The Surface Studio Is Microsoft’s Tipping Point

The Surface Studio Is Microsoft’s Tipping Point

This morning, Microsoft introduced the world to something it has been working on for a long time. It started with the original Surface — now called the PixelSense — back in 2008. Then the original Surface tablet. Then the Surface Book. Now, the Surface Studio. This, the most mature and refined (and expensive) Microsoft device that you’ve ever been able to buy, is the tipping point. In a year, Microsoft will be the creative darling that Apple was five years ago.

When I toured Microsoft’s Surface skunkworks earlier this year, our group was told in no uncertain terms not to take photos in one particular room. A big, hangar-esque fast-prototyping space hadn’t been sanitised for curious shutter-happy journalists to walk through it, and engineers and plant operators were hard at work in front of massive, truck-sized CNC mills and waterjet machines, quietly humming away building something new. Something bigger. It wasn’t obvious at the time but it is now.

With the debut of the Surface Studio, Microsoft has the tablet, laptop and desktop PC market sewn up for people that need a little bit more than tapping away at a keyboard and clicking away with a mouse. All three of its beautifully designed and creatively presented devices support touch input, through finger or hand or Surface Pen. It has the explicit and implicit support of creative companies like Adobe and Autodesk, whose programs (apps, I guess we should call them these days) have lived in a Windows environment for decades now.

Just consider the Surface Dial, though, as evidence of what Microsoft is doing now. It’s providing first-party tools built with Windows 10 in mind for creatives to interact with their PCs in a different way. It’s like the Apple Pencil on crack; a context-sensitive, touch-and-swivel driven gadget that anyone that works in any kind of creative field can almost certainly think of an application for. Microsoft is for creative wonks now.

Video editor? Scrub straight through a timeline. Sound recordist? Adjust your equalisers. Graphic artist? Alter the colour, stiffness, thickness of the pen or pencil you’re working with. That’s something that you’d need a third-party gadget for any other platform. Sure, they already exist, but the important thing is that Microsoft wants to own every single step of the process from PC hardware to input peripheral to operating system to software for creatives. Even bloody MS Paint is getting the makeover of a century to be more useful.

I take a reasonable number of photos, inside and outside the office, for work and for pleasure. My creative outlet — outside of writing — is photography. I can see myself using the Surface Studio and Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom to post-process high-res photos so naturally. With the Surface Dial I can adjust exposure and contrast and saturation and pull highlights and push shadows and change the size of brushes. With the Surface Pen I can quickly mask areas and spot heal blemishes and remove dust from frames. All of this on the Surface Studio’s hugely adjustable, tiltable display that moves between a screen to view and a drafting table to draw on.

That tiltable display is the Surface Studio in a nutshell. It’s a device, just like the Surface Pro’s kickstand and the Surface Book’s detachable, flippable display, that wants you to do weird shit that you wouldn’t normally do on a desktop PC. That’s what Microsoft is betting big on, and I’m of the opinion that it’s going to pay off big time in the next year.

You want to see what kind of stuff Microsoft’s PC development partners will be doing in a year or a couple of years from now? Look at the Surface Studio. We saw exactly that happen with the Surface Pro. The Surface Book too, to an extent. Microsoft has leapfrogged its largest competitors in innovation; it’s expensive, sure, and won’t sell in massive volumes, but the Surface Studio does the most yet to establish Microsoft as the PC builder to watch — whether you’re a creator or you just enjoy consuming the things that others create.

It doesn’t have phones, but that’s another story. Right now, I’m not convinced that Microsoft needs them.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo.


  • I have no idea if the actual device will be any good. But whoever designed/created this video deserves an award of some sort. The video gave me chills and made me think… holy crap, we’re in the future!

    • Apple have mobile stitched up while Microsoft have basically abandoned it after burning fans again and again. Apple are way too afraid of losing any ground in mobile and tablets to give touch and other real innovative features to their desktop/laptop market. If you have a touch with stylus MacBook Pro, how will they sell you an iPad Pro to go with it?

      • That’s a solid argument, but it’s not only the lack of touch screen. It’s also a sort of staleness, a formulaic complacency to having carved the niche, then stopping pushing boundaries, you know? Every year Apple touts a new revolutionary feature of their computers… and turns out to be a tiny, almost inconsequential addition that may or may not become part of the established norm, while the rest is basically the same. In the meantime, MS is doing this, is doing HoloLens, and a bunch of other stuff. Just like when Apple was doing the iMac and iPod, back when MS only did the same old with a new feature here and there.

        I think it’s not a coincidence how the creative types are starting to make a move to the surface, while Apple is doing very little to keep them around. Gone are the good old days when Apple kept banking on what was very little more than an urban legend that their systems’ “architecture” could handle better the intensive graphic and sound software (a rumour that hilariously persisted long after they moved into an Intel architecture).

        And I really cannot say that their strategy of sacrificing the PC market to protect their mobile business is really working. Sure, they are not losing to Microsoft in that field, but they surely are losing to other players.

  • Microsoft have done well, being forced into a corner by Apple and Google has
    Made them a lot leaner and hungrier under Satya. They have MANY profitable lines of business. The devices are looking good. They won’t Overtake Apple any time soon but if they take a few strips off their laptop and desktop market share and establish their innovation credentials they will have achieved a lot. The multipliers for the rest of the business are very positive too. Devices/cloud/productivity tools are all being designed to work and play together. It’s beginning to pay dividends.

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