I have to admit it, I was really looking forward to Microsoft's Windows 10 event on 26th October. No-one knew exactly what was going to be announced, but rumours were circulating about a new Surface all-in-one (AIO) device codenamed "Cardinal". Some speculated that new versions of Surface Pro and Surface Book might be unveiled, although most believed Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 would be announced in Spring 2017 when Intel's 7th-gen Kaby Lake CPUs become widely available. Others wondered whether Microsoft might announce a device similar to the Amazon Echo or Google Home that would bring Cortana to your kitchen. Also, since E3 there had been speculation about an Xbox TV streaming device that would allow you to stream Xbox One games from the console to a second TV. Which, if any, of the rumours were true? We were about to find out...
Windows 10 Creators Update
First up Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, took to the floor. He began by talking about Microsoft's mission, to "Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more". Terry went on to explain that "Whatever hats you wear, wherever you work, Windows is your place to create and play". He went on to say that "Windows is your think tank, your office, your studio, your archive gallery and workshop, your arena, your sanctuary". Finally came the first big announcement of the event: "The next Windows update will be called Creators Update and it's coming early 2017".
Terry Myerson announces Creators Update - the next big update to Windows 10
Next the topic of conversation switched to 3D with Terry exclaiming that "Windows is empowering everyone to be a 3D creator". He went on to say that productivity today is 2D from emails and spreadsheets to PowerPoint slides. "We think in 2D, output in 2D, but the next generation is growing up in 3D". He explained, "Once we let our boldest ideas out, they can find their place in our world and that world is 3D". "Isn't it time we started using all of those dimensions?" Terry asked the audience. Next up, Terry introduced Megan Saunders (general manager of Experiences at Microsoft) to the stage.
Megan Saunders talks about Paint 3D
It was becoming clear that with Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft is trying to win over creatives who typically favour Apple products. Megan continued in the same vein as Terry, echoing much of his sentiment. She told the audience, "Microsoft wants to unlock an era of creativity. With Windows 10 Creators Update everyone will be able to create, share and experience 3D". She explained boldly that Microsoft "want to make 3D as simple as creating a video or photo on your phone". I wondered how Microsoft would do that. Let's face it, most people who've played with a CAD program will know that working in three dimensions is not always easy. But what happened next was really quite impressive... A model sandcastle had been moved onto the stage. Megan took out her Windows Phone, photographed the sandcastle and then, after a short pause, was able to show the sandcastle rendered in 3D by a new application called Paint 3D that will ship with Windows 10 Creators Update.
Megan Saunders uses mobile phone as 3D scanner
Next up, Megan demoed a number of Paint 3D features. She showed the doodle tool that can turn a 2D sketch into 3D and the sticker tool that can be used to stamp a 2D image on a 3D object. She went onto say that it will be possible to import 3D objects shared by the community via sites such as Remix 3D. If you're creative (unlike me), you might just be able to create something similar to Megan's beautiful emoji shown below! Finally, with some help from Microsoft Senior Designer Taj Reid, Megan showed how her 3D sandcastle could be shared with the community via Remix 3D and viewed in a mixed reality world using Hololens.
Paint 3D - Memories from the beach
3D sandcastle viewed in a mixed reality world using Hololens
After Megan and the Hololens demos, Terry came back on stage to announce that companies such as HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer will be shipping VR headsets compatible with Windows 10 Creators Update starting at $299, but there was still no mention of the much rumoured Surface all-in-one (AIO) device. Next up, Terry introduced Jenn McCoy from Microsoft's Xbox marketing team. Jenn talked about the phenomenon that is game streaming and announced that Windows 10 will ship with an online game streaming capabilty called Beam. Jenn showed how easy it will be for players to record and broadcast their games. Simply hit Windows+G to bring up the Game Bar, click a button and you're good to go! Jenn went on to say that game stream spectators will be able to suggest to players what they do next. A new Xbox Live service called Arena was as also touted where gamers can create custom tournaments. Finally, Jenn added that full support for Dolby Atmos is coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One.
Jenn McCoy talks about game streaming, Arena and Dolby Atmos
After Jenn, Allison O'Mahoney (Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft) took to the stage. The focus of her segment was to do with enabling "stronger human connections through technology". Allison started by saying that the Windows 10 Creators Update puts people at the centre of Windows. Allison demoed a new Windows 10 feature called My People, which allows contacts to be pinned to the taskbar. She showed how quick it was to share content with pinned contacts via simple drag and drop actions or send them messages using a variety of communication apps such as Skype, SMS or email. With My People, Microsoft want to put those who matter the most at the forefront of the desktop experience.
Allison O'Mahoney talks about My People
Surface Book refresh
One hour into the two hour event and still no mention of a new Surface device. Were the rumours about a new Surface AIO correct? With Terry Myerson back on stage, how would the final half of the event unfold? We were about to find out. Next up, Terry introduced Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Devices, Panos Panay. Surely he would be announcing a new category of Surface device? Of course, if such an announcent was about to unfold, he'd want to build up to it gradually. Panos didn't disappoint. He started by talking about how Microsoft had created the 2 in 1 category of device with the Surface Pro 3 and he's not wrong. The Surface Pro 3 is my daily driver. I use it for everything from work, to play, as a tablet, as a laptop, to consume content, to create content and to write code. Could this be the prelude to the introduction of a new category of Surface device...?
Not yet, I'm afraid. Next up, Panos talked about Surface Book - a device that he stated has the highest user satisfaction ratings across any laptop or tablet. He exclaimed, "Gamers want higher frame rates. Engineers want to spin more parts in CAD with no lag. Everyone wants more battery life". Was he about to announce Surface Book 2? No, not this time. Instead, Panos announced a new configuration of Surface Book more powerful than any other. An Intel Core i7 device with 2 times more graphics power than the original hybrid device and 30% more battery life, a device that has three times more graphics performance than a top-end 13-inch MacBook Pro. This was a mid term refresh of an existing product line - but still a very welcome one.
After Surface Book, Panos began talking about a new product that Microsoft had been working on. You could see from the glint in his eye he was building to something big. Surely a Surface AIO device, right? Were the rumours correct? I honestly didn't know at this point, but I thought it likely. Then, at last, he revealed Surface Studio - the Surface AIO device we'd been waiting for. Panos looked emotional; I thought he might cry. The love he showed for this device was off the chart. But what Microsoft had created was something very special.
Panos Panay introduces Surface Studio
What quickly became clear is that the Surface Studio display is the star of the show. Panos took us through the specs: a 28 inch PixelSense display with 4500 x 3000 pixels, equivalent to 192 dpi. With a 3 x 2 aspect ratio, 1 inch on the screen is 1 inch in real life. "No need for print preview," Panos quipped! The display has 10 point multi-touch and, at 12.5 mm thick, is the thinnest ever built for an AIO PC. Panos showed how a zero gravity hinge allows the Surface Studio display to be held in a traditional vertical position or laid horizontally so that it can be drawn on with a Surface Pen. Panos explained how Microsoft wanted to build a floating screen of pixels, so that the accompanying PC hardware would disappear into the background and it looks like they achieved that. The chrome arms supporting the Surface Studio display fade into the background as they reflect the environment around them. Microsoft's attention to detail is meticulous; the Surface Studio device is stunning, something to behold, they have truly created an immersive experience for creators.
Engineers, graphic designers and creators using Surface Studio
Panos ended this segment by stating that Surface Studio has "best screen in class, performance unmatched, Cortana and Skype integration, Windows and Office has never been better on any device". He confidently put it to the audience that every single one of us is a creator and that Surface Studio could help every one of us create. And he's probably right, but make no mistake, this new class of Surface device is not cheap. If you're based in the US you can preorder Surface Studio from today starting at $2,999. This is top end hardware aimed squarely at creatives who would normally spend thousands of pounds on Wacom tablets and Apple hardware.
The Surface Studio
And finally, as if the Surface Studio wasn't enough, Panos had one more annoucment for us today. He introduced a new type of input device called the Surface Dial. It's an accessory that you typically use in one hand, while sketching with the other using a Surface Pen. The dial can be used to access radial menus for controlling parameters such as colour, audio, zoom, undo, redo and screen brightness. It's clear this puck-like device has the potential for vastly improving the creative process.
The Surface Dial
Last on stage, Chief Executive Office of Microsoft Satya Nadella closed the event with a few final words. Satya predicted that the next 10 years will be defined by technology that empowers profound creation. He went on to say that at Microsoft "our mission is to empower every person and organisation to achieve more". "We are the company that stands for the builders, the makers, the creators."
Satya Nadella closes the event
Photos courtesy of Microsoft.
Article written by Mike Puddephat.