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Microsoft's New Hardware Targets High End Users

This morning Microsoft revealed its new hardware for 2017. That included the much leaked Surface Studio, a tilting desktop / tablet hybrid that stays on your desk, a new rotational controller, the Dial, which can be used as a physical control for onscreen UI elements or placed on the screen of new Surface hardware to create and manipulate on screen elements directly. 

There was a new Surface Book, well sort of, anyway. The longer lasting, faster Surface Book i7 maintains the current Surface Book form factor.

Also looking remarkably familiar were Surface badged versions of Microsoft's Designer Keyboard and Mouse, as well as the ergonomic keyboard.

Third party hardware announcements included Microsoft's new VR headset standard for Windows, with all the major PC hardware players likely to support what looks to be a halfway house between the Gear VR and the HTC Vive. 

The Holographic VR headsets will require the next version of Windows 10 to use. This has been christened the Creators Update and as well as support for VR will include lots of 3D tools to support VR and AR add-ons. These include Paint 3D, as well as the ability to 3D print Minecraft design-scapes. There's a new 3D-centric sharing network, called Remix3D too.

The Creators Update isn't just going to bring new creative experiences though, with a new MyPeople tray which will collate communication from your key contacts into a quickly accessible toolbar. Presumably this will leverage Skype rather than Cortana, in order to increase its usefulness for users who can't access Cortana for geographic or age related reasons.

There are updates for Edge, the Action Centre and confirmation of support for the Bluetooth GATT profile on both desktop and mobile. For Windows Mobile users this will mean that they will get better integration with third-party fitness trackers, especially important now that the Band is dead.

The Creator Update is scheduled for an early 2017 release - with th end of March being the most likely date.

In terms of direction this felt like a clear push upwards from Microsoft. The new hardware directly targets Apple's high end offering and its hard to see how even the most dedicated Apple Creative could argue that an iMac offers anything better than the Surface Studio.

The updated Surface Book extended Microsoft's portable range to higher specifications an price points and it will be interesting to see how the Surface Book looks when Apple updates the MacBook line tomorrow.

Right now the Surface Book looks a better product in every way than the MacBook, even with the rumoured and leaked changes that Apple is due to announce tomorrow.


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