Microsoft is hosting an event on October 6, the tagline of which is: “We have some exciting news to share about Windows 10 devices.” While this is not as subtle as Apple’s event invites — which contain, if anything, misdirection — there is still a big grey area surrounding exactly what Microsoft will, and won’t, unveil.
According to Netmarketshare, Windows 10 now has a little over 5% of the total marketshare for PC operating systems which is still under half of Windows 8.1. One of the best ways to make the new OS a compelling purchase — or, as the case may be, free download — is the hardware that it runs on. Evidently this is the next wave of Microsoft’s plan.
Over the past few months there has been a constant drip-drip-drip of news, mainly focused around Microsoft’s smartphone plans, that will culminate into actual products early next month.
Here’s what we expect to be released.
Despite taking a $US3 billion (£1.97 billion) write-down on its Nokia acquisition, Microsoft is still intent on being in the smartphone game and the October event will further these ambitions.
The last Windows flagship device, the Lumia 930, was unveiled in April 2014 and so Microsoft is clearly ascribing to the 'better late than never' school of thought.
The new devices will be called the 950 and the 950XL, continuing the naming trend of previous Lumia phones. The 'smaller' of the devices will have a 5.2-inch display, placing it in between the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, while the 950XL comes with a gigantic 5.7-inch screen.
Cameras will be a big part of the new Lumia range, again in keeping with the heritage that comes from devices like the Lumia 1020. There are currently no test shots in existence, but Nokia built up a reputation for making good camera phones, so it's likely that will continue.
Beyond this, the new Lumia devices are also rumoured to come with USB Type-C-enabled 'Quick Charging' -- enabling a 10% to 95% charge in 25 minutes -- alongside the full Windows 10 Mobile experience.
Microsoft's updated Surface Pro, called the 4, will be one of the most interesting products shown off on stage.
Previously, the Surface Pro has acted as a catalyst for other hardware manufactures, a strategy that appears to have started working.
The new Surface Pro 4 will most likely retain the design of the Pro 3, albeit with minor changes to the size, while updating the internals to deliver more power and better battery life. Whether Intel's latest 'Skylake' chipsets make it into the new device remains to be seen, however, as reports suggest the device will be fanless, requiring Intel's Broadwell chipsets.
Apple recently unveiled the iPad Pro and so eyes will be on Microsoft to compete with a device that will more than likely blast past the Surface Pro in terms of sales. One of the deciding factors between the two will be the Office suite, a cornerstone of productivity that makes the Pro 3 into a viable work machine.
While the future of Microsoft doesn't ride or die on whether the Surface Pro 4 is a hit, the company's credibility when it comes to hardware manufacture -- an area it has invested billions of dollars in -- could take a hit.
The Microsoft Band, unveiled in October 2014, is expected to get a refresh at the event, focusing on the design of the device.
The first generation Band came as somewhat of a surprise, pushing Microsoft into an area of wearables that it had little experience in. As a result, the Band received mixed reviews and did not go on to become a commercial success.
Version two, according to various leaks, will double down on the design, making it a device that is comfortable to wear and aesthetically pleasing. After the introduction of the Apple Watch, consumers became far more intolerant of ugly wearables, something Microsoft quickly became aware of.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Band is how it fits into the broader 'One Windows' strategy. The device runs Windows 10, just like the Surface, and is another component in Microsoft's strategy to get everyone using operating system. The analytics produced by the Band can also be used by Microsoft, especially in the workplace.
While the launch of HoloLens is still some way off, the October 6 event may be used to keep interest in one of the more exciting parts of Microsoft's business alive.
For a company that does most of its business selling servers to enterprise clients, HoloLens is a big investment, and it's clear that Microsoft believes that the potential of 'Windows Holographic' is huge, both with consumers and companies.
What exactly Microsoft will show off is unclear, and the company may well choose to keep HoloLens off stage to focus on smartphones, the Band and the Surface but a quick update on where the company is in its 'five year journey' isn't too unlikely.
Getting businesses excited by new apps could be one aspect of the presentation, just as the company did earlier this year.
Apple recently unveiled a new TV which, among other things, has the ability to play iOS-style casual games. While this isn't a threat to Xbox's gaming ambitions, it takes a chunk out of Microsoft's already flagging dominance in the living room.
While it may seem strange to cameo a gaming device alongside computer and smartphone hardware, the new Xbox runs a version of Windows 10, meaning that many features that are available on a PC are also available on an Xbox, and vice versa.
Repurposing the Xbox One as a living room device, rather than a games console, may help sales and would increase Microsoft's position away from the work place. The content available for Windows 10 -- specifically in regards to the media and app stores -- helps this mission.
The Surface Phone has been the subject of numerous leaks over the past months as Microsoft attempts to double down on a cohesive brand message focused, unsurprisingly, around the 'Surface.'
While it's unlikely we'll see a new Lumia range AND a Surface Phone at the October 6 event, Microsoft will make moves in that direction before the end of 2016.
Anyone who has used a Surface Pro can understand the appeal of a Surface Phone with its angular, metallic design and powerful internals that have become the hallmark of what is arguably Microsoft's greatest product of recent times.
An interesting move for Microsoft would be positioning the Surface Phone as a more enterprise-y device -- like the Surface Pro -- and bundling the Surface Pen with it, letting the Lumia range appeal to consumers.
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