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Friday, 12 August 2016 14:56

Microsoft Surface 'everything' – rumours and innuendo Featured

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Microsoft is so chuffed with its success as a hardware maker that it is rumoured to be expanding the Surface line – in every case directly tilting at Apple’s products. If war has not been declared, it soon will be.

The Surface range will include all-in-ones (AIO) to counter Mac desktops, a MacBook contender (Surface Book 2), an iPad Pro contender (Surface Pro 5), and possibly an iPhone contender (Surface Phone) – in each case throwing in the kitchen sink to grab leadership.

While the Surface “design” will not radically change, it is rumoured that changes will offer well over modest “refresh” modifications.

The following observations are from a variety of sources that, in turn, probably got that information from a variety of sources – it could all be wishful thinking and speculation.

First a little about Intel’s Kaby Lake processor.

It supports native 4K resolutions, HDR, as well as vastly enhanced 3D graphics.

Kaby Lake also has USB-C, 3.1 Gen 2 which means 10Gpbs data, HCCP 2.2, and 40Gbps Thunderbolt support (think dual 4K displays over USB-C) – all of which suggests a replacement of the proprietary Surface Ribbon power/data connector by a single USB-C charge and data connector.

It also comes in Atom (Apollo Lake), Desktop and Extreme Core i3, i5, and i7 and Core M mobile models, each with a rumoured 30% performance increase over Skylake.

Apple Insider has said that Apple will not be among the first to get Kaby Lake (Microsoft will be), and it is unlikely that it would upgrade its Macs outside its usual notebook refresh cycle – April 2017. It even suggested that Apple may try to skip a refresh and wait for Intel’s 8th generation Cannon Lake for its 2018 devices. This makes sense given that the only Sky Lake-based MacBook is its 2016, 12” version.

Surface Book 2 – Improving on the best 'notebook' of 2016

Microsoft was due to ship a refreshed Surface Book 2 and Pro 5 by November this year, but the general availability of Intel’s new 7th generation Kaby Lake processor has been delayed and OEMs are just starting to get limited shipments – it is usually four to six months from chip shipment to early retail releases.

Microsoft is chuffed at the success of its Surface Book and Pro 4, despite initial teething problems mainly caused by design issues in the 6th generation Skylake chips – as far as iTWire can tell these issues have been resolved.

Using Kaby Lake adds stock to rumours of Microsoft using a Samsung made 4K (3840 x 2160 x 16:9), HDR AMOLED panel. In fact, it has a 3:2 screen ratio so it may be 4000 x 2666 pixels. If this is the case, it will blow any current or planned Apple IPS panel out of the water.

If it goes USB-C, then it will be able to make it a slimmer tablet and probably will not need the bulk of the keyboard for a total of 70,000mWh capacity battery. Expect a thinner, lighter more energy efficient device all round.

It may also be able to redesign the fulcrum hinge to fold flat although it is unlikely to ever lose the muscle wire tablet/screen connector that it uses to connect the tablet to the keyboard.

Surface Pro 5 – it is hard to improve on hybrid perfection

Microsoft is concentrating on using the power-sipping Core-M CPUs and getting over that one-day use limit. It can do this with AMOLED screens and lower power draw from DDR4 and NVME drives. So expect to see much more of the same there, just better.

The Pro will be priced at much less than the Book – something that has been hard to do with the Surface Pro 4 using desktop Core processors.

All-in-ones (AIO)

Apple iMacs have long been considered the epitome of good design – well, Surface design cues, the extremely high powered Kaby Lake processors, 4K screens and USB-C connectivity may make these 24 and 27” models a real winner. There is even a rumoured 21”, HD, for gamers supporting FreeSync (gamers prefer smaller screens).

Xbox One

The new Xbox One S is a premium upgrade to the One. But there is Project Scorpio for 2017 that will support HoloLens AR and VR and a secret AMD APU that is rumoured to be the equivalent of the RX 480 and taking it well above the PlayStation 4K’s 4.14 teraflops. Similarly, the Surface design cues, passive cooling and video capabilities make this an interesting device that at a much higher price point that will complement the Xbox One S, not replace it.

I can see the Xbox becoming a desktop replacement device.

Surface Phone

Microsoft has been very tight-lipped about this – probably still smarting from the US$7.9 billion petty cash cheque given to Nokia.

Logic dictates that moving back to the Apollo Lake (Atom like x86) chipset, running full Windows 10 instead of Mobile, and being a real computer in the pocket makes sense. It is also keen to see how HP’s Elite x3 goes with its notebook dock – it makes sense to dock with a desktop or notebook chassis.

But the necessary storage and other technologies to do this are about 12 months away – Samsung’s new 64-layer V-NAND and a range of power saving bits are likely to be seen later in 2017.

Opinion

While it is easy to say that a Mac user will never use a Windows device, Windows 10 has made amazing leaps forward — by copying Apple’s model so why not emulate its hardware and ecosystem too?

While Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella is a peaceful person, I was not joking when I said: “If war has not been declared it soon will be.” I can tell you right now that Microsoft, while supporting macOS and iOS with apps and software, is uber chuffed at the success of Windows 10 and the phenomenal Windows ecosystem that sees them with around 90% of the desktop market share (macOS has declined to under 5%). Windows 10 just cracked 21.13% market share making it the fastest adopted OS in its history.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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