Microsofts New Surface Book Laptop, Surface Pro, And Lumia Phones Take Aim At Apple


John Paul Titlow

October 7, 2015

Microsoft isn’t taking recent product announcements from Apple and Google lying down. At a media event in New York City this morning, the company unveiled a whole range of new devices: from the much anticipated new Lumia smartphones and Surface Pro tablet to a new fitness tracker called Microsoft Band. Microsoft also announced its first-ever laptop, which takes aim at the MacBook Pro—with a unique twist.

First, the phones. The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are Microsoft’s latest Windows smartphones. As seems to be the norm these days, the new phones come in two sizes: 5.2 inches and 5.7 inches. On the inside, these phones pack a punch: They sport six- and eight-core processors, respectively, and 3 GB of RAM apiece. To keep all that computing power from literally burning a hole in your pocket, the Lumia team borrowed the same liquid cooling technology used in Surface tablets to keep things as chill as possible.

As with previous Lumia devices, these new ones have impressive cameras: They boast a 20-megapixel sensor, shoot 4k video, and this time around, the phones come with a dedicated button that activates the camera and acts a shutter release button.

The Type-C USB port on the new Lumia phones promise super-fast charging, another trend we’re seeing in a lot of smartphones announced in recent months. The new Lumia phones start at $549 and will ship in November.

The other hyper-anticipated device announced today was the Surface Pro 4, the next generation of the tablet/laptop hybrid concept that Microsoft has helped popularize—and that Apple borrowed so generously from with the announcement of the iPad Pro last month. The new Surface has a 12.3″ 5 million pixel display, 16 gigabytes of RAM, 1 terabyte of storage, and a foldable keyboard case that includes a glass touch pad and fingerprint sensor. The new Surface Pro starts at $899 and will start shipping on October 26.

The Surface Pro will come with its own stylus, the Pen—Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Pencil. But unlike Apple’s new stylus, the Pen includes an eraser on the end (“Can you believe there’s a pencil out there without an eraser on it?” joked Microsoft Surface VP Panos Panay during his presentation).

For the first time, Microsoft is also producing its own laptop. The Surface Book, a very similar-looking competitor to Apple’s MacBook Pro, promises to be 50% faster than the MacBook Pro. But unlike comparable laptops from Microsoft’s biggest competitors, the Surface Book’s display comes up and can be used like a tablet, stylus and all. This feature, which elicited a standing ovation from the crowd at this morning’s media event, blurs the line between devices like the MacBook and the iPad Pro—and if it winds up selling well, Apple will be sure to take notice.

Before delving into the meatier hardware updates, Microsoft unveiled the Microsoft Band 2, a new $249 fitness tracker with a curved display and 11 sensors that allow the user to track their activity and gather detailed data. It’s comparable to the wide range of wearable fitness tracking devices out there, although with support for third-party apps like Uber, Facebook, and a list of others, the Microsoft Band seems to be taking more direct aim at the likes of the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices.

Across the board, Microsoft did what any consumer tech company of this variety does once or twice a year: They upgraded the specs and features on its existing line of smart devices and introduced a few more gadgets. But what made things a little more interesting than usual is how aggressively Microsoft is blurring the lines between devices. Not only does Windows 10 share a common user interface across phones, tablets, desktops and, soon, Xbox One, but Microsoft is offering a way to bridge the gap between hardware as well. Its new Display Dock will let you plug your Lumia smartphone into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use it more like like a traditional desktop PC.

Similarly, the new Surface Pro docking station will let users connect their Microsoft tablet to external displays and other peripherals, again using it more like a PC than ever before. Hardware bridges like these, combined with the removable screen of the Surface Book, suggest that Microsoft is thinking about its devices less like individual products with strict uses cases and more like interchangeable, multi-purpose devices that adapt to our needs on the fly.


This article was written by John Paul Titlow from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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