Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Microsoft’s Surface PC event: what to expect

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Microsoft is returning to New York City this week to host a special press event on October 26th. While Microsoft held a similar event last year in October, this year's show is expected to include less hardware, with more of a theme around 3D and creativity. That theme will extend directly to an expected Surface all-in-one device, and details on Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 software updates.
For all of the details on what to expect we've put together a full preview of the event below. The event itself kicks off Wednesday, October 26th at 10AM ET / 7AM PT. As always, you'll be able to follow along with our live blog for immediate updates on Microsoft's announcements.

Windows 10 updates

Microsoft's big focus with this event is Windows 10. The software giant is planning two major updates to Windows 10 next year, and the first is expected to arrive in March. That's less than six months away, so we're expecting Microsoft to detail most of the new additions coming to Windows 10 early next year.
Some new features are already being tested with Windows Insiders, including new trackpad changes that allow Windows 10 users to fully control and customize gestures on a trackpad. Microsoft is getting close to offering customization on the level of the BetterTouchTool for macOS, and it's a welcome change after years of trackpad neglect on the Windows side.
Microsoft hasn't started publicly testing all of the new features that are coming early next year, though. There's a F.lux-like feature arriving that will reduce blue light in Windows 10, alongside a new "HomeHub" feature that is designed to help control smart devices. Microsoft is also bringing its Holographic shell to Windows 10 PCs, and we've yet to see exactly how that works on desktop and laptop PCs.

Surface all-in-one PC

The big news from Microsoft's event will be a new Surface device. While Microsoft has typically launched tablets and laptops under the Surface brand, its new all-in-one device will be an attempt to reimagine the desktop computer. Microsoft is expected to unveil an iMac competitor, but with a few twists.
True to Microsoft's form of surprise hardware features with Surface devices, the all-in-one Surface device is expected to include a large display (24- or 27-inch) that will use a hinge to lay flat on a desk. This could make the all-in-one a lot more like the original Surface table device, and it will be interesting to see what software Microsoft uses in this flat mode. Expect to see touchscreen and stylus support, and a focus on being able to create 3D objects and Holograms with Microsoft's new Surface hardware.

Surface PC patent
Microsoft patent hints at potential all-in-one PC "Get ready to get creative," said Microsoft's Windows and devices VP Yusuf Mehdi on Twitter recently, referencing the October 26th event. Microsoft's own event invite also includes "imagine what you'll do," suggesting that this entire event will be about creativity. That creativity has been largely limited to a stylus and touchscreen on desktop PCs, but devices like HP's Sprout have attempted to push into new areas of 3D scanning. If Microsoft is serious about HoloLens and 3D object creation, then an Intel RealSense camera on its Surface desktop PC would make a lot of sense. If Microsoft does add such a camera, then how it uses it could be the most creative aspect of this new Surface device.
Microsoft is also expected to unveil new Surface PC accessories, including a keyboard and mouse set that leaked in FCC filings recently.

3D and creativity

Microsoft's creativity focus will also extend beyond just hardware. A new Microsoft Paint app leaked recently, providing an early look at how Microsoft is overhauling its famous paint app for a Windows 10 era. The new app is designed to be a Universal Windows app with pen- and touch-friendly features, and the ability to create 3D objects.

Microsoft Paint for Windows 10
The 3D objects feature is key, and it appears to be the main focus of the app. Twitter user WalkingCat discovered launch videos for the new Paint app, and references to a "Beihai 3D ecosystem" alongside 3D versions of Skype and PowerPoint. It appears that Microsoft is building some type of 3D ecosystem, with Windows 10 at the center of how it all interacts across multiple devices. October 26th could be a good time for Microsoft to start detailing its 3D ambitions.

HoloLens and Xbox

A focus on 3D wouldn't be complete without HoloLens. We're not expecting to hear about the next version of Microsoft's headset, but it's clear the company is planning to let others create their own HoloLens headsets. Part of that will involve the Windows Holographic shell appearing on Windows 10, and the ability to plug headsets directly into this environment through a Windows 10 PC. Microsoft has only teased how this works so far, without providing a full demonstration of exactly how it imagines 3D holograms will improve the Windows 10 experience on a PC.
We're expecting to see some demonstrations around the interaction between a virtual or augmented reality headset and Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft is focused on the idea of mixed reality experiences for both VR and its own AR headset, and it needs to demonstrate why this matters for VR headsets and beyond.

HoloLens
Microsoft will also likely discuss its cross-platform gaming efforts for Windows 10 and Xbox. We've seen Xbox Play Anywhere, but there's still a lot of work to be done to combine gaming across the two platforms. While Microsoft is planning to release its new Project Scorpio console next year, we're not expecting to hear any significant updates on Scorpio or a console unveiling at the October 26th event.

Microsoft's own Amazon Echo

Microsoft is preparing to launch a "HomeHub" feature in Windows 10 to control smart internet-connected devices, but rumors have also emerged of a separate "Home Hub" device with Cortana. Windows Central reports that Microsoft has an Amazon Echo competitor ready to unveil on October 26th, with Cortana built-in. The voice-activated speaker is said to include the ability to store files on the device, and respond to questions just like Alexa.
If Microsoft does reveal such a device then it will be up against strong competition from Amazon's Echo devices that have integrated hundreds of third-party apps and features. Google has also unveiled its Home device, and Apple is rumored to be working on its own Siri-powered hardware. Microsoft's own Cortana-powered device will have to do more than just answer questions.

No Microsoft Band 3, Surface phone, Surface Pro 5, or Surface Book 2

Microsoft has killed off its potential Band 3 hardware, so don't expect to hear anything about new fitness hardware. Likewise, any new phones from Microsoft will not appear at this event. Microsoft has downscaled its phone operations, and it's still not clear if the company will even create a Surface Phone.
Microsoft is also expected to refresh its Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices early next year, so don't expect to see any updates to either device on October 26th. There had been rumors of Kabylake refreshes for Microsoft's Surface tablets, but the main focus of Microsoft's event this week will be the company's new Surface PC.

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