Microsoft has just had its best keynote in recent history. Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has found its groove again and, importantly, its magic. Of course, the signs have been there since Satya was appointed CEO of the company. Earlier in the year, we enthused about Hololens and what it could mean for the enterprise, something that we still believe in.
Whilst we weren’t entirely sure as to whether Microsoft’s plan for universal apps would work, seeing it in action has made us a believer. With its #windows10devices keynote, Microsoft unveiled some pretty groundbreaking new devices and technologies.
The Hololens is coming to developers next year for $3,000. Hololens, Microsoft has announced, is able to work completely independently from a phone or tablet as a standalone device. Whilst Microsoft used its time on stage to demonstrate gameplay with the device, we still believe that one of its key markets will be in the enterprise market.
In our write up earlier in the year, we wondered whether Hololens could be the replacement of the desktop. Based on what Microsoft has demonstrated so far, we believe this to hold true. By giving a wider field of vision and the ability to virtualise any size screen, it will be possible to create new immersive experiences for both work and play.
Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft’s smartband is back, this time with more sensors and more features than ever before. This year, the Band is able to track metrics such as VO2 max (to track the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during incremental exercise) and sensors that help golfers automatically detect when they take a swing.
As with Apple Watch, Microsoft Band lets users pay for goods with their devices, with the new Band incorporating Cortana voice integration for apps like Uber, Starbucks, Subway, Twitter and RunKeeper. It’s a device for tracking everything, but don’t call it a smartwatch.
Earlier in the year, Microsoft announced that it was laying off a large amount of its hardware division, making people wonder how much of a focus smartphones would be for the company. With this event, Microsoft unveiled the Lumia 950 and 950XL. Both phones feature adaptive antenna technology, which uses two antennas to blend signals no matter where your hand is placed, delivering the best reception at all times.
They also feature Octacore and Hexacore processors from Qualcomm with 5.2-inch and 5.7-inch screens respectively. Both devices feature with 3GB of RAM and 20-megapixel cameras with some enhanced flash (Triple LED RGB natural flash). Essentially, these are powerhouse devices with a very, very clever trick up their sleeves.
That trick is Continuum, which enables devices to be plugged into the Microsoft Display Port to provide a full Windows 10 experience, on a desktop display or even TV. Their phone remains a phone whilst plugged in, while on the external screen, you’ll have a desktop experience. For anyone who spends most of their time on the move, this could be a total game changer.
Microsoft’s original Surface largely failed to set the market on fire, with Microsoft left with a large number of unsold devices. That was then and this is now. The Surface 3 saw Microsoft turn the surface business into a $3.2 billion business. According to Microsoft, 98% of people who use Surface Pro 3 recommend it to friends and family.
Since then, Apple has introduced the iPad Pro, leading to Microsoft to re-evaluate what it sees as desktop and mobile devices. With both the Surface Pro 4 and newly announced Surface Book, Microsoft has well and truly killed off desktop computers and is putting its vision of tablet computing into full effect.
The Surface Pro 4 is billed as being twice as powerful as Apple’s MacBook Air, whilst the Surface Book is billed as being twice as powerful as the MacBook Pro. In terms of specs, Microsoft isn’t trying to match the iPad Pro, it’s trying to match the MacBook Pro. These are truly professional power machines, designed to be highly portable. The new Pen for the surface is able to detect 1,024 points of pressure and has a year long battery.
Further to this, with multi-user support, Microsoft is targeting the Surface Book and Pro 4 as one device that is perfect for multiple employees who may share it due to shift work, or families who want a single device. In addition to its Microsoft Hello facial recognition technology, allowing people to log in with their faces, the attachable keyboard for the Surface 4 features a fingerprint scanner, making it easy for different users to log in.
Microsoft was behind in the mobile space for a long time, but it is now trying to spearhead ahead of Apple and even Google by saying that you only need one OS for mobile and desktop. From a hardware perspective, Microsoft isn’t even focused on the desktop. Everything is designed around being mobile; whether it’s reinventing the future of the desktop with Hololens, trying to reinvent tablets as dedicated computing devices or phones as part time computers.
As with Apple, Microsoft is sending out strong signals that desktop computing is dead. We live in the age of mobile, where companies and people need to adapt the same mindset. 2015 has been a hugely exciting year for not just mobile, but technology in general. We’re at a new point where Microsoft, Apple and Google are all flexing their might for the ongoing battles for productivity supremacy.