Microsoft is hoping to lure creative professionals away from their iMacs and onto its Surface products, unveiling a new desktop computer and haptic control peripheral.
Pre-orders for the new Surface Studio are already being taken in the US. The company did not say when it would take orders or begin shipments for Australia.
The base model – a Core i5-based PC with 1TB storage and 8GB RAM, costs US$2999 ($3932), and is set for delivery prior to Christmas.
Higher end models – with better processors, and more storage and RAM – cost between US$3499 ($4588) and US$4199 ($5505).
If the price didn’t make it clear, Surface boss Panos Panay confirmed that this Surface addition is really “built for professionals.”
“It’s meant to transform the way you’re going to work,” Panay told a launch event in New York.
“It’s going to help you produce, but I think in its essence is we wanted to transform the way you create and think about creating.”
“I believe this product will help you bring your ideas to life.”
On first impression, the Surface Studio design is a nod to the device it wants to take market share from: Apple’s iMac, a staple of many design houses.
“It’s going to seem pretty familiar,” Panay said of the Surface Studio’s appearance, “but it’s going to feel different.”
The Surface Studio has a 28-inch, 4.5K “ultra-HD” screen that Panay said is “the thinnest desktop monitor ever created”,
“You have to think here we reinvented the backlight, the prism sheets, the colour filters, the polarisers, the glass itself, all coming together,” he said. “It was a ton of work.”
Where the Surface Studio differs from rivals is in a smooth “zero gravity” hinge that allows it to perform like other Surface products.
The screen can be moved from an upright “desktop” mode to a 20-degree angle “studio” mode, which Microsoft said was “the same angle as a standard drafting board, making it ideal for sketching, writing and designing.”
Microsoft also created a new peripheral called Surface Dial – a kind of haptic mouse that can be placed directly onto the screen and used to scroll, zoom, navigate or otherwise control what you’re working on. It is an extra purchase of US$99.
It is intended to be used in conjunction with a Surface Pen, allowing designers to use both hands and never have to stop creating to change a setting or function.
“When you place the Dial directly on the screen, it brings up a set of digital tools specific to the app that is open, allowing people to more seamlessly move through their workflow,” Microsoft said.
“For example, with Surface Dial, artists can change the colour or the size of their brush tip as they paint without ever moving the pen away from the screen.”
The Surface Dial.
While the Surface Studio is arguably still, for all intents and purposes, a high-end desktop computer, Microsoft was keen to shed that image at launch.
Its promotional videos include creators using it against a backdrop of ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka.
Panay said that Surface “has always been about more.”
“It was never as simple as just [creating] a desktop,” he said.
“[Surface] Pro was more than a tablet, [Surface] Book is so much more than a laptop, even [Surface] Hub is more than just a whiteboard. All of these are category-defining products.
“Why would Studio be any different? Studio is made to define a new category.
“It is not just another beautiful PC.”