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Cellphones Handhelds Operating Systems Upgrades Windows Hardware

From Microsoft, HoloLens VR Dev Kit, New Phones, Continuum 88

Ars Technica and scads of other tech hardware sites are reporting that the big news so far from this morning's Microsoft product launch event in New York is that the company's Hololens development kit will begin shipping in the first quarter of next year, and at a price that puts the units out of the hands of typical consumers: $3000. At that level, developers are more likely to make the plunge, which Ars applauds.

The company also announced three new smartphones: two of them, the Lumia 950, 950XL, are worth designating "flagships," while the 550, notably, will sell for $139, putting it in the territory of cheap grey-market Android phones. More interesting than spec bumps, though, is Continuum for Windows, a Window 10 feature which made its official debut at the event. Continuum is one manifestation of the pocket-computer idea that others have had as well in various forms: it means that with an adapter, a phone can be used as the CPU and graphics engine when connected to a screen and keyboard: "The adapter features a Microsoft Display Dock, an HDMI and Display Port, plus 3 USB ports to provide productivity on the go and let you plug in additional peripherals, such as mice and keyboards. Other accessories can be connected too, Microsoft said."

Microsoft also demo'd the Surface 4. Its improved screen is 12.3" at 2160x1440, for a pixel density of 267 PPI. The new pro has a Skylake 6th-gen processor, which they say provides a 30% performance boost over the Surface Pro 3, and a 50% boost over the MacBook Air. The SP4 goes up to 1TB of storage, and up to 16GB of RAM. The Type Cover was improved as well — the touchpad is 40% larger and supports 5-point multi-touch, while the keys have better travel and pitch.

On top of this, Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Book laptop. Its defining feature is that you can unclip the 13.5" touchscreen and use it separately as a tablet. The keyboard dock has a dedicated GPU that will boost performance when attached. Microsoft is using a new type of hinge that bends and extends at multiple points, so you can also reattach the screen backward if you want to use it as a tablet while keeping the extra GPU power available. They claim a 12-hour battery life for the Surface Book.
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From Microsoft, HoloLens VR Dev Kit, New Phones, Continuum

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  • Real talk (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:30AM (#50670691)
    I'm hardly an MS fanboy, but I gotta admit it's pretty cool what they're capable of when they don't have to worry about flying chairs.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Got a SP3 and a docking station, but there have been numerous instances where the portability of my phone would be much better in order to move around and work. I may run VS2013 on my surface especially when onsite with my client, but for quick Office-type tasks, just a regular keyboard/mouse attached to a proper screen would be great.

    I guess I'm going to have to invest on a better KVM switch now.

    • by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:40AM (#50670747)

      This is actually a nice innovation. I expect someone to come along and tell me there's an Android equivalent, since this is /. - but I have long wished my phone could function like a laptop - plug into a dock at work, into my home entertainment center at home... to be everything everywhere.

      A real innovation to me would not be more functions in the device itself - we already have more than you can count - but rather *eliminating devices*.

      Not just devices on my person like my watch or my keys or credit card, devices in my life - in my home, car, office, etc.

      • I've long predicted this was going to happen. It won't be long before you can temporarily pair your phone wireless over a KVM kiosk; walk away from a certain distance and it un-pairs securing your session. This would be perfect on an airplane where the screen in front of you is all you need.

      • This is actually a nice innovation. I expect someone to come along and tell me there's an Android equivalent, since this is /. - but I have long wished my phone could function like a laptop - plug into a dock at work, into my home entertainment center at home... to be everything everywhere.

        Wasn't Motorola advertising just exactly that a couple of years ago?

        • Nope. They did not advertise a Windows PC in your pocket.

          There was also Playbook which was the most poorly designed device ever.

          The only really bad part of this device is that it runs universal apps. I'm coding one now and am finding file system access poorly documented and confusing. Pretty sure I'll sort it out
        • That was the LapDock which ran a (crippled) Desktop Linux distro when you put the phone in the dock. The dock itself supposedly was useful for turning Raspbery Pi's into fully functional laptops when they went on clearance, but unfortunately I broke my HDMI connector on the dock and only got to try that for a few minutes . . .

          • That was the LapDock which ran a (crippled) Desktop Linux distro when you put the phone in the dock. The dock itself supposedly was useful for turning Raspbery Pi's into fully functional laptops when they went on clearance, but unfortunately I broke my HDMI connector on the dock and only got to try that for a few minutes . . .

            Niiiice. (Not!)

            Things like that make you wonder how they ever get off the lab bench.

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        Ironically, I think Nokia was the first to propose something like this. They had a laptop-like thing that you could plug your phone into to turn the phone into a 'computer'. I don't think they ever brought it to market, though.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:35AM (#50670715)

    If they went with Atom processors for the phones.. Without access to the library of existing x86 applications,Windows continues to fail to take advantage of their one key advantage, that dwindles more and more by the day.

    MS should have been pushing the x86 phone story *hard*. I was skeptical when Surface RT happened, and that did turn out to be a bust. MS should have learned from this. While continuum lays the groundwork for an interesting story, it falls short when paired with an ARM device with respect to MS ecosystem.

    • The problem isn't the phones, or the platform, it is that they refused to cut off x86 support and go x64 only ... starting with Vista, 7 and Win 8.

      By cutting off support for x86, they could have been so much further down the road today. But they are too scared to push people off ancient technology. Which is why so many people are still there.

      • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

        But they are too scared to push people off ancient technology.

        Agreed though I can't really blame them, they get raked over the coals any time they try. They broke BC with Vista's security and driver model changes, now look what reputation Vista has. They tried to to introduce a more modern UI with Windows 8, same result.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I can't believe I'm going to say this but...

          Vista wasn't a bad OS once the first service pack came out. Literally, I had no problems with it. I should also mention that I had a box with ME on it that ran like a champ - however, it was specifically designed for ME and whatnot. But it did stay running and was no problem - being able to access the restore function from outside the OS was absolutely awesome.

          Anyhow, I liked Vista when it came out and liked it even more when it got its first service pack. The pro

      • by shione ( 666388 )

        I'm genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts on this. How would have going x64 only in windows solved the problem for microsoft?

        How does making windows x86 and x64 compatible hold microsoft back?

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:15PM (#50671013)

      It's not so bad... with the Surface RT people went in expecting it to be like a Windows laptop that ran Windows software. Here people have the expectation of the device being a phone that runs phone apps; having some of the functionality of a desktop is a bonus.

      It still seems like a niche product, though; most people with expensive smartphones also have other, better productivity devices. Taking your smartphone, plus a dock, and carrying or hoping to borrow a screen, keyboard and mouse where you need them seems inconvenient at best. The best use case I can think of is giving your smartphone-toting kids a cheap but limited PC with a full-size browser, Microsoft Office for school assignments, and potentially other apps if developers are actually willing to invest in the niche platform.

      • I think you missed something or made an assumption that has given you the wrong idea of the concept behind Continuum. I don't think that MS is expecting one to carry around a docking station and all the paraphernalia. I believe they think people will be a dock for their home and/or work. Outside of those environs, the phone is just "a phone". But when they get to the workplace or at home where they consume media, surf the web, etc., they can hook up to the dock and have the full laptop experience. Who

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      I think that is a moot point with windows 10. Yes, some people will expect anything to work on whatever hardware they own, but then they head to the app store and it is clear that 1) some apps are not available compatible and the store will tell you that you can't download them; 2) there are many applications in the store that are badged as compatible with win32, 64 AND ARM.

      Typical Slashdot users will be interested in whether it's a win32, x86 or ARM device but the real customers will behave like those visi

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        Problem being that folks running Windows typically have a lot of applications that are not universal apps and likely never to become universal apps. Continuum *specifically* helps a phone provide the desktop/laptop support when paired with appropriate input/output setup, which is nice for generic applications, but more critically relevant to the applications that people run that are not in this mold.

        MS without x86 has been a very very uphill situation from a business perspective.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      An arm version would be very interesting for sure.

  • Surface Book (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:46AM (#50670781)

    The most interesting part of this (for me, at least) is the new Surface Book...could be a killer for creative work, a Surface Pro that's actually a goodlaptop.

    That is, if there isn't perceptible lag in the wireless display, that would really hurt stylus use.

    • Re:Surface Book (Score:5, Informative)

      by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:23PM (#50671081)

      Apparently the display isn't wireless, it just talks to a dedicated GPU in the base when the screen/tablet is docked. Should reduce latency, but unfortunately the GPU would be nice when using Photoshop et al. in tablet mode. The screen can also be flipped and attached backwards, for a faster--if unwieldy--tablet experience.

      I wasn't too impressed with the pen demo on the SP4, seemed rather laggy, like what you'd expect from an iPad. Still waiting to see if the iPad Pro 'Pencil' is half as smooth as Apple's videos made it look.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The display is actually the component with the CPU, so no there should be no lag.
      The keyboard/base has the GPU hardware and connectivity ports and obviously the keyboard.
      Unsure if the battery is branched there or additional storage.

    • I will stick with the tablet line.. I do not need the bigger screen, the dGPU, or the ability to pick it up by the keyboard. Those are the only advantages I see with the Surface Book, and I am not willing to pay extra and trade weight/thickness for those features.

      I just hope the WiFi card is better than the one in the SP3.

      The Type Keyboard looks awesome though...

  • by CSHARP123 ( 904951 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:49AM (#50670797)
    That Surface book looks nice (obviously time will tell how it will perform). It looks to corner the high end laptop market.
    Next few weeks OEMs are bringing out their new hardware. Let us see how they compete with MS offerings
    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Of course this is a *problem* for MS, this is causing their partners to be at least somewhat concerned. I think getting dug in too hard into hardware is a mistake for MS. They overwhelmed Apple with partners to win in the past, trying to beat apple at their own game seems perilous.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Microsoft is being forced into hardware because their partners aren't getting the job done.

      • by ripvlan ( 2609033 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:25PM (#50671705)

        I thought the same thing years ago when MS first made the announcement. But then I realized that none of the MS OEMs were building equipment to compete with Apple. MS wanted to build the OS and User experience - but nobody was building an "iPad" or "MacBook Air" .... so MS had to do it.

        Now folks are talking about the Surface & Surface Pro and stating how Apple and others are beginning to imitate MS. MS may have actually gotten this form factor right. But they had to push the Innovation and not rely upon OEMS to invest in this space.

        Imagine the conversation: "Dear Dell/HP - we know PC sales are falling. Please spend money in this risky area and build a decent future tablet/laptop thingy" MS had, up to this point, been placing its hope for hw in the hands of others. With consumers flocking to Apple in this "new" mobile space MS had to stop it. But the OEMs were trying their own things to combat market slide. OEMs and MS were competitors - they wanted more features in Windows too (HP went to Linux for awhile).

        I believe this was a good plan for MS - own the direction and put their money where their mouth was. Still plenty of work to do - but now I think more people are starting to consider Windows Hardware again. Apple is building a Pro tablet, and OEMs are jumping in too.

         

        • by c ( 8461 )

          But then I realized that none of the MS OEMs were building equipment to compete with Apple.

          Sony was maybe closest with the VAIO series. But look what happened there.

          Microsoft can afford to lose money (or at least not profit) on hardware. MS OEM's can't.

          A higher end Windows device is competing against all other Windows devices at all kinds of price points, while Apple devices are almost competing in a whole other market. And not enough people were willing to buy high end Winstuff over cheaper models to make

          • True - but MS is trying to change this. Move up into the BWM market and offer that Premium experience. If they don't - Apple will own it. Dell had that failed premium laptop named after (for/appeal to?) a woman - cool form-factor but low-end specs for the price.

            That said - regular folks still need a computer. Will they buy an iPad or a Windows thingy? Fighting for Mindshare - MS wants "you" to by a Windows thingy.

            I think the phablet will win out in the mid-to-lower end. People need a phone and a comp

      • Microsoft has chosen this hill to die on; so be it!

        • Microsoft has chosen this hill to die on; so be it!

          die on? so far their surface offerings are performing massively well, so well that google and apple have been copying what they are doing. the sp4 looks like an exceptionally well built high specced machine, most of the execs where I work have replaced their ipads for surfaces and while the phones I think are still dead the surfaces are doing gang busters in enterprises as they are light, powerful and allow people to actually do real work rather than just consume media.

      • Of course this is a *problem* for MS, this is causing their partners to be at least somewhat concerned. I think getting dug in too hard into hardware is a mistake for MS. They overwhelmed Apple with partners to win in the past, trying to beat apple at their own game seems perilous.

        It was a necessary thing. The oem's had shown complete unwillingness to compete on the high end with Apple and instead were ceding that market in exchange for fighting for the basement low cost high volume offerings. The high end offerings they were coming up with were while quite often performant were uninspiring.

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:51AM (#50670807) Journal

    I wonder what form factor you could squeeze out of keyboard/battery/lcd that you would plug your phone into?

  • ... and here I thought Microsoft was actually smart for once and have tie-ins with the sci-fi show [imdb.com]

    I guess Apple had a bigger influence on product placement.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought the Hololens has great potential but Microsoft kind of went the wrong direction in its demo. I get first person shooter is a great demo for 3D reality. But the fact this is a $3000 device aimed at business seems a bit childish to show its abilities playing a game. Besides that you could tell the guy had to kind of react slow which was also not natural. Otherwise I thought Microsoft impressed the best it has so far in selling Windows 10. Still most of what they talked about is in higher end and new

  • Surface book, i7, 512gigs :)
  • It's my favorite SyFy show.

  • Microsoft also demo'd the Surface 4. Its improved screen is 12.3" at 2160x1440, for a pixel density of 267 PPI.

    That part of the Ars Technica article isn't written very clearly:

    what was a 12-inch 2160x1440 screen is now 12.3 inches with a 267PPI display.

    In other words, the Surface Pro 3 had a 12" 2160x1440 screen. The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3" 2736x1824 screen that's 267 PPI. I had been waiting for an ARM-based high-resolution 12-13" tablet for my piano sheet music collection. But I may just end up gr

  • Looking at the specs I can't see why anyone would buy the Surface Pro 4 over the Surface Book...
    • Price? The entry level Surface Book (i5 / 8GB / 128GB) is $1499. The entry level Surface Pro 4 (m3 / 4GB / 128GB) is $899. Or for the same $1499 as the entry level you can get the i5, but with 16GB of memory and a 256GB SSD instead.

      Weight? The Book is 3.48#. The Pro 4 is 1.73# (or 2.36# with the cover).

      Size? The Book is 0.51" thick (0.91" with the keyboard). The Pro 4 is 0.33" (0.52" with the cover).

      In other words, matter of preferences and priorities, like anything else.

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