The new Surface Studio Microsoft announced today is more than just an extension of Microsoft's hardware line, it's a direct challenge to Apple's iMac and for a first attempt at a machine aimed at the creatives who make up Apple's key desktop market, it looks like a winner to me.
The Surface Studio manages to look better at every single task or use case, with the iMac left looking outdated, clunky and limited. For a company which has led from the front for so long that is a dangerous thing to have to face.
At tomorrow's Apple launch event there is likely to be new hardware. But does any of it even promise a hint of the kind of capability that the Surface Studio offers? The iMac might get a new screen, it may get a processor boost, but is it likely to get the flexibility of the Studio Zero Gravity Hinge? The control of the Surface Dial or the total integration of touch that Windows 10 offers?
I very much doubt it.
For anyone running any kind of creative studio the Surface Studio just went to the top of their 'buy' list. An iPad Pro and an iMac just isn't going to cut it anymore.
I've been saying that Apple needs to update OS X to integrate touch and redesign its hardware to support more flexible use of touch and traditional control methods. That it has failed to do so and in the process allowed Microsoft to get the jump on it says a lot about the way that Apple works now.
Tim Cook is about the dollars and cents. We've yet to see anything approaching a design masterpiece under his stewardship. Nor have we seen anything visionary that moves Apple and computing forward.
An Apple led by Steve Jobs may not have been as profitable or grown as quickly, but I think it would have seen past the poor execution of the first Surfaces and noted the potential of both touch and hybrid devices. As it is, Apple will inevitably have to merge iOS and OS X into something more capable or risk losing its home field to Microsoft of all people.