Fresh off the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) invited media to New York on Oct. 6 to unveil new hardware using the operating system at an event it dubbed "The Windows 10 Devices Briefing."
Though the name lacked cleverness, it made it very clear what the company intended to do.
Terry Myerson, who heads the company's Windows and devices group, was first up on stage and before he got to the new devices he shared some stats about the new operating system's rollout. "110 million devices are now running Windows 10," he said, adding that, "the share of Windows devices at retail has grown since Windows 10 started rolling out." The executive also noted that the OS was being adopted at the fastest pace ever by the company's business clients.
That's a strong start, but the real question was not whether people would buy the new OS. There was clearly a pent-up demand for it after the relative failure of Windows 8, but the key question is whether the company can maintain momentum and get to its goal of having a billion devices using the OS.
To show how that will happen, Myerson quickly got into Microsoft's own devices, both those available now and those in the works.
New Xbox bundles coming
Myerson highlighted the already announced ability to play some Xbox 360 games on Xbox One before getting into the new lineup of consoles, which is really just new bundles with existing hardware. He showed a video that offered a glimpse at some new games, including the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians.
The only hardware piece shown for Xbox One was a new "Elite Wireless Controller" that offers greater accuracy and also works with Windows 10 PCs. The $149.99 device is already available for pre-order for an Oct. 27 delivery.
HoloLens is a new take on VR
The company's next big hardware hope also involves gameplay, though that's certainly not its only use. The HoloLens, a virtual reality headset, also lends itself to business, and other practical uses.
"Whether it's for productivity, design, healthcare, or entertainment, Hololens creates innovative experiences that are not possible on any other device or platform," Myerson said.
HoloLens, however, is still a ways away. Developer kits will costs $3,000 and will begin shipping in the first quarter of 2016.
A new Microsoft Band
The second edition of Microsoft Band improves on its predecessor by offering a new curved screen, a barometer, and apps for actions including email, text, running, biking, and golf. It seems like an incremental improvement over the previous device with some improved features and technology, but nothing that's a radical departure.
Lindsey Matese, a member of the Band team, said that improvements to the device were made based on customer feedback and the personal experiences of the team members. She highlighted its uses as a health tracker and training device for use by a wide variety of athletes. She noted that her favorite new feature was the design.
"Make it breathable and flexible," she said. "...And above all it must curve nicely around the wrist."
The new Band is also integrated with Cortana and it offers a way to track elevation, which is something she said customers asked for. "Now you can track your fitness with even more precision by measuring elevation changes in real time," she said, noting that the company's research shows that people who use Band actually burn more calories.
Band's new iteration costs $249.99 but no on-sale date was announced.
A look at the new Windows 10 phones
While Windows phones have struggled, the company has decided to soldier on and release three new models. The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are top-tier devices selling for, $549 and $649. The phones are similar, with the basic model offering a 5.2-inch screen, 32GB of storage, a Snapdragon 808, hexacore, 64-bit processor, and a 20MP rear camera as well as a 5MP front camera. The XL has a 5.7-inch screen, a Snapdragon 810, octacore, 64-bit processor, as well as the same camera and memory specs. Both devices also offer USB Type-C. Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL will become available in select markets in November.
Microsoft also introduced a cheaper, entry level Lumia Model, the 550, which offers lesser, but still-decent specs for $139. Lumia 550 will begin rolling out in select European markets in December, with additional markets to follow.
Continuum is key for new Lumia Phones
The key feature on the company's new phones is Continuum, the ability to connect them to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse in order to have a PC-like experience. "With Continuum I'm empowered to use my phone like a PC," said Microsoft's Bryan Roper, who had taken over the presentation. Connecting a phone, he explained, requires using the Microsoft Display Dock.
The dock is a new piece of hardware that is a small box with a USB-C connection in from the phone and ports for monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse. It's not really pocket-sized, but it's pretty small and would be easy to travel with.
"What you're seeing looks like a WIndows 10 desktop," he said after pulling up a demo of his phone hooked up to the device.
The Display Dock has an HDMI port as well as three USB ports for accessories.
"How can we possibly make this more like a PC?" said Roper before explaining that the dock makes it possible to interface with devices including thumb drives and other portable storage.
Surface 4 reinvents the hybrid
"We want to make these the most productive devices on the planet," said Microsoft Surface VP Panos Panay before going into a long preamble that led to the introduction of the Surface 4. "Do you double down and bring the thunder or do you reinvent the category again?" he said. "I'll tell you what we chose."
That triggered a video on Surface 4, which was set to AC/DC's Thunderstruck. The highlights of the bombastic video included a number of claims about the new hybrid:
- The company's thinnest type cover ever
- a 40% larger trackpad
- 50% faster than the MacBook Air
- 8-million-pixel camera with autofocus
- The thinnest glass ever shipped on a tablet
While many expected the company to introduce a Surface Mini, it instead went in the opposite direction.
"What if you've wanted a Surface, but you wanted a laptop Surface?" Panay said, "Something with a bigger screen, something with the perfect typing experience of a laptop... We made the ultimate laptop. We made Surface Book. "