Microsoft is re-entering the smartphone market! Yes really. After blowing a few billion dollars on Nokia and attempting to force Windows OS to perforce on ARM and then throwing in the glove, Mr Softie is at it again.
At its Surface event in New York this week, the company announced a new lineup of hardware, including its return to the smartphone market, as well as new software. Some of it looks rather cool. Has Microsoft hardware got its grove back? Here’s what you need to know.
The Windows Phone is dead. Long live the Windows Phone! Err… an Android phone, developed by Microsoft. While the paradigm-shifting Samsung Galaxy Fold features two screens, the Surface Duo offers a different configuration altogether; its dual 5.6″ displays expand into an 8.3″ device that offers the type of multitasking functionality found in the Galaxy Fold. Microsoft says the Duo will be available for Holiday 2020.
Can adopting Android and catering to the high-end market help Microsoft find a place in the market? We’ll see.
A Surface Duo… but bigger? Microsoft is, ahem, doubling down on the dual-screen approach with the Surface Neo, a tablet that packs dual 9-inch displays and weighs just 1.4 pounds. Like the Duo, the Surface Neo will hit shelves in time for Holiday 2020.
More white ears:
The newest battleground for your money and loyalty is in your ears. Just a week after Amazon announced the Echo Buds, Microsoft announced its version of Apple AirPods: the Surface Earbuds. They’ll be noice-cancelling, truly wireless, and hitting store shelves later this year in the US for $249.
Windows splinters again:
Win 10X. Yes Microsoft sounds more and more like Apple with Win 10X. Microsoft’s big software announcement was Windows 10 X, the OS powering the Surface Neo. Designed specifically for dual-screen devices, it’s the latest custom-built iteration of Windows that Microsoft is rolling out to all of its hardware. A lighter version of Windows 10, the 10 X will run all Windows programs, and is designed to offer multi-tasking by letting you run programs spanning both screens.
Win 10X runs on Intel hardware and is optimised for dual screens but also focused on Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) so that classic desktop applications run only via container technology. Full details of Windows 10X are yet to be revealed, but some compatibility issues are inevitable.
- Surface Laptop 3: Available in two sizes (13.5″, starting at $999, and 15″, starting at $1,199), Microsoft says the Surface Laptop 3 is three times as powerful as the MacBook Air. It’s available to pre-order now, and ships on October 22 in the US.
- Surface Pro X: This 13″ Surface tablet is meant to offer the type of experience your phone offers: always on, always connected, and always with you. It’s available for pre-order today from $999, and ships in November.
- Surface Pro 7: A refresh to the Surface Pro 6, the Pro 7 added a highly-requested USB-C port, along with other minor performance upgrades across the board. It’s available for pre-order today from $749.
Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7 are running traditional full-fat Windows 10 on x86 hardware.
The Surface Pro X, however, runs Windows 10 on Arm. The CPU is Microsoft’s SQ1 with an Adreno 685 GPU – based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8CX. Windows 10 on Arm runs either applications compiled for Arm, or Win32 binaries provided they are 32-bit, but with some compatibility issues.
On stage in New York, Adobe demonstrated its Fresco application to show off the new slim Surface pen, but added in passing that the company will be bringing more of the Creative Cloud applications to the platform as it can – an acknowledgement that some porting effort is required. Intel, for obvious reasons, is keen to highlight compatibility issues.
Microsoft is back in the Hardware game with some decent kit. We look forward to playing with them when they land in the UK>