The first half of Microsoft’s hardware event on Tuesday unfolded as expected, with previously-telegraphed Lumia and Band updates eliciting little in the way of news. But as the strains of an AC/DC anthem pumped through the presentation, things changed. And it was new Surface devices that stole the show, and did something Microsoft has often had trouble creating: Actual excitement.
I was a bit worried that the frequent leaks we saw ahead of time would ruin today’s event. But there were surprises aplenty. The first developer-oriented HoloLens release, expected in early 2016, for starters. And, more important, three new Surface devices, all of which were either completely new or different in ways no one had expected.
So I’ll have more complete write-ups of each announcement throughout the day. For now, some opening thoughts.
HoloLens. Microsoft’s augmented reality headset is on a slow boil and will first appear in the first quarter of next year, for developers in preview, for $3000.
New Microsoft Band. No surprises here: The leaked render was real, and Band 2 features a curved design. It has one more sensor, a barometer, and will cost $250.
Lumia 950 and 950 XL (and 550). There were no surprises here, as everything had been telegraphed ahead of time. That said, pricing and availability is new: $550 for the Lumia 950, $650 for the Lumia 950 XL, with early November availability. Also, the Lumia 550 will be $140 when it debuts.
Microsoft Display Dock. Another non-surprise, and no reveal on price and availability of this first Continuum dock.
Surface Pro 4. So, Surface Pro 4 is obviously an evolution of the Surface Pro 3. But there are some nice surprises. A slightly bigger 12.3-inch screen inside the same frame (with smaller bezels and no Windows button). A new Surface Pen that magnetically connects to the side of the device and has different removable tips for different pen styles and a real eraser tip. Up to 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage. Thinner and lighter than SP3. A Windows Hello-compatible front-facing camera. And a new Microsoft PixelSense Pen and Touch chipset. $899 and up with preorders starting October 7 and availability on October 26.
New Surface Dock. Microsoft is dropping the complex and bulky Surface Pro Dock design and is using an external box now. Very nice, and much more compact, with four USB 3.0 ports, two 4K-capable DisplayPort connectors, Ethernet, and a single connector (which goes to the power connector on Surface Pro. The best bit? It works with both Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4.
New Surface Type Cover. Microsoft has answered almost all of my complaints about Type Cover and has added some new features. The new one has a real keyboard, a bigger glass trackpad and a Windows Hello compatible fingerprint reader. It comes in five colors, some new, and works with both Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4. Yay!
Surface Book. This brand new Surface laptop/2-in-1 features a 13.5-inch screen and a removable tablet top, a superior laptop-style keyboard, a unique and steady hinge design, a glass trackpad with 5 touch points, and will start at $1499. Preorder on October 7, ships on October 26.