Microsoft bets on big earbuds and foldable devices
Microsoft bets on big earbuds and foldable devices
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Panos Panay showed off six new products that feature tighter integration between the hardware, Office, and inputs from the mouse, keyboard, pen and voice controls.

Everything was about staying in the flow at Microsoft’s fall hardware event today. Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay flipped back and forth between showing off the guts of the new devices and praising the deep integration among all the new Microsoft products.

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Now, you can write on the Surface, and your scrawls will be converted to text in a Word doc or Excel file. With the new earbuds, you can dictate notes to yourself, check your email, or craft PowerPoint slides. With the new foldable Surface Neo, you can move from watching a movie on both screens to writing an email on one and checking a spreadsheet on the other. The Neo changes orientation just like a phone and automatically adjusts to the next task when you flip up the keyboard.

“Our products work the way you want to,” said Robin Seiler, corporate vice president of program management for devices. “We have integrated the mouse and the keyboard and the pen and voice to make it all so simple.”

The foldable devices made the biggest splash:The Neo—a smaller Surface with a 360-degree hinge and the Duo—a foldable phone that runs on Android. (No prices have been disclosed for these products.)

In total, the company introduced a mix of six new products and updates:

  • Surface Pro 7
  • Surface Pro X
  • Surface Earbuds
  • Surface Neo
  • Surface Duo
  • Surface Laptop 3

Three products are available for pre-order now: Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7, and Surface Pro X. The earbuds will be available later this year. The dual-screen devices — the Surface Neo and Surface Duo — won’t be available until the end of 2020.

Surface Pro 7 

Seiler introduced the latest Surface as well as the new earbuds. Several new features from Office will make the Surface Pro 7 even more productive. Microsoft has updated Excel to work with the Surface Pen. Now you can write on the Surface when you are using Excel, and it automatically converts to text. 

“Bring your pen to the glass and let us do the rest,” Seiler said.

With Ink Editor, you can create and reply to comments using the pen or a voice command. The new Studio Mics in the 7 will improve dictation and transcription with the combination of Office and the Surface. Most of these features will be available in spring 2020.

The new Surface also lets you connect your phone to the device so you can accept or decline calls without taking out your phone.

The latest iteration of this two-in-one device has a high speed USB-C ports and a 12.3 inch display. The Pro 7 starts at $749.

Surface Neo 

The audience was intrigued by the earbuds, but the foldable Neo made everyone pay attention. Panay played up his “hesitation” around showing this dual-screen device, “I’m nervous,” he said. “You hate saying to people that your children are beautiful, but this product is beautiful.”

SEE: 16 top laptops for business users in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

It does look beautiful, and the hinge looks very sturdy. One of the two nine-inch screens would probably break before the 360-degree hinge. You can use both screens for the same task or multi-task between different activities on each screen. It also has a removable keyboard that charges wirelessly. The pen sticks to the back of the Neo to charge when not in use.. The Neo will run on Windows 10X. 
Microsoft is feeding into the “just wait” buzz around folding devices as the two-screen Surface won’t go on sale until the end of 2020.

Surface Earbuds  

These big white disks “balance against two points in your ear,” according to Seiler. If they do actually stay in place, you can do lots of cool things with them. You can control music with a tap or a swipe. You can access your Outlook calendar and email with your voice. You can dictate notes that voice-to-text software will send to PowerPoint or Word. The earbuds will create live captions for your speech in real time and also will translate your words into more than 60 languages.
Seiler said that the battery charge will last all day.  The earbuds will ship later this year for $249.

Surface Pro X 

The Pro X is more of a redesign than the 7. This Surface product is super thin and weighs only 1.68 pounds. The new Microsoft SQ1 processor has two teraflops of graphics processing power. The Pro X Signature Keyboard has a docking spot for the pen, which charges and stores the new Slim Pen. This device starts at $999.

Microsoft Surface Duo phone

Panay wasn’t done with folding devices after presenting the Neo. Next up in the big hardware reveal was the Duo—another foldable device with two screens. The two 5.6-inch screens combine to a 8.3-inch display. You can make calls with the device but that seems like an afterthought. 
This phone will run Android apps on Surface hardware. It is also set for a holiday 2020 release. 
Best of all, Microsoft said that they have revamped their packaging to reduce the amount of trash by more than 30% in weight and volume. 

Surface Laptop 3

The new laptop has a 10th Generation Intel Core processor and comes in two new colors: Sandstone and cobalt. The Surface Laptop 3 comes in a 13.5″ display or a 15″ display. There are both USB-A and USB-C ports as well as fast-charging, which means that the laptop can get up to an 80% charge in one hour. The smaller laptop starts at $999, and the larger laptop starts at $1,199.

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