It has been almost three years since the original Microsoft Surface tablet has been announced and back in 2012 and early 2013 the device launched with less than stellar numbers. It wasn’t until last year’s model, the Surface Pro 3, when it finally felt as if the entire product line was earning some grudging respect from the masses. To be fair, the debacle surrounding Windows 8 probably didn’t help the early Surface tablets.
Three years is a long time in the consumer electronics industry and things change. Windows 10 has launched and while there are still some naysayers, the new operating system has been received much more favorably. In fact, Microsoft announced today that there are over 110 million devices running Windows and incidentally, the total amount of time streaming games from Xbox One to Windows 10 devices exceeds 120 years.
If the Surface Pro 3 tablet was to go out and find some respect then the devices announced today are tasked with crashing the party over at Apple’s house. The Microsoft of five years ago was caught napping and ceded a lot of territory to both Apple and Google. The Microsoft of today is here to remind you that if you want to get things done, you will probably use a Microsoft product be it a Surface tablet, a Lumia phone or even just the Office suite on your Android or iOS device.
Take a look at the newly announced Surface Pro 4. As I reported on this very website earlier this year, the new premium tablet from Microsoft is not a radical redesign of what a tablet should be but rather an evolution with changes intended to make the device easier to use. Gone are the days when tablet users are hindered by performance and ergonomics. The improvements made to the Surface Pro 4 are so beautifully simple they should have been obvious to Apple, Microsoft and Samsung years ago. Increasing the screen size does not require a larger device. Just reduce the size of the bezel. A person using OneNote on their Surface Pro shouldn’t have to tap the eraser icon on their screen to remove an item they drew when they could just turn their stylus upside down and use the “eraser” built into the top. That is a behavior ingrained into us since our early school years and incorporating that into a modern technological device was a stroke of genius. Even the more subtle improvements such as a larger trackpad and improved spacing between keys demonstrates to this writer that while Apple worked to make their iPad Pro similar to the Surface Pro, Microsoft was hard at work making sure the new Surface Pro was all the average user would need.
Which is not to say that Microsoft did not fire any shots in Apple’s direction. The premium laptop market now has some sorely needed competition. Enter the Surface Book.
This aluminum and magnesium monstrosity is aimed directly at a gadget which happens to be a favorite of working professionals- the MacBook Pro. At first glance the Surface Book looks like a tablet clipped to a keyboard but further examination shows that this could not be farther from the truth. This is a laptop first and foremost and when the screen is attached to the dock the machine runs at its full potential. Even the motion of the hinge which has been described as a carpet being rolled out is a design innovation that I suspect will be copied by other companies in years to come.
Even the upcoming Lumia 950 phones can be used as competent computers while docked to a display unit without losing their core functionality as a, well, you know…. a phone. This is the Microsoft I like to see. Making products I don’t even know I want or need until I see them. I can’t wait to see what this Microsoft will do with the next Xbox console.