Following the release of Windows 10, with the promise of cross-device compatibility as well as apps that work on any Windows device (Universal Apps), the Windows 10 Devices event turned very Apple, in that it showcased devices built specifically for that software. At the same time, however, Microsoft is endeavouring to divorce the device from the data, making things as transferrable and flexible as it can.
Microsoft is capitalising on the runaway success of the Surface Pro 3 by expanding the Surface range into more devices. A Surface Pro 4 was announced, and a tablet-laptop hybrid, the Surface Book. These both emphasise flexibility and power, and make explicit comparisons made to Apple’s devices. Despite Apple starting to copy Surface, Microsoft has bowed to Apple’s categorisations and made the Surface Book to mimic the MacBook, while making it a hybrid device. The focus across all of these was varied productivity. Microsoft is clearly not wanting to lose its core market to the Apple-IBM partnership, which may also have been a kick to drive Universal Apps as a principle. The company is now also chasing the creative maverick impression beloved of Cupertino’s PR. This event confirmed that the prosumer is now the target market for virtually all headline IT products.
The two new Lumias were only a part of the show, but they were our first chance to see a full Windows 10 mobile device line-up, and made to feel very much part of the productivity-focused experience. Continuum took centre stage, and was presumably only possible through the new liquid cooling feature in the phones, which run Qualcomm 808 and 810 processors. It was also stated that Continuum makes use of Type-C connector technology, alongside a ‘display dock’. To carry on the theme of connectivity, the phones automatically upload photos to the OneDrive cloud.
The new Microsoft Band was introduced, with a bevy of new metrics to measure. These included a unique VO2 Max-estimating system, apparently verified versus fully wired-up VO2 measurement. This is a key differentiator in what is becoming a crowded wearables market. There was also new software that purported to measure different facets of calorie burning, which fitness-focused users have wanted in wearables for a while now. This was all knitted together through an integration with Microsoft Health’s cloud service and smarts, with some side comments about ‘working and working out’, just to underline the overall productivity note.
The one wildcard in this nicely integrated device family was the wacky Hololens, with AR gaming demonstrated on stage. This will be ready for developer release in Q1 2016, at a price of $3,000. While the productivity elements of this have been mentioned before and are a key part of AR as a whole, they weren’t showcased here like every other device. Connectivity was also a missing piece, suggesting that Hololens may not be comfortably integrated into the Windows 10 suite yet.
A glimpse of a platform-based Microsoft…
A keynote from Satya Nadella highlighted that ‘the [data] hub is you’, and stressed Microsoft’s goal to make data situational and transferrable via the cloud. With Windows 10 now starting to spread its wings a little more and have devices designed for it, that future seems a little closer.