Microsoft is bringing its Surface technology to the desktop PC with the Surface Studio and Windows 10 Creators Update
Graphics and 3D integration were the focus of Microsoft’s live event this morning. Building on developments from the Surface tablet and hybrid laptop team last year, Microsoft will now port Surface to the PC. Windows 10 Creators Update will be offered free for all Windows 10 devices in early 2017. It will be particularly tailored for designers and gamers, with virtual reality, augmented reality, and holographic computing capabilities, as well as 4K gaming and in-game broadcasting.
The first half of the presentations focused on applications. It was the second half of the event that Panos Panay came out to unveil the big devices: the Surface Studio desktop ($2,999) and Surface Book i7 laptop ($2,399) that will both be available for preorder October 26.
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, opened the event by discussing changes to the next update of Windows 10, with a focus on content for game designers, artists, architects, data engineers, and even medical instructors. (A promo video ahead of the live event also showcased audio support for the visually impaired.)
Myerson highlighted some of the improved stats for the OS, including a 500% increase on gaming time and tripling of the number of third-party developers working on applications.
Expanding the Surface line
The Surface Studio desktop will be available in limited quantities ahead of the holiday shopping season. Panay showcased a range of advanced graphics technology. With a super-thin LCD, 28-inch touch-screen monitor, the PixelSense display has “True Color” features and offers such fidelity that individual pixels cannot be seen. The mount is unique in that it allows the 13-pound display to still move and function like a tablet interface.
It comes with 32GB memory, 2.1 speakers, Cortana, and haptic touch feedback – the haptic feedback dial will sit atop the touch screen and fully sync with it. (It also works off of the screen and even has a “rewind” function to undo input.) Using the stylus, the screen will allow editing on documents and other media with almost no delay. The haptic dial is key to developing an entirely new drawing and editing experience on screen, says Studio launch partner Mental Canvas.
Speaking of the laptop offering, “We took the core i7 and then we gave it more,” Panay said, billing the updated Surface Book i7 as having twice the graphics and 30% more battery life. The Surface Book i7 will ship in November.
“This is the most powerful Surface Book yet,” as its graphics capabilities significantly surpass Apple’s MacBook Pro 13. (Apple, though, has teased a Pro upgrade for tomorrow, including a customizable OLED “Magic Toolbar” that, controversially, eliminates the ESC key.)
3D integration trumpeted
Developer Megan Saunders initially outlined how Windows 10 would implement “3D for Everyone,” showcasing the new display, stickers, stylus, and the Magic Selection tool that integrates 2D with 3D images. Users can scan a 3D image on their HP Windows Phone X3 – it will work with other devices – to upload to a desktop. Microsoft announced that the VR headset accessory, available from HP, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, and Acer, would start at $299.
The primary desktop tool for this will be MS Paint 3D, a major upgrade on the original, 2D MS Paint that debuted in 1985. Microsoft is also building a database, remix3d.com, for users to export and import 3D content, and a sharing arrangement with 3D database SketchUp. Notably, the Paint upgrade will let Minecraft players 3D print out their creations with supported printers.
With respect to games, the update will enable live-streaming (Beam) and custom tournaments, options that are already available for the Xbox 1S ($299) and will be further rolled out next year for the Windows 10 gaming PC. Xbox Live will share and save content across PC and console.
The update will further integrate 3D to other Windows applications, such as PowerPoint, and to the HoloLens. Designer Taj Reid showed one of the consumer applications for the 3D-HoloLens augmented reality: modeling the interior of a house when trying to decide on what furniture to place around the space. On the virtual reality end, Reid showcased a virtual room he had created with access to live-streaming, the Windows desktop, and interactive 360-degree videos through HoloLens’s HoloTour.
“We think of mixed reality as that ability to seamlessly share experiences across your digital and analog worlds,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the end of the briefing.