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Reimagining PCs: Microsoft was onto something with Surface, after all

By Jos
Oct 8, 2015
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  1. As a person who tracks the ebbs and flows of the computing market—in all its various forms—the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. First, we saw Apple extend the iPad into its most compute-friendly (or computer competitive?) form, with the release of the iPad Pro and its accompanying Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Then, Google unveiled the Pixel C, an Android-based 2-in-1 device with a detachable keyboard and a high-resolution screen (308 ppi) 10.2” screen. Finally, today saw the release of the much-anticipated Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft, as well as the unexpected Surface Book.

    The clear takeaway from all of this is that, despite early criticisms, Microsoft clearly struck a chord with the Surface devices—particularly the Surface Pro 3—and the future of computing is looking increasingly like a combination notebook/tablet. This is ironic in several ways because many people wrote off these 2-in-1 devices as a fad, and arguably, the 2-in-1 category didn’t really exist until Microsoft brought out the Surface.

    But now, several years, several iterations and several similar competitors later, it seems Microsoft may have been onto something after all. In fact, the Surface Pro 3 has done surprisingly well, and nearly singled-handedly rescued the clamshell form factor from tablet-dominated oblivion.

    Several years, several iterations and several similar competitors later, it seems Microsoft may have been onto something with Surface. after all.

    Of course, I say this despite the fact that Microsoft insists on calling Surface a tablet and refusing to bundle the keyboard that nearly every single Surface purchaser ends up buying and using anyway. In practical, real-world use, however, essentially every single Surface Pro 3 I’ve ever seen is used like a clamshell notebook with a detachable keyboard.

    Microsoft gave people interested in this unique design even more compelling reasons to consider one at their launch event today. The new Surface Pro 4 builds on the heritage, design, and even peripherals of the Surface Pro 3, but adds important extensions of its own. First, the company reduced the bezel size of the display and increased the screen size from 12 to 12.3”, all while maintaining its 3:2 aspect ratio. As expected, the company also updated the Windows 10-only device to Intel’s 6th generation core (codenamed “Skylake”) CPUs, offering variations with a Core M, Core i5 and Core i7. In addition, the company added a redesigned, magnetic Surface pen, and a Microsoft-designed IR camera that can do facial recognition for Windows Hello. There’s also a new set of improved keyboard options, including one with a fingerprint scanner, and all of them are backwards compatible with any previous Surface.

    The real surprise of the day, however, comes from the company’s new Surface Book—what they call the first Surface notebook. Housed in a sleek, 3.5-pound aluminum design, the device offers a 13.5”, 6K resolution display (3K by 2K), the infrared facial recognition camera, the redesigned Surface Pen, and Intel’s latest CPUs. In addition, however, is a detachable metal keyboard that houses an additional battery and optional nVidia GPU. The “tablet” portion of the device—which the company claims is the thinnest core i7 computing device in the world—holds enough battery for 3 hours usage, but connected to the keyboard, you can get 12 hours, as well as access to the optional GPU (connected via PCIe over Microsoft’s proprietary Surface dock connector).

    Pricing starts at $1,499 for the sleek new device, and ranges up over $2,000 with GPU and high-capacity (up to 2 TB) solid-state storage. Microsoft claims they’re going directly after the MacBook Pro’s bread and butter audience—creative types, graphics professionals, and other highly-demanding users. While it remains to be seen how well the new Surface Book does, my brief time with the device suggests that PC vendors and Apple have some serious new competition in the more “traditional” notebook space.

    Given that Microsoft also used this event to unveil more details about its HoloLens head-mounted computer, as well as showcase how their new high-end Windows 10 Lumia 950 smartphones can function like a PC, by connecting directly to an HD monitor (or TV), and leveraging Bluetooth or USB keyboards, this day truly has shown the range to which Microsoft is extending the concept of personal computing.

    All told, it was an impressive display, and one that will likely be looked back on as having started some important reimagining of what personal computers can and should be.

    Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,153   +1,427

    The market has been shifting the direction for the last 2 years, since most mobile products have crossed the line of sufficiency.

    Since performance for day-to-day usage matters less and less with every next generation, the focus is on portability and aesthetics.

    Surface Pro 4 is quite impressive throughout. I think of it as the first version that's really good and very competitive. Although the latest XPS from DELL are incredible. And more are coming in, with 4K bezel-less screens, and super-fast PCIe storage systems. Rest assured, Microsoft will have their share of competition, no matter how good their new products are.
     
    gregzeng likes this.
  3. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,498   +2,049

    It's a nice little thingamabob this, I like it.
     
  4. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,900   +941

    If Apple wants to compete directly with the surface they need a tablet that runs OSX, like the iPad should have from the start. There is no way that "apps" can compete with full fledged desktop applications. The people shopping for the surface aren't in the market for a cell phone with a large screen, they want full on PC with a touch screen.

    To me it seems like the iPad pro is Apple not wanting to admit that MS got the surface right. I await the release of the MacBook Touch.
     
    Nobina and Arris like this.
  5. Cryio

    Cryio TS Booster Posts: 192   +58

    You want a great portable ultrabook, also accesible? Surface 3 is the one to get. You want one of the best ultrabooks on the market without breaking the bank? The cheapest Surface Pro 4 is a great place to start.

    Getting to 8 GBs of ram on the Surface Pro 4 or buying the Surface Book is where things get pricey.
     
  6. darkzelda

    darkzelda TS Addict Posts: 251   +86

    Microsoft showed products really impressive, not toys like certain company. Sooner or later I will buy a surface product.
     
  7. Gregoryyy

    Gregoryyy TS Rookie

    Vadem Clio was the first I think?
     
  8. GeforcerFX

    GeforcerFX TS Evangelist Posts: 494   +126

    I was into tablet PC's since around 2005 or so, I was trying to buy older second hand ones when ever I could find em. Got into some nice dell latitude convertibles (XT) around 2011 and I decided to get the Surface RT on launch to test the "it can replace a laptop" theory. Even with Windows RT I found the Surface RT around twice as productive as android tablets I have used. Even let a friend use mine for a month when she broke here Ipad and it was her school computer, she didn't buy another Ipad. I have been a fan now of the 2 in 1 where they split, versus the convertibles where you just fold the screen in some way. I can't say the surface was the best design ( as far as the splitters go) having used the very popular Asus T100 for a few months I thought that was the better design and most OEMs would seem to agree since that's the design they choose as well. With my Surface Pro 2 now being a large part of mobile computing on a day to day basis I can only sit amazed at how much power tablets like these can pack. Watching Microsoft turn the surface family as a whole from "cool idea, but it has flaws" to one of the best mobile devices money can buy has been nice.

    As a market whole the 2 in 1 will keep taking over, pretty much every computer sold now has a low wattage CPU Intel or AMD, allowing thinner lighter devices to be made cheaply. The convertible seems to be the more popular choice OEM wise, which makes sense it's a laptop with a slightly redesigned hinge. I can't wait to see how the Surface Book performs it looks amazing, If I had the money I would prob get one.
     
    Arris likes this.
  9. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,318   +133

    "Reimaging" throws me in an entire different direction than what this article was really about... This article does not seem to be about imaging or reimaging PCs at all!
     
  10. Peter Farkas

    Peter Farkas TS Addict Posts: 214   +67

    GG Microsoft, keep it up like that!
     
  11. gregzeng

    gregzeng TS Enthusiast Posts: 30

    These 2-in-1 products might need fast wireless data-storage & fast wireless screen display. Add power banks used on smartphones, and I can see them replacing so many existing hand-held devices.
     

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