NEW YORK—Microsoft is banking on a remarkably thin and powerful new Surface Book laptop and fresh Lumia phones to make Windows 10 sexy.
Windows 10 has generated a positive buzz ever since Microsoft released its latest operating system software ten weeks ago. Reviews have been favorable. And Microsoft says that 110 million devices are already running Windows 10, with over 1.25 billion visits to the Windows Store.
“It’s amazing to see the innovation and momentum with Windows,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, whose goal is to get people “to move from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.”
But Nadella’s biggest test comes with how consumers and businesses receive the new products Microsoft unveiled today at a media gathering in Manhattan.
Under Nadella’s vision,Windows extends beyond the traditional personal computing view of Windows and impacts wearables, the Xbox game console, and most critically, mobile, where Microsoft has struggled to become relevant with the Lumia line it snatched up as part of the company’s ill-fated acquisition of Nokia. “
As was rumored, Microsoft unveiled a brand new Surface Pro 4, the fourth generation of Microsoft’s well received tablet PC. But the company surprised the crowd with the first Microsoft built full-scale laptop, the $1499 (and up) Surface Book laptop that the company boldly claims is twice as fast as Apple’s MacBook Pro.
Windows executive Terry Myerson also showed off a fresh new curved Microsoft Band wearable, with features such as a barometer and integration with Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant–the first Microsoft Band garnered a lukewarm reaction.
Arguably the coolest of Microsoft’s initiatives, the holographic HoloLens mixed reality system also got some love on stage, with Microsoft demonstrating a “wearable hologram” during game play. In this augmented reality environment, holograms appear in mid-air and can be used in games and for other purposes. Microsoft will be making a $3000 holographic developer kit available in the first quarter of 2016.
The new Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3 inch screen with 5 million pixels, an especially thin version of protective Gorilla Glass, a custom Microsoft chip, and a Microsoft Pen with 1.024 levels of pressure and (for the pen, not the computer itself) a full-year of battery life. You can use the pen (and interchangeable pen tips) to scribble inside Microsoft’s OneNote note-taking app.
Microsoft executive Panos Panay says Surface Pro 4 is 50% faster than the Apple MacBook Air computer it is clearly targeting. Surface Pro 4 has 1-terabyte of storage and up to 16-gigabytes of RAM, and four USB ports. There’s also a newer thinner TypeCover accessory with a backlit scissor-design keyboard, and glass trackpad, which Microsoft says is more precise.
And the new Surface Pro 4 exploits the Windows Hello feature in Windows 10 that lets you log in family members just by having them look at the screen. There’s also a fingerprint reader. “It will replace your laptop,” Panay says, using the line that Microsoft has been pushing since Surface debuted. It starts at $899.
The Surface Book computer unveiled at the event is Microsoft’s first laptop. It starts at $1499 and got the biggest buzz at event, with Microsoft claiming it is twice as fast as Apple’s MacBook Pro. I got to pick it up briefly and you’re struck by how light it is.
For all the attention surrounding the new Surfaces, Microsoft still needs a hit with its mobile phones, a tall challenge. The company has less than 3% global market share, according to IDC. The new Microsoft Lumia 950 series phones that Microsoft announced today, specifically the $549 Lumia 950 and $649 Lumia 950XL, look good from afar. The phones have 5.2 and 5.7-inch displays, respectively, with powerful “octacore” and “hexacore” processors, and 20 megapixel rear cameras. They also promise fast charging (via a USB-C type connector). And since the phone can run universal Windows 10 apps, along with Microsoft’s Office, Edge, OneDrive and Cortana, the company is making a push with folks who use the handsets for business .
“We want to bring the Windows 10 in your pocket to life,” says Panay.
For now though AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that has announced support for the new Lumia and at that only the 950. Carrier acceptance in the U.S. is crucial if Microsoft is going to gain ground.
“I wouldn’t bet against Microsoft,” says Envisioneering tech analyst Rick Doherty, says he “wouldn’t bet against Microsoft.” But despite what was a very good day for Nadella and company, the challenges haven’t totally disappeared.
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