Microsoft announced a raft of Windows 10 devices at a press event last night, including the company's first-ever laptop design: the Surface Book family.
That Microsoft is betting heavily on mobile convergence and convertible devices for the future of Windows is immediately obvious to anyone who has used Windows 8 or higher, but thus far its efforts have focused almost entirely on smartphones and tablets. While its Surface family can be converted into a kinda-sorta laptop through the addition of the Type Cover or Touch Cover accessories - both sold separately - the company has left the market for true convertible two-in-one devices and dedicated laptops to its OEM customers, until now.
Announced last night, the Surface Book is Microsoft's attempt at a first-part convertible two-in-one Windows 10 device. Based around a 13.5" 3,000x2,000 3:2 aspect ratio display in a magnesium alloy chassis, the device can operate as a standalone 7.7mm-thick tablet - or, as Microsoft would strangely have it, a 'clipboard' - or be docked to an undeniably MacBook-esque base to turn it into a laptop proper. The Surface Book can also be docked backwards, folding back against the keyboard - although, in an odd design decision, the hinge prevents the tablet portion from closing flat against the keyboard dock in either orientation, leaving a gap between the two.
Internally, the Surface Book features a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and 8GB or 16GB of RAM, depending on model purchased, while those with a need for speed will also be given the option of upgrading to a discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU - although, oddly, neither Microsoft nor Nvidia is willing to disclose exactly which model is on offer. All units include two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort connector, five megapixel front-facing and eight-megapixel rear-facing cameras, and a choice of 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB SSD. They also all include the Surface Pen accessory as standard.
The Surface Book was joined at the event by the Surface Pro 4, a tablet-first model which still comes without the Type Cover keyboard accessory as standard. The chief change over the Surface Pro 3 is a boost to the screen resolution, which is now 2,736x1,825 with a thinner bezel than its predecessor. The entry-level model opts for a low-power Intel Core M3 and 4GB of RAM, with specifications gradually ramping up to the flagship Core i7 unit with 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM, which Microsoft has indicated will launch shortly after the initial 512GB top-end model. The Type Cover, too, is improved, offering a glass-backed trackpad area some 40 per cent larger than the older model and improved scissor-action back-lit keys, while the Surface Pro Dock - compatible with both the Surface Pro 4 and older Pro 3 - adds four USB 3.0, two DisplayPort and one Ethernet port connections to the tablet.
Microsoft also unveiled the long-anticipated Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL Windows 10 Mobile smartphones, along with the Microsoft Display Dock which forms the heart of 'continuum' - the company's vision, shared with Canonical's Ubuntu Phone project, that future smartphones could double as fully-functional desktop PCs when connected to a keyboard, mouse, and external display device. Microsoft's Band wearable also enjoyed a refresh, but the biggest shock of the day was the announcement that the company's HoloLens augmented reality platform will ship in the first quarter of next year. The bad news? It'll be aimed at developers and cost a whopping $3,000.
The company's event can be watched in reply on the official website
, while the company's various new products can be pre-ordered from the Microsoft Store