lumia presentation, seemed to be skipped over, most of what we saw had already been leaked. There was a lot of hype around, tunable dual antennae, liquid cooling brought over from Surface, real improvements in the camera… Micro SD expansion was a big hit, although the numbers they were talking may be a bit forward-looking. Both phones will support extended storage up to 2TB, while that’s an impressive number, by the time you can get affordable storage of that volume, I would think that you would have already updated your phone. Both smartphones feature an impressive 20-megapixel triple-LED flash camera, equipped with optical image stabilization and a dedicated camera shutter button. Microsoft has also added a USB Type-C connector to both devices for fast charging and data transfer.
Continuum was great to see working, last time we saw it demoed, it was simulated. The continuum dock accessory is a tool in itself. Although in we already know that continuum should work over wireless as well. In terms of productivity, I can see it being useful in industry, but for an everyday user it may be an effort to integrate into your daily life. One thing that isn’t so obvious, is that there isn’t that many apps that will actually work with the feature at the moment. Microsoft’s Office, Edge Browser. Microsoft has to foster developers, preferably larger app/service organisations to develop for the universal platform. While it’s a nifty feature, there will have to be a real push to add enough services to get folks splashing out on extra hardware accessories at the moment.
The Pro 4 has been upped in size, and upped in power, Microsoft’s comparison to the Macbook Air was a little cheeky maybe, but that’s where the game is right. Newer Intel chipset plus a custom G5 chipset have upped the power and battery life quite a bit as well. There’s a bigger, higher res screen, larger storage and ram options, Windows hello available via a new Pro type keyboard with a fingerprint sensor. New powered display/ connector hub. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than the MacBook Air, but that will all depend on the configuration. A new pen has also been added to the Surface Pro 4, capable of sensing 1,024 pressure levels. It comes with an eraser, which lets you remove anything simply by turning the pen upside down.
The Surface book was the big surprise of the event, although it had been tentatively leaked on Twitter prior to the event. Maybe this was a bit of wishful/wistful by pundits, or it wasn’t well known enough to get the media beat up.It’s more than a high-end laptop that’s nice to look at. It’s also the device that’s going to set the standard for notebooks in the near future, if not for years to come.
If you were looking for something big from Microsoft in New York this week, it is likely that you would have been satisfied. Let’s call that an understatement at this point. The tech giant has been in a state of flux, trying to find it’s feet with windows 10, and moving ever forward towards it’s cloud first, mobile first goals. For many folks the turn around from the end of the Ballmer era [where it started to look more and more likely that Microsoft was moving towards becoming a fully fledged hardware manufacturer], to the Nadella era, has been confusing, and down right hard to read.
Microsoft isn’t about making hardware, that might be starting to get through to folks by now, and then again… they have just gone ahead and announced a swathe of hardware. Let’s call these, reference designs for other OEM’s to aspire towards. What’s actually happening though? MS are pushing the envelope, maybe, or are they building on branding strength that wasn’t initially expected when devices like, Lumia, Band, Surface were conceived. Creating hype, excitement around these devices and new iterations of them has become much harder in this world of leaks.
Everything that was shown at the event was smooth, funky and appealing. The event was more than a device announcement. It somehow signalled the end of a trying structural upheaval, demonstrating a corporate mindset change. Microsoft might be able to hang out at the back of the bus with the other hip kids now.