We have to admit, everything Microsoft announced at the Surface event in early October, hit the perfect notes. This was the Redmond based tech giant, really making an effort to show how well it can play the hardware game. Over the years, the competence of the Surface line-up of computing devices really hasn't required a lengthy explanation. And they still remain one of the best computing devices that money can buy, particularly if Windows 10 is your preferred operating system. But in 2019, Microsoft really showed the world (and took a few of us know-it-all souls by surprise, mind you) that it can be as cool, as futuristic and as innovative as any one of its rivals. And all this was before the covers were taken off the Xbox Series X gaming console. That really should be the cherry on the cake by the time we wind down on the year 2020.
Let us take the Surface Neo, for starters. Remember the Courier concept from a while ago? Microsoft left no ambiguity as to what it is—your next hybrid computing device, and then some. Basically, there are two 9-inch screens held together by a what must be a rather robust hinge—it can swivel 350-degrees, by the way. Microsoft showed off how they have implemented a new Bluetooth keyboard that sits above the display, a touch interface called Wonderbar (inspiration from Apple’s Touch Bar, perhaps?) and when you slide up this keyboard, the on-screen trackpad is revealed. It is still work in progress, but the cool quotient cannot be questioned. And concepts aren’t only to keep the designers busy.
A great way to show off the Windows 10X platform, which has been designed for multi-screen devices specifically. Hardware may be cool, but Microsoft isn’t letting up on the software side of things.
Then there was the Surface Duo, which is also a multi-screen foldable device. Albeit, smaller. This runs Android, which would be music to the ears of many. The new, friendly-ier Microsoft that wants to take everyone along on its journey. The Surface Duo will have two 5.6-inch screens merged with the help of a 360-degree hinge. Each display can run a different app, and from what we can see, Android has been skinned and customized to look a lot like some aspect of Windows. Oh, and you’ll get a full-fledged Play Store, if you needed any more convincing.
The thing is, both of these gorgeous machines arrive later next year. By showing them off now, Microsoft is building a strong base. App developers queueing up, enough hardware testing along the way to ensure all rough edges are smoothened out and well, you know well in advance to save up for this.
The strategy is risky though. Foldable phones and dual screen phones are already seeing considerable interest. It is expected that Samsung, Huawei and Moto will be joined soon by the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi. Could it be too late for the Surface Duo by the time it actually lands. One would hope Microsoft has an as-yet-secret ace up its sleeve.
The next generation Xbox gaming console also arrives later next year. It doesn’t look anything like we expected, to be honest. The tower cube design could provide Microsoft the headroom to enable even better cooling mechanism inside the console, which will significantly help performance. And that is where the Xbox Series X also promises a lot. This is the first time an SSD will be the default storage option for the gaming console—there is no comparison between the read and write speeds that SSDs offer in comparison with the older hard drives which chug along in comparison. Microsoft says the graphics performance will be twice as fast and will support 8K gaming. Serious power, incoming.
Perhaps the smallest in terms of the actual size, but the Surface Earbuds will be the first time Microsoft has decided to take the Apple AirPods head on—the AirPods are by far and away the most popular wireless earbuds in the world, right now. Many have tried and many have failed, to even come close to the slick user experience that Apple’s buds offer. And the names that have tried include Sennheiser, Bose, Jabra and Sony, and they all know a thing or two about good audio. Microsoft says the Surface Buds offer up to 24 hour battery life with these topping them up at intervals. There are touch sensitive controls on each earbud and Microsoft says these have omnisonic sound as well as a directional dual-array microphone.
The thing is, these Surface Earbuds were expected to be on sale by now. But soon after Apple announced the noise cancelling AirPods Pro, Microsoft announced that their buds have been delayed till early next year. Perhaps more work was needed, and that can only be good news for those are considering queueing up.
All this hardware fun simply illustrates that 2020 will be one of those years where Microsoft is really having its fun with new products. The newfound zest and energy is quite unlike the years gone by. It replaces an understated confidence, which is great if they want to attract more buyers. And what we are alluding to here will be further joined by even more cool new products, including further updates for the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and even the Surface Go, while at it. It is fun seeing Microsoft like this, all enthusiastic and charged up about the products it makes. And will make. The future indeed is bright.