Surface area

Yesterday Microsoft took their turn to introduce Cool Stuff. They had quite a lot of it too (if not quite enough to motivate the full duration of the presentation). Reinventing the Powermate was just a side thing, and a nice looking one too.

My favorite thing, both in terms of immediate impression as well as feeling like a pointer to the future, was Paint 3D and everything around it. They created 3D models by scanning objects using a phone app. They put the models into Paint, drew 2D things around them, moved things around as if building a little stage, turned 2D drawings into 3D and a whole lot more. They brought in a Hololens and placed the 3D model next to the real object. Then they walked over to a VR world and used the model there too. I am not sure where that will all go, but the sheer playfulness was amazing and Microsoft clearly want to extend the use of 3D into everything they can think of. What they presented already felt polished, finished and immensely fun in itself, but it also gave that feeling of even more exciting extensions being right around the corner, outlines of ideas just waiting to be filled in (and turned 3D, I suppose).

All the hardware was really cool too, but the effect of it remains to be seen. The extra-expensive Surface book with a lot more power and battery: who is that really for? They talked about performance and so on, but if you want and need that kind of power do you not also want it in a form factor where it is able to stretch its legs? Or perhaps more important: if you want that power and use it, do you really want to spend the extra money for that form factor? I would guess that Microsoft has a better idea of what their customers want than I do, perhaps this will be a huge seller. Of course there are people who will take all the power you can give them, I just wonder how many there are.

I feel something very similar about the Surface studio. It looks amazing, I would love to have one. No problems there. But how many do they expect to sell? How much support will all its special features get in software and how many of the people who do buy it will use those features? I do not think Microsoft expect to sell it in droves, I think it is more of a halo product - one that pushes things forward, tries new things, builds a great impression of the company and has features which will trickle down to other products over time. Brent Simmons had a very interesting thought: what if the Surface studio becomes the computer for creative people (people who make things in his words)? Mac (and IOS) developers create apps for creative people. What if the creative people become associated with cool Microsoft hardware? That could be a really interesting slide. I think it will take more than this once machine to make that happen, but you do not need your halo products to sell in droves in order to start a flow like that.

Tonight, it is Apple's turn. I have high hopes, but no expectations of things quite as far out as this. A seriously revitalized line of Macs could go very far though.