(UPI) — Microsoft announced major updates to its software and product line at the Microsoft Windows 10 Event Wednesday, unveiling its entry into the desktop computer hardware market with a powerful, professional-level product called Surface Studio.
Trademark filings linked to Microsoft show a lengthy list of additions to the Surface name, so more Surface-branded products like appear likely to come.
As with all keynote product announcements designed to get people excited, the hyperbole was pretty epic, with claims putting Surface Studio on par with the invention of the Gutenberg press, and repeated statements that the new offerings would advance humanity and creativity. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put a bow on it at the end of the 2 hour and 17-minute event, declaring the new products would “empower profound creation.”
Undoubtedly, the new stuff is pretty cool – especially for professionals, artists and other high-end users the announcements were clearly targeting. Just how epic, you’ll have to judge. You can watch the full Microsoft Event online here.
Here’s what they announced:
Windows 10 Creators update
The free OS update releases next spring and will dive head-first into virtual reality and augmented reality, using apps that have 3D capabilities. A demo showed someone scanning a sand castle in 3D, opening it in the new MS Paint, making changes to it and checking the changes with a HoloLens virtual reality headset, then sending the file to a friend for them to see in virtual reality. Speaking of VR headsets, Microsoft said it’s working on ways to make them more accessible — read “less expensive.” All of this new 3D, virtual reality content will be for naught if no one can afford to see it as it was intended to be seen.
Another update will allow users to add people to their task bar as icons, where they can quickly share documents and communicate in various apps through drag-and-drop.
The update will also integrate video game broadcasting and tournaments using the streaming service Beam.
Windows Insiders can download the update’s beta version this week, but an exact date for public availability hasn’t been released.
MS Paint update
The painfully simple graphics utility is getting a boost into 3D and the software will now be known as Paint 3D. The technique to add 3D to Paint documents is also painfully simple, allowing users to turn 2D drawings into 3D with the touch of a button, and easily combine 2D images with 3D objects. Powerpoint will also have 3D creation tools.
Surface Book i7
Gamers and engineers want faster graphics rendering and everyone wants longer battery life, said Microsoft’s vice president for devices, Panos Panay, announcing a Surface Book laptop update. He calls it the “ultimate laptop.” It doubles the graphics power and adds 30 percent more battery life (16 hours) compared to the previous Surface Book. It’s available for pre-order with November delivery at $2,399. Lower level Surface Books start at $1,499, with Surface Pro tablets starting at $899.
This was the big one everyone suspected would be announced.
“It’s going to seem pretty familiar, but it’s going to feel very different,” Panay said.
Though it’s Microsoft’s first entry into the desktop computer product market, “familiar” is accurate … it’s a powerful all-in-one desktop computer that resembles an Apple iMac, but with sharper angles and other important differences. Microsoft patent filings feature drawings depicting Surface Studio pretty much as it was shown at Wednesday’s event.
The machine’s guts have an Intel quad core i7 processor, top-line nVidia GeForce graphics, a 2TB hard drive, Dolby 2.1 stereo speakers, 12.5 mm thick touch-sensitive 28″ display (the thinnest ever made, Microsoft says) featuring 13.5 million pixels.
The patent filing also shows what we now know as Surface Studio with modular additions stacked under the computer’s base. Those potentially could allow for easy hardware expansion, though that element of the patent was not discussed Wednesday.
Surface Studio integrates Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, and the Surface Pen. It also has a “zero-gravity hinge” that allows the computer to fold into different positions, taking on the appearance of a drafting table. It also introduces a new interface device called Dial that functions essentially as a large scroll wheel — as a standalone and on the touch screen with integrated functionality.
Surface Studio pushes Microsoft into the high-end professional desktop computer market, particularly with artists where Apple’s top-line machines have long been a favorite. Surface Studio debuts at $2,999 and will be available for pre-order for December delivery, but Panay said quantities will be very limited.
If you want to lay your hands on one sooner, Panay said Surface Studios will be on display starting Thursday in Microsoft’s stores.
“It’s not just another PC,” said Panay, claiming that it creates a “new product category” that allows people to express their creativity without the hardware or software getting in the way.