Microsoft unveiled some very attractive hardware this morning in New York City, but that very attractive hardware comes with very premium pricing.
(Though Microsoft discussed it first, I’ll leave off discussing the XBoxOne, since I’m not terribly interested in it, and it doesn’t really fit into the whole how-does-this-piece-of-technology-integrate-into-the-law-office thing I have going here. And the Hololens was mentioned and demoed, with a dev kit being offered next year for $3,000…..)
Microsoft Band (2.0)
Microsoft then moved on to the new Microsoft Band. A few weeks ago, some renders leaked which showed a very sleek and rounded band that looks like a glowing bangle. The screen is rounded, but generally looks like a shiny version of the current Microsoft Band. Microsoft is still calling it the Band (but I’m differentiating it by calling it “2.0”), and it still, unfortunately, looks like a shackle.
The clasp is huge and looks cumbersome, and interestingly, the woman discussing the Band on stage had it on with the screen on the inside of her wrist. (The models on the product page are also wearing the screen on the inside of the wrist.) It looks far more capable than the first generation Band, and certainly less awkward with that weird flat wedge of a screen, but still quite large. Much larger, for example than the FitBit Charge I currently have on my wrist, which I think is already somewhat large and noticeably…dorky.
Nonetheless, I like the commitment to fitness that Microsoft is going for with the Band, with built-in GPS, partnerships already lined up with all sorts of health apps, and guided workouts. One of the limitations I found when considering the original Band, in addition to the clunky screen, was its inability–apparently–to track steps all day long; it isn’t clear to me that the new Band has constant monitoring. It would make sense to have it, but then again, this thing is trying to do more than just track steps.
Such as being a productivity smart-watch-ish device, too. Apparently, it will work with iPhones (no surprise considering Microsoft’s best mobile apps appear on iOS first), Androids, and yes, Windows Mobile phones. You can get emails, text messages, other notifications, and even use Cortana. Cortana, however, requires a Windows Phone 8.1 or later device. *sad trombone*
At $249, it is $50 more than the previous model, but $100 less than the entry-level Apple Watch. It’s an interesting pricing strategy because there is some legitimately interesting stuff in the device, but it’s probably appropriately priced (as far as these things go) as a second-tier device. Not that I think the Apple Watch is any great shakes, to be honest. I’m not interested in that device in the slightest, as I already have a non-smart watch I like very much thank you. I am interested in the Band, but not at $249, regardless of the fact they made a curved display. That helps a lot, but I already found $199 too steep for my interests, and again, it really looks quite bulky.
Lumia 950 and 950XL
Anyway, on to the phones. Not much to say here. The Lumia 950 and 950XL appear to be flagship devices, and the Continuum features look legitimately impressive. Being able to hook the phone up to a dock and have it work as a desktop-esque machine is really intriguing. And the technical specifications are nothing to sneeze at. Either 5.2″ or 5.7″ AMOLED screens, 20 MP cameras with triple LED flashes and ZEISS lenses (which by all accounts are fantastic), a standard 32GB of storage with a microSD slot, and either a 6-core or 8-core Snapdragon processor, they’re pretty stout phones. (Shoot, they even have liquid cooling, which…what?) Then there’s the afore-mentioned ability to plug it into a dock and have a functioning desktop experience. It’s creative and progressive, and I genuinely would love to use one.
The apps. Or more accurately, the dearth of apps. And the fact that Windows 10 Mobile is not ready for prime time. There is no way this phone will pass the wife test, and in this BYOD environment, that’s more important to me at this point than the technology. It’s a pity, since they are pretty devices. And they’re lower-tier priced at $549 and $649 respectively (though, with Google’s release of the Nexus devices last week at lower price points, perhaps Microsoft should knock another hundred bucks or so off each if they actually want anyone to buy them).
Surface Pro 4
Anyway, onto the device that I was most interested in, the Surface Pro 4. I have made no bones about the fact that I have fallen out of love with my Venue 8 Pro as a productivity device. I find it too small, and far too unreliable to use it for anything but general leisure-time consumption. And that makes me somewhat sad because the idea of a tablet running a full operating system with pen input is precisely my perfect law office productivity device. That’s where the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3, and now the Surface Pro 4 resonate with me, and Microsoft has really delivered improvements to the Surface Pro line.
The new Surface Pro 4 is thinner, lighter, and purportedly more powerful. The pen has been updated, has an eraser, comes standard, and magnetically attaches to the edge of the device. Microsoft also updated the Type Cover, to include spaces between the keys, a glass trackpad, and a fingerprint scanner. The screen is very nice, and has a ton of pixels. It’s got Intel’s latest Core processors in it. All around, it’s a sleek machine, and I want one.
But the price.
It starts at $899, which is $100 more than the Surface Pro 3 started at (and you can currently get one for $699.00). That *only* gets you a Core M3, 4 GB of RAM, and a decent 128GB SSD. Opting for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD increases the price to $1,299.00. Another 8GB of RAM pumps it to $1,499.00 and maxing the thing out with a Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage results in a $2,699.00 device. Add in a $199 dock, and a $129 keyboard… well, it’s not a cheap device. Which is fine; it’s the standard-bearer for office productivity tablets. But it’s also a lot of money to pay for a device which will be last year’s model in a year’s time.
And then there’s the Surface Book (they really should have called it something other than “Book”), which was quite unexpected (apart from whimsical musings about what Microsoft could do if it made laptop), and is very innovative. It’s also got to have all of Microsoft’s OEM partners peeved, because now Microsoft is definitely tromping in the devices category. It’s a 2-in-1 device, where the screen detaches from the keyboard, and the two halves are connected by a really strange looking articulated hinge.
The thing is pretty compelling, packing a 13.3″ (3000 x 2000) touch screen that also accepts pen input. In fact, it comes with the Surface Pen. It also, in its base configuration, sports a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage. It also starts at $1,499.00, which is firmly high-end territory. Yes, it detaches and becomes a “clipboard,” which is very cool, but that, again, is a lot of money to spend on a first-gen device. (Oh, maxing it out with a Core i7, 512 GB of SSD storage, 16GB or RAM, and discrete graphics will run you $2,699.)
Wrap it Up
So, all in all, some pretty interesting devices were debuted by Microsoft today, and it will be absolutely exciting to see if Microsoft’s OEM partners can address the build quality and technological specs with slightly more affordable gear. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see a lot of innovation coming out in the wake of Windows 10.