The roles now seem reversed between Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft is now the company innovating in the hardware landscape while Apple is the one seemingly languishing. It’s a scenario that would bring chuckles to many people a few years ago. Microsoft’s going to beat Apple! Wham! Everyone’s ROTFL. Well, Microsoft seems like they’re going to laugh their way to the bank for the next few years or so. News just broke that the not-so-much-awaited Surface Hub was actually being waited on. It’s another hit for Microsoft after the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Book and the recently released Surface Studio which you can check out here.
The prices may seem ridiculous, but the Surface Hub at 8,999 USD for the least expensive 55-inch version, and 21,999 for the 84-inch version is actually much more useful to businesses than Apple’s closely-priced LISA three decades ago. Where the LISA could be any one of several computers that help run the business, the Surface Hub is where the captains of industry get together to make decisions that affect the business, the industry and even the world.
Many saw the hub as a niche business but come to think about it; there are thousands of companies all over the world that can afford the device and the additional collaborative potential it represents. The Surface Hub is one step closer to those sci-fi collaborative holographic meeting tables. Companies who tried it ended up having more engaging meetings, getting more work done and decisions made, or every participant just wanted to have a crack at it.
Microsoft may actually have been onto something even before the Surface brand was redefined into what would become the Surface Pro line of tablet PCs. As per Microsoft, the average customer has purchased 50 devices, perhaps Fortune 500, and that one customer purchased 1500 units. The success of the Surface Pro may have helped reputation-wise. Once prices go down, more and more boardrooms will come alive. It probably won’t be long before we see a weatherman playing with the 84-inch version of the device on TV. There’s also some potential in tabletop gaming using Amiibo like pieces.
History repeated itself with Microsoft with regards to the Surface Pro much like what happened with Apple when they released the colorful translucent iMacs and Macbooks in the early 2000s. The kickstand and colorful touch covers made Microsoft’s Surface tablets viable laptop replacements and more appealing to consumers. The Surface RT may have been dead in the water but the Surface Pro perfected in its third iteration put Microsoft’s hardware ambitions to fruition.
Microsoft, through the Surface Pro, did what they set out to do by inspiring innovation among PC manufacturers and teaching them how to treat their operating system correctly. Every manufacturer now has a Surface clone of some sort, including Apple with the iPad Pro in which Apple targeted business execs and artists.
Microsoft surprised the world in 2015 when it launched the Surface Book, the company’s first laptop. It was a laptop first, tablet second device with the brains on the screen and the graphical brawn and power on the keyboard base. Again, it’s something new. The Surface Book is all business with its detachable tablet but can handle gaming when attached to the base that holds a powerful GPU and added battery power. This is when everyone’s anxious as to what comes out of Apple and its Macs. But before Apple can release its latest line of Macs, Microsoft again stunned the world with its rumored first desktop computer, the Surface Studio, also targeted to business and artists. Microsoft seems to be after Apple’s customers. Everyone loved the idea of the big touch screen and the revolutionary new hinge. Tech journalist Leo LaPorte reviewed the Surface Studio on his Twit channel and showed how natural it can be as a control center for browsing, communicating and working when laid at the proper angle on a desk.
Microsoft also pulled out a new control device we now know as the Surface Dial to complement its Surface Studio and other Surface computers. It’s the digital equivalent of an analog dial that can be used to adjust brightness, to adjust volume, to scroll, to zoom and to select from a multitude of options. It’s something that Jony Ive could have cooked up but didn’t. One could imagine the Surface Studio and a couple of Surface dials running circles around the new 2016 Macbook Pro when it comes to demonstrating a DJ app.
Microsoft has already stated that many people are returning to the fold or switching from Macs to Surface Pros and Surface books due to disappointment with Apple’s lack of innovation. Apple’s reluctance with touch screens (yes, they can be useful, and there are those who actually want it), introduction of the not-so-inspiring touch bar and removal of useful ports plus weak internal specs. Oculus Rift said that Macs, unfortunately, aren’t powerful enough to handle its brand of VR. And when it comes to VR, people are still waiting on Apple while Microsoft already has both AR and VR.
Now, we still love Apple, and despite lacking in the headphone jack department, the iPhones are still great and iPads are still tablets to beat. The upcoming iPhone 8 had better come up with something really new and really innovative (not something already present in competitors), or Apple could really be in trouble and heads could roll.