During Microsoft’s October Windows event today, the company did something I never expected them to do: surpass Apple’s own desktop solution and experiences. Microsoft announced the launch of their new Surface Studio desktop, an all-in-one system with a beautiful 28” touchscreen display. A powerhouse of a system with specs up to 32GB of RAM and a GPU with 4 GB video RAM, Microsoft is really pulling out all the stops here to make their desktop solution attractive to all creatives in a way normally seen as Apple’s place.
The iMac has maintained the same design for the past few years, and with the Mac Pro seemingly forgotten within the desktop lineup, Microsoft has a solid chance at stealing some of Apple’s customers away.
A few years ago during Apple’s September 2010 event, Steve Jobs explained why they hadn’t built a touchscreen into any of the MacBooks yet. Funnily enough, he stood on stage saying it just a few weeks after patent filings showed Apple was exploring an “iMac Touch”.
The iMac Touch even had a Flex Base that showed the iMac bending at a more comfortable angle for touch input, something we saw today with Microsoft’s Surface Studio. A similar design, dubbed the Zero Gravity hinge, allows the display to lay nearly flat.
The announcement of the Surface Studio showed us something that Apple had hand-waved as not being worth their time: treating a desktop system’s display as a touchscreen. All the negatives I could think of were answered during Microsoft’s event. The Surface Studio uses wrist-detection within its display allowing artists to bend the display on the Zero Gravity hinge down into a more comfortable angle and lay on top of it in the same way they would at a drawing desk.
The Surface Pen then allows any artist to draw directly on the display like the previous Surface devices could. The argument Jobs showed on stage with the MacBook’s display being angled strangely as a limiting factor was solved with the Surface Book, and a similar idea is now see in a large screen desktop solution.
As the announcements continued today I fully expected that the internal specs would have been lackluster, and that the usage of the touchscreen and Pen integration would be the gimmick that got everyone’s attention. That was proven wrong once Microsoft began listing out the 192 DPI PixelSense Display, one without discernible pixels from any distance. The hardware integration of the Surface Pen and the Surface Dial (albeit a weird device) shows that Microsoft can still create hardware that integrates intuitively within their new systems.
The Surface Studio combines the best of the desktop experience that the iMac provides, an all-in-one solution with a beautiful large display, and the power that a professional would expect from a Mac Pro. This may not be the exact system Apple customers would have expected or wanted from Apple, but one fully welcomed from Microsoft. Both the Mac Pro and Surface Studio start at $2,999, but only Microsoft’s solution includes everything you need to get started immediately out of the box.
There are plenty of arguments as to why Apple might not want to bring a touchscreen system to macOS, but none of those answer why their hero desktop systems have quickly felt as though they are falling behind.
Of course with Apple’s Mac event coming up tomorrow, we can’t even remotely call this fight over. Apple could surprise us with radical changes in the iMac and Mac Pro, even though we have no expectation of new desktops. Regardless of tomorrow’s event, Apple needs to show customers soon that they still care about their desktop solutions in a modicum of the same way that Microsoft showed today.