The whole point of the original Microsoft Surface tablet, released in 2012, was to show PC manufacturers and the world just how good a touchscreen-enabled Windows PC could be, Microsoft CVP of Surface Panos Panay told Business Insider earlier this year.
“We needed to ensure it would happen right,” Panay said at the time.
So when Microsoft last week unveiled the Surface Studio — a gorgeous all-in-one PC that doubles as a touchscreen drafting table for creatives — it raised a big question.
If the Surface was designed to bring the Windows PC industry around to touchscreens, what does the Surface Studio do for Microsoft?
“The entire ecosystem benefits when we create new categories and experiences that bring together the best of hardware and software,” Panay tells Business Insider. He calls the Surface Studio “a new way for people to experience Windows 10, Office, Skype and more.”
To clarify, Panay is saying that the Surface Studio brings Windows 10 and the rest of Microsoft’s family of apps to new audiences. So far, judging from the earliest reviews and impressions, the Surface Studio is at least winning the interest of the artists and creative types that have historically formed much of Apple’s base.
That, in turn, brings new users into the Windows 10 fold that otherwise may have stayed on Team Apple. That’s good for Microsoft, as it works around the clock to spur the growth of Windows 10 amid mounting competition. As Panay told us earlier this year, hardware is “part of the growth story for Windows and for Microsoft.”
And in the same way that you saw other companies (including Apple) copy the Surface tablet and Surface Book laptop design for their own devices, Panay says Microsoft is expecting history to repeat itself.
“With Surface, we pioneered new experiences for our customers and we’ve seen others in the industry follow suit,” Panay says. “I expect that we may see the same with this new category, and that would be a great thing for customers and for Windows.”
Which is to say, expect Windows PC manufacturers to follow Microsoft’s lead and build their own takes on the Surface Studio, the same way that companies like Lenovo and Samsung have built their own Surface Pro-like tablets.
On a final note: Back in August, Panay mentioned that despite the Surface Book’s trademark detachable tablet display, Microsoft thought of it as a laptop first and foremost — cool as it is to turn your screen into a standalone tablet, he didn’t expect people would make daily use of the feature.
So I asked Panay how Microsoft is thinking about the Surface Studio. Do they think it’s mostly a desktop PC, or mostly a mega-sized drawing table? Panay says that “every feature was highly scrutinised” to make it something that feels natural, even if you’re constantly switching between using it as a PC or tilted to use it as a drafting table.
“We wanted to create a device that follows you through your creative process and adapts to your need in that moment,” Panay says. “We think people will naturally flow between desktop and studio mode as they move through their process and their day.”
The Microsoft Surface studio launches this holiday season starting at $2,999.
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