Autumn is the season for new gadgets. Apple recently announced its latest iPhones, Amazon showcased new smart speakers and even an Alexa-activated microwave, and Google is hosting its own product launch event next week.
But on Tuesday it’s all about Microsoft, which revealed a slew of devices ahead of the holiday shopping season. His collection includes a new version of the desktop computer, called the Surface Studio 2, and the first pair of smart headphones. It also announced the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2.
The first Surface Desktop, an iMac competitor focused on creativity, was introduced in October 2016. Its successor, the Surface Studio 2, offers improved graphics performance and Microsoft says is the fastest Surface ever. It has a 28-inch screen and USB-C support. It’s available for pre-order on Tuesday starting at $3,499.
Surface Headphones ($349) offer adjustable noise cancellation and auto pause and play, which will stop the video you’re watching when you remove it. Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is integrated and can read emails out loud or start a conference call. Surface Headphones will be available later this year.
Meanwhile, Microsoft says the Surface Pro 6 is 67% faster than its predecessor but with the same battery life (up to 13.5 hours). Microsoft also says it’s easy to switch between laptop, studio, and tablet mode. It comes in black and platinum and starts at $899.
The original Surface Pro was marketed in 2012 as a tablet. It kind of looked like an iPad, but with the addition of a keyboard cover. Microsoft (MSFT) has since switched to a touchscreen laptop. This 2-in-1 format is aimed at people like doctors, pilots, and students who need tablets for taking notes or reading, but a laptop for full functionality.
The Surface Laptop 2 (starting at $999) comes with faster, quieter typing and up to 14.5 hours of battery life, according to Microsoft. It’s 85% faster than its predecessor, and the Surface Laptop 2 comes in a new color (black), in addition to existing options: burgundy, platinum, and blue.
“More and more, devices are permeating your whole life. “We build these things to appeal to your work and your personal life,” Youssef Mahdi, Microsoft’s vice president for Modern Life and Devices, told CNN.
The company also unveiled the next generation of Windows software – called Windows 10 October 2018 Update – which focuses on productivity. For example, Your Phone app brings text and photos from your Android phone to your PC. (Apple allows such integration for its iMessage service.) You can also integrate your to-do list with Outlook.com, and drag an item into an open slot on your calendar to block time to finish it.
According to Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at research firm Forrester, Microsoft’s main audience for these new devices are enterprise business professionals. Ahead of Tuesday’s event, he noted that Microsoft has invested heavily in productivity elements including Timeline, which lets you go back to where you left off at files and locations, and Focus Assistant, a feature that limits distractions like notifications.
“There is a sense that Microsoft is trying to compete with Apple on the creative front, with new photo and movie editing capabilities,” Hewitt said. “But the other features are more in line with Microsoft’s mission to empower employees to be productive.”