Microsoft launched a consumer offensive on Wednesday, unveiling new high-performance computers and an updated Windows operating system that showcases three-dimensional content and “mixed reality.”
The US tech giant announced its first desktop computer, called Surface Studio, a $3,000 high-end “all-in-one” device that aims at Apple’s Mac.
“We’re creating a new category that transforms your desk into a creative studio,” said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella at the unveiling in New York.
With a large, 28-inch (71-centimeter) hinged touchscreen display touted as “the thinnest desktop monitor ever created,” Surface Studio adds to the Microsoft lineup of tablet and laptop devices for the premium segment, in a challenge to Apple.
The new PC has an ultra-HD 4.5K display, offering more pixels than most new high-definition televisions which effectively create a “digital canvas” for creating content, the company said.
The new PC will be available in “limited quantities” for the upcoming holiday season, with more units available in 2017.
Microsoft also announced an updated Surface Book ─ its high-end convertible tablet-computer ─ which will sell for $2,400, adding improved graphics and computing power.
“It’s for the people really pushing performance,” siad Microsoft vice president Panos Panay.
The Surface devices allow users to create content onscreen with a special pen-stylus, and Microsoft introduced a new disk device called Dial which attaches to the screen and offers additional controls such as viewing the timeline of a creation.
Windows creators update
Microsoft also announced its Windows 10 Creators operating system would be offered as a free update in early 2017, enabling users to create 3D content and delve into virtual and augmented reality. The update offers “new ways to create and play,” said Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson.
The update will allow for a 3D capture application for mobile devices and a new version of the popular program Paint for 3D objects.
The system will allow users to add three-dimensional emojis and to create and manipulate content they create or scan.
Microsoft general manager Megan Saunders demonstrated how the capture application can scan a sand castle in three dimensions, and then mix that with other content.
With the new Windows system, users will be able to experience virtual reality with Microsoft’s Holo Lens headgear and its Edge browser.
Edge “will act as the portal to display 3D content on HoloLens,” said Saunders.
Microsoft said its hardware partners would be selling Windows-compatible virtual reality gear starting at about $300.
Microsoft is aiming to keep users on Windows as many switch to new mobile devices powered by Apple or Google software.
With PC sales sputtering, Microsoft has been emphasising its cloud computing and business services but is also working to stay relevant to consumers with Windows and its various computing and gaming devices.
The new version of Windows will help users sift through email and other messages by creating “people” icons that show messages from important connections.