Has Microsoft got its mojo back? It certainly looked that way today, with a host of genuinely exciting product announcements, some amusing stickers and one really amazing hat. Here are ten things we learned from today’s Windows 10 Devices event (bonus fact: we now know how many PCs are running Windows 10).
1. Microsoft makes laptops now
The $1,499 Surface Book is the first laptop Microsoft has ever made, although it has more in common with other Surface devices than it does with a typical Windows notebook: the screen is fully removable, so you can use it as a tablet or flip it round for convertible mode. There’s a 13.5-inch, optically bonded display with 267 pixels per inch, a glass trackpad and the latest Skylake Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and Microsoft says it’s good for 12 hours between charges. Microsoft reckons it’s also twice as fast as a MacBook Pro.
2. The Surface Pen is more pointy
Apple has just made a Pencil, but Microsoft already had the Pen - and now, that Pen is even pointer than before. The latest Surface Pen, which comes with the brand new Surface Pro 4, has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, runs for a year without recharging and attaches magnetically to the Surface. You can also use the Pen to call on Cortana: just press and hold the button on the Pen.
3.The Surface Pro 4 is better than the Surface Pro 3
The Surface Pro 4 is the thinnest, most powerful Intel Core PC ever made, with Gorilla Glass that’s just 0.4mm thick, a sixth generation Intel processor and up to 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. Microsoft says it’s 50% faster than a MacBook Air. The Surface 4 ships on 26 October and has a starting price of $899.
4. You can buy liquid cooled phones now
The newly announced Lumia 950XL has a unique feature: liquid cooling, which suggests that the Lumia is so powerful that it would go on fire (well, go into thermal shutdown) with normal cooling designs. It’s not as big as some Lumias - the screen is 5.7 inches compared to the 6 inches of the Lumia 1520 - but it has a 20 MP camera with triple LED RGB flash, optical image stabilisation, 4K video and USB Type-C for charging from zero to 50% in half an hour. The XL will be on sale in November from $649, and the smaller Lumia 950 - essentially the same device with a 5.2 inch screen and a six-core rather than an octa-core processor - will be $549.
5. Microsoft’s copied Motorola
Remember the Atrix, Motorola’s phone that turned into a PC thanks to a clever docking station? It was ahead of its time, but now the idea is back! Back! BACK! in the form of the Display Dock from Microsoft. With HDMI, DisplayPort and three USB ports it’s designed to turn a Lumia phone into something approaching a PC through the magic of Windows 10 Continuum, which enables app developers to create apps that can tell what kind of screen they’re on and adapt accordingly. It’s not a full PC, but it’s pretty close and really rather clever. And Brian Roper, who demoed it, had a really fantastic hat.
6. There’s still no Surface phone
There’s no doubt that the liquid cooled, iris-scanning, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808-sporting, up to 2TB of microSD-using Lumia 950 is pushing the technical envelope, but most pundits seem to agree that Microsoft hasn’t quite found a killer feature or form factor that’s going to make the scales fall from the eyes of Android and iPhone users. Maybe that’s why Microsoft has stuck with the Lumia name rather than the more edgy Surface brand: it’s an impressive refinement of existing thinking rather than a jump out of the bath shouting “Eureka!”
7. Microsoft’s putting the Band back together
Meet the new Microsoft Band 2, which has the same name as last year’s model but which looks and feels slightly different and boasts better accuracy and another sensor. The $249 wearable has Cortana integration, a barometer to measure how high up you are and all the sensors Microsoft put in last year’s Band, and it remains one of the few wearables to include GPS so you don’t need to take your phone everywhere you go. It’s curvier than before, and to our eyes considerably better looking.
8. Hololens is really happening
HoloLens is coming - or at least, it is if you’re a developer. The Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition will start shipping in the US and Canada to developers willing to pony up $3,000 per device and accept a maximum of two devices per application. Microsoft is asking developers to submit applications now, and you can be sure there won’t be a shortage of applicants. You can find out more about the programme, too.
9. The new Microsoft is much more entertaining than the old Microsoft
From AC/DC-soundtracked Spinal Tap-esque pronouncements during demos (“Do you double down…or BRING THE THUNDER?”) to the cute Doge stickers handed out before the event (“wow hologram… such fast… much Cortana”) featuring ninja cats waving the Windows flag, the atmosphere around Microsoft these days is a lot of fun. And fun isn’t a word people necessarily associate with Microsoft product launches.
10. Panos Panay is pumped, but not as pumped as he was previously
You’ve got to love the sheer unbridled enthusiasm of Panos Panay, Surface creator, thunder bringer and Microsoft Corporate VP, but it can’t be easy keeping that enthusiasm going: 21 days ago he announced today’s event with a tweet saying “I am super pumped!” but today, with just one hour to go before showtime, Panay was just “pumped!”. Still, we shouldn’t worry: posting post-event he said that the team was “fired up”. We think that’s better than pumped, but probably a bit less than super pumped.