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Microsoft Surface Studio (theverge.com)
599 points by 1st1 on Oct 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 552 comments

That looks pretty awesome, and it makes the iMac seem even more tired which I assume was intended. It is startling to have a story about IBM extolling the virtues of Macbooks for business and Microsoft launching a platform targeting designers, it really is amazing. But setting all of that aside for a moment....

The screen. Clearly that is the thing which makes this announcement. For me, the 3:2 aspect ratio is so more reasonable for computers than 16:9. And having a zillion pixels is wonderful although my CAD package (TurboCAD) still doesn't deal well with the high DPI screen off the Surface Book, I'm sure it would look silly on this machine.

My experience with the Surface Book tells me that the PixelSense technology is really great for drawing. I have both it and the iPad Pro and not too surprising, at twice the cost, in my opinion the Surface Book's drawing experience is better than the iPad's. I base that opinion on precision of the drawing, expressiveness, and the response time.

Touch. Microsoft is really doubling down on the whole touching thing and so far Apple has stayed away from it with its compute platforms. That is both a strength and a weakness. The rest of the ecosystem doesn't always understand what to do, so you get controls that are too small to use your finger on sometimes, and odd sort of multi-monitor experiences where things appear on one screen and then when you resize them they jump to the other and try to adjust for "touchiness".

If the tools people can get their act together, and by that I mean the designer tools (I for one would love to see a schematic capture and board layout system that was touch enabled and pen enabled) then I think it is only good news for Microsoft, if they can't, then Apple will look really smart at not adopting a "gimmick".

Either way these things are hugely fun to use and play with.

"The screen. Clearly that is the thing which makes this announcement. For me, the 3:2 aspect ratio is so more reasonable for computers than 16:9. And having a zillion pixels is wonderful although my CAD package (TurboCAD) still doesn't deal well with the high DPI screen off the Surface Book, I'm sure it would look silly on this machine."

It may interest you to know that there is a reasonably priced 1:1 aspect ratio monitor available for purchase on amazon:

EIZO FlexScan EV2730QFX 26.5" Square IPS Monitor 1920x1920 (EV2730QFX-BK)

I bought one to tinker with.

That is pretty cool. Oddly enough something I've been thinking about would be a high dpi "ribbon" screen, something that is perhaps 14 - 16" wide by 3 - 4" tall. To sit just behind my nice mechanical keyboard. That screen would have application specific tool bars with large icons and easy to tweak controls (sliders, buttons, etc). That would allow me to give over my "big" display to the project workspace, whether it was a circuit, MCAD design, or illustration. The "special sauce" being that I could render to it as a screen and it would have multi-touch capable gestures for the controls.

I prototyped some of that with a mimo 10" touchscreen[1] but in my vision touching a control on the 'ribbon' screen doesn't steal the mouse pointer :-). I've been playing lately with some ST Micro 32 bit parts that can drive a display and use BT LE to communicate back to the PC. It may be possible to "download" control panels to the screen and then get the feedback through a BTLE handler rather than trying so somehow hook the event handler of a standard App and have it take control selection events from this screen/non-screen entity.

So if you find a long and narrow high DPI screen, DVI, MPI, or even VGA driven would be ok. And a capacitive touch layer, I'd love to get one of those to play with.

[1] https://www.mimomonitors.com/collections/10-inch-monitors

These exist and they are called "bar type displays" and are usually used for gate information in train terminals.

NEC has a fairly inexpensive one that you can buy on amazon for $675[1]:

Nec Display Multisync X431bt Digital Signage Display

... however the resolution is relatively low - 1920x480

There are others that are in the 4k range but I can't find the link right now ...

[1] http://www.necdisplay.com/p/large-screen-displays/x431bt?typ...

That NEC display is nearly 4 feet long. I am thinking the same width as a full size keyboard so on the order of 15 - 18". 1920 x 480 would be ok for a display that was 18" wide and 4" tall. Although I'd prefer it be 3450 x 768 (192 dpi)

Not sure if you'll make it back to this thread, but I found the other (much more interesting) manufacturer of bar-type displays:

LiteMax and their spanpixel line of panels:


I see smaller (15 and 19 inch) displays as well as the "smart shelf" displays.

Here is a 3840x536 display @ 43.5", which is the one I am interested in:


The Spanpixel ones are exactly what I was looking for! Now to try and figure out how to get them, I see that Avnet is a rep for them so perhaps they will be able to help me out.

They don't look cheap ...

Glad I could help :)

Sure, but if you can make a prototype and develop a kickstarter that goes way over its funding goal, then you can either negotiate a better price, or other manufacturers will come out of the woodwork to serve you because there is a huge overcapacity glut on LCD glass.

Also, not sure if you saw this (I didn't, at first) ... if you look at the top text on:


it appears that they are cutting up existing LCD panels up to make these screens ...

The new MacBook Pro has something similar to this, except it looks like it's less than 1 inch tall:


Or even better yet, build it into the keyboard as a set of forward-facing LCD buttons!

$1K is still a bit painful to be able to place 8 of them, grouped in 2 2x2's with a camera in the middle.

It's still an order of magnitude less than doing that with 2048x2048 ATC displays...

Maybe we could do a Kickstarter or something to make a batch of 1920x1920 screens. Maybe we can even start a fashion - square is the new widescreen.

Why not just tape over the sides of a normal monitor?

~33% more expensive than an Eizo FlexScan that has the same amount of pixels in 16:9. Not really unreasonable, I agree, but still painful.

It's square!

Do you know what 1:1 ratio monitors (almost exclusively used for air traffic control) cost ? I think $8-10k IIRC ?

Yes, I know that all alternatives are a lot more expensive. On the other hand, you could buy a 34" 4k screen and tape over the sides to get it to 1:1 for a similar price ;)

(really, I'm only slightly annoyed because I'd love to have a bunch of those on the walls as picture frames, but can't afford it)

ATC here, our Tech Ops people say 20k. They are 2048x2048.

1:1 is commonly used in medical imagery and other industrial applications, and for their sales numbers probably not a whole lot else. That's likely why the price is higher. Take a look here and notice the high count of 1:1 displays: http://www.necdisplay.com/category/medical-diagnostic-displa...

Medical displays are 5:4 or 4:3 as standard (ISO 9241 and 130something) they aren't 1:1.

I'm glad someone brought up the aspect ratio. That display looks so much more productive than 16:9.

As a side note, I've actually never understood why the industry converged on 16:9. It's pretty much only good for watching movies. I really miss 4:3.

Here's to hoping HN has a resident SMPTE and/or display industry gray beard or two who could chime in with historical lore.

I think the TV's CRT to LCD conversion created massive economy of scale, so using 16:9 was way cheaper.

4:3 only useful for single-task, one app per screen. Most of my tasks opening 2 apps side-by-side. Wider would be better. 16:10 is the best.

I had to make this very choice for my new workstation this summer and I went with 40" 16:9 4K (Dell 4317PQ iirc) because I wanted the vertical space. It's "retina" when sitting about 80cm away which is fine for that size, and I can have 3 apps side-by-side no problem (usually terminals + some IDE in my case). I love this display. I think the way forward is to break the ratio limitations, all of them, by moving towards gigantic dispays.

Movies and later games.

Monitors were always 16:10 or 5:4 to allow for a task bar.

Then LCD makers didn't want to make separate panels and console gaming as well as later on streaming solidified the 16:9 home entertainment AR as the defacto standard for computer monitors.

> For me, the 3:2 aspect ratio is so more reasonable for computers than 16:9

I love the 1400*1050 screen on my old T61 and I wish there would be still notebooks with this aspect ratio.

$2,999 and the best GPU option is a last-gen mobile card? The default 965M is a crappy budget card (half the performance of the 980M), and if you want the 980M you have to pick the $4,199 configuration.

And hybrid drives!? This thing starts at $2,199 and you can't even get a full SSD? I know 2D designers probably won't mind the GPU, but they could definitely benefit from a true SSD.

Hell, the recently announced Razer Blade Pro has top of the line everything (including a desktop GTX 1080 GPU, 1TB SSD, and 4K screen suitable for photo/video editing) and it still costs less than the 980M Surface Studio: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/razer-blade-pro-laptop/

I must be missing the value proposition here because that price seems absurd, especially for a computer presumably geared towards professionals.

The value proposition is the responsive touch-screen.

The closest responsive touch screen you can buy today is a 27" Wacom Cintiq, which is $2,299 without a computer, and both lower-resolution (2560x1440 vs 4500x3000) and smaller (27" vs 28") than the Surface Studio.

So if you assume that about $2,300 of the device's costs go to the display and touch screen, you're paying ~$700 for the actual machine driving that display, which isn't a great value, but isn't bad at all.

A terrible value for people who aren't interested in the display, but not bad for people who are.

> "you're paying ~$700 for the actual machine driving that display"

~$700 gets you a pretty basic computer with 965m, you can build a desktop with gtx 1070 for 700$ to power a wacom display. And you will be able to upgrade it in the future, with Studio you are stuck with a 965m for $3000. And if you are getting a 980m for $4200 that leaves you with a $1900 to build a computer for Wacom, which can be way more powerful than 980m...

I think Microsoft should have sell that monitor by itself, but I guess this way they could not shovel win10 updates down your throat so it is not a good option for them...

So (449) dollar graphics card, the 1070 + (200) dollar cpu + Case (100) + memory (150) + psupply (70) + mobo (150) + hdd/ssd (150) + Wacom cintiq with Digitizer which is what 2500? + an sRGB monitor at 4k 800?

= 4-5000, with a shitty box and shitty experience and you get none of the engineering that went into the product.

Plz continue dreaming up dev boxes that only devs could love. Feel free to throw in some glowing cold cathode lights, too.

Wacom Cintiq 27QHD 27": $2300 [1]

Core i7 PC with Gtx 1080: ~$1750 [2]

= $4050 for a much more powerful machine and $150 cheaper + upgradable

[1] - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=1113...

[2] - https://pcpartpicker.com/b/f2qkcf

That monitor is just under 3.69 billion pixels compared to 13.5 billion on the Surface Studio. It doesn't include the dial interface, the real-life scaling, the pivot mechanism, the color profiles, a lot more. It's probably the closest you can get, but not in the same league.

Just noticed I said billion, meant million. Looking forward to VR displays with that kind of resolution though.

> Looking forward to VR displays with that kind of resolution though.

In before Google releases the "Google Cardboard Surface Studio edition" xD

I agree, that's why Microsoft had to sell this monitor on its own, without that PC attached.

Also I did not see any mention of pressure sensitivity on that Studio panel, if it does not have it - it's a major point to still choose Wacom.

The Wacom has the pressure level advantage: 2048 vs 1024 levels on the Surface. But with well-calibrated software, it should be enough. I'm not sure if people can discern 2048 levels of pressure, and I'm sure this device was tested on a lot of artists. Can't comment from experience but I would think the delay would be a bigger issue than levels (MS say they optimized for delay.)

That is a number beyond meaning for feedback to humans, like arguing for a 3000dpi screen vs a 6000dpi screen, they're both far beyond human levels of perception. From my experience of trying to eek out every variation in pressure with a wacom, 32 levels is enough. I'm not able to create 64 levels of varing pressure strokes, let alone 1024.

(It's "eke". Unless you've just seen a big spider!)

> Wacom Cintiq 27QHD 27": $2300 [1]

This is non touch version. Pen + Touch is $2800 which is a better comparison. That Cintiq is 2560x1440 compared to 4500x3000 in Surface Studio.

and here is what someone who actually used both thinks about it:

"Tycho asked me to compare it to my Cintiq, and I told him that drawing on the Cintiq now felt like drawing on a piece of dirty plexiglass hovering over a CRT monitor from 1997"


> "engineering that went into a product"?

I have no idea what do you mean - I've been assembling my own workstation for last 20 years now thank you there is no magic involved in building a nice system. And I don't enjoy glow lights in my case. If you think people will buy 4k$ system just for looks you have to be kidding me.

The form and function aren't replicable. When you work on a cintiq, the cintiq is on your table and you often have to keep looking up and down at the screen on your monitor. It's not the optimal way to work. The engineering is in the hinge and the form factor. You're not the target market if you want a beastly computer that can run a bunch of games. It's the same people who use a cintiq and an iMac that they're targeting. It's not just looks. It's having the thinnest panel with high color accuracy. It's having novel interaction paradigms with a dial. This isn't a desktop built for someone who builds their own computers. It's for the person who uses illustrator and photoshop daily and works on an iMac and a cintiq.

>The form and function aren't replicable. When you work on a cintiq, the cintiq is on your table and you often have to keep looking up and down at the screen on your monitor. It's not the optimal way to work

I'm kind of confused here. You specifically don't have to look at your (other) monitor when using the cintiq, because the cintiq is also a monitor.

I can buy a cintiq for my workstation - hell I would love to buy the screen from this separately.

Funny, really interesting why i got downvoted - cintiq tablets/monitors were sold separately unless something changed recently.

I think he means putting it in a mobile platform that is hidden behind a gorgeous display. Of course you can build your own for cheaper, but by the time your done sintering aluminum parts and building a custom mainboard to fit the housing, I'm sure yours would be more than $700

I agree that Microsoft should sell the monitor by itself, or at least allow an eGPU accessory, but it seems they're going to 'Apple route' where they fully control hardware and software.

At least on mac you can install Windows, OSx or Linux, with this machine you are stuck with Win10 or Linux

> with this machine

Isn't that also true for pretty much every computer except Apple's?

If the pc components happen to be compatible (current or previously used components in Apple hardware), it's possible to install OSX/macOS on it, hackintosh style[1].


I've never had a good experience trying to install Linux on a Mac. Maybe it's better these days.

Unless something has changed, it's annoying as hell to actually install Linux or Windows over the entire hard drive. They want some specific bits at the front of the hard drive.

That's thanks to Windows and Linux being designed for portability, rather than any engineering feat by Apple.

> you can build a desktop with gtx 1070 for 700$

I'm not familiar with latest prices in the US but I would say $700 gets you more something like an i5 + GTX1060 (and it has a much larger form-factor and you have to build it yourself, so probably it's not a fair comparison), but yeah the 1060 or even the new (and cheap) 1050 are still much better than the 965m

EDIT: NewEgg has this one that is prebuilt, 1060+i5, but it's a bit more than $700 (normal price $829, now on sale at $749) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883230... so yeah, to get it within a $700 budget you would probably have to self-build.

Does wacom support HDR yet in any Cintiq? For a professional that might be enough to tip them towards this even if otherwise overpriced.

Even if your numbers were right (as others said, $700 is more like i5+1060), I have one word for you: formfactor. The Studio's base is to be compared to the likes of mac mini and intel NUC I think.

As someone owning a full tower I don't think it's wise to cram all that desktop power in a stupidly small box, it's really adding cost and heat for the sake of looking good at the expense of performance, but that's what MS chose to do so comparisons should be kept fair. (I wouldn't buy the Studio for this very reason though, only the display itself).

> I think Microsoft should have sell that monitor by itself, but I guess this way they could not shovel win10 updates down your throat so it is not a good option for them...

I'd buy that monitor.

The easy way to shovel Windows 10 updates would be to make the product only compatible with Windows 10.

I wish the Surface Pro was just the screen hardware that you can plug into a proper desktop.

Have you tried/considered the screen extension feature in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update?

Huh, I never even knew about this. I guess you mean this under the title "How to Mirror Your Windows 10 Screen to Another Windows 10 Device": http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/turn-windows-10-pc-into-wi... I wasn't able to get it working yet, though.

I haven't used it myself (no second Windows 10 PC), but that sounds correct.

I believe it's designed to let you use your Surface as an external monitor with pen/touch support for another Windows 10 PC.

Do you know if MS have improved the stylus? As far as I know surface's pen technology is inferior than Cintiq's pen.

Sadly no, I'm consistently reverting back to my 21ux, the jitter of slow stylus movement drives me nuts on the surface pro 4

Could you elaborate just a bit? I was about to recommend some Surface flavor to a designer friend, I don't know about the jitter you mention.

This video shows it perfectly, while this is an SP3, the SP4 is based on the same tech : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA4iF00YHoA

On slow strokes, you can the tracking between key points looses accuracy as if the signal between points becomes weak.

I have tried everything I can to correct the issue like changing the stylus battery, 100 point calibration and driver updates. I'm pretty much convinced that N-trig just cannot be compared with Wacom (even the iPad Pro does a better job)

However, there are programs (ClipPaint and Mischief are my prime examples) have built-in mouse smoothing which greatly reduces the jitter but means the drawing action lags behind by a second or so.

The Cintiq also isn't HDR and has a different aspect ratio, making the square inch size difference much greater than just a 1 inch diagonal increase would imply.

The fact you're focusing on the hardware specs while completely dismissing the form factor tells me you're not the target market.

Sorry but unless this is a glorified exec office decoration, professionals care about the specs very much, especially at that resolution and price tag

I'm a pro. I'm an experienced programmer, amateur photographer, edit home videos a lot and do a bunch of computationally expensive tasks on my workstation.

Whilst I'd like to have the absolute latest, cutting edge GPU from AMD/NVIDIA I also appreciate that sometimes last gen parts are cheaper, more reliable (having benefitted from refinement over the manufacturing run) and sometimes cooler running than what's new. I use a Mac (for the forseeable) because I'm quite happy to spend quite a bit extra on form and function over just absolute function.

I'm not the only one, just look at Apple's bottom line.

I think what Microsoft are doing here are going after Apple's (previously) target market, the so called pro user. Windows has typically been a value proposition so it will take them time and clearly ruffle the feathers of those who've built their own PCs and put Windows on top (I for one do that on my gaming PC).

This is not a gaming PC. It's aimed at the iMac crowd. Apple's alienating a lot of professionals who value form and function by focusing on purely form and I think props should go to Microsoft for being the only company (as far as I can see) who is not copying Apple and producing some incredibly innovative new form factors in a very staid sector - the pro workstation.

Absolutely - this is an attempt to pick up the creative market that Apple is neglecting.

The problem is that it's not really that big a market. This machine is too expensive for general use, and has the disadvantage of Windows for professional use.

I think a lot of designers are going to be interested enough to look at it, but sales aren't going to be anywhere near iMac volumes.

And sensible people will wait for the inevitable reports of serious flaws. (As I've said before, I have absolutely no confidence that MS can execute competently in the consumer market. I wish that was simple prejudice, but it's actually years of bitter experience.)

> The problem is that it's not really that big a market.

I considered that too, that the market might be too small. Dell tried themselves to crack this market with some exquisite kit a few years back (see my links below). Sadly they canned those products and haven't revisited the market.

Whilst there has always been premium Apple kit, there's never really been premium Windows kit. I really do hope Microsoft persever and don't give up on this segment of the market. The first few years can be painful when pivoting but customers do sometimes reward patience.

> As I've said before, I have absolutely no confidence that MS can execute competently in the consumer market. I wish that was simple prejudice, but it's actually years of bitter experience.

Agreed! But I do recall the 90s when people said the same thing about Apple...

No company stays on top (or bottom) of the pile forever. I for one hope and look forward to Microsoft evolving and changing, as they must.

Dell Crystal monitor: http://www1.la.dell.com/vc/en/corp/peripherals/monitor_22cry...

Dell Adamo notebook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dell_Adamo

The question is are you willing to drop 4k $ for this machine ?

iMac crowd is dropping half of that for a pretty desktop that runs fine - I can see that. I don't see a lot of people buying a 4k$ device because it looks pretty. At that price range I need to be able to use it at least two years down the road and this is already outdated before release. It's just priced waay too high considering how weak the HW is, I would definitely skip this until they do a hardware update.

Something tells me many "pros" feel exactly as you do. I wholeheartedly agree.

I work in an office of graphic designers, and they all have overpowered hardware that they bought thinking they needed the latest and greatest to run Photoshop and Illustrator.

They don't need a breakneck GPU - they need a device like this that gives them new, intuitive input options.

That said, for any kind of 3D development this hardware isn't up to snuff. Anyway, the device seems more targeted at 2D graphic designers.

I'm no graphic professional - but I've just recently started playing at drawing on my i5/8gb Surface pro 4. It's great fun, and there are lots of options.

But trying to draw on an 1200 dpi A3 canvas (unsurprisingly) doesn't really work very well. But if I were to use it professionally, some of the things I'd want to do was draw high resolution A2 to A0 prints.

I've yet to play much with photoshop, so I'm not sure how well it handles a modest 20 megapixel image.

I'm playing with drawing too on my Surface pro 2 and from my experience the program used for drawing seems to make a lot of difference. So it's worth experimenting a bit.

For me using Clip Studio Paint seems best so far, as it has dedicated tablet mode UI and is responsive enough, thought 1200 dpi A3 will might be too much for it at times.

They do need high end hardware. They just have much better use for 128GB of RAM than for a GTX 1080.

It's misplaced priorities due to lack of knowledge, not that they don't benefit from high-end hardware.

Agree 100% there are thousands of offices out there with photoshop monkeys making web pages, signs, adverts, car wraps, promotional material, etc etc all of who would love to have one of these. All those ageing iMacs need to replaced soon.

With 3-4k$ devices ? You can get two iMacs for that.

Not with the same configuration you can't. An iMac comparable to the top of the line Surface Studio is 3399 vs 4199 for the Surface Studio. If we go for the 2999 Surface Studio, the comparable iMac is 2549.

So, yes, you can get two, even three iMacs for the price of a Surface Studio, but the specs will be nowhere near the same between the two.

Yes - and my point is that people running iMac truly don't care about the specs.

I've said this in this tread before - you don't dump 4k$ on a desktop for mobile performance - when you spend that kind of cash you probably really need a high end workstation - think of the mac pro use case - and this device doesn't cut it as that.

> professionals care about the specs very much, especially at that resolution and price tag

I did graphic work for many years and have worked with dozens of designers. None of them have ever been worried about specs. In fact the only person who even asked about them wanted a high end laptop so he could play video games on it at home.

I am unconvinced designers care about specs unless they're working on something specific that requires very high performance (which the majority would NOT be doing).

I also worked as a designer and with designers, and the ones shelling out 4k$ on a work machine definitely do care about the specs. Basically this is in Mac Pro territory, not iMac/MacBook territory.

I think it should be obvious that "designer" means nothing, from a web guy doing basic 2D stuff to a CAD engineer in need of GPGPU passing by a video editor on CUDA, there are at least 3 entirely different needs/use-cases. Probably more as you try to cookie-cut cost/function.

> professionals care about the specs very much

Says everyone that is still paying full price for a 3 year old MacBook Pro....

At least that has an SSD (and a decent speed one at that). Seriously a 3yo Intel chip makes a much less difference than a good SSD.

They should have jumped ship from Apple by now. What design programs are there that require osx? They can build a much better computer for the money. Isn't that why Apple stopped?

SketchApp (https://www.sketchapp.com/) is being used a lot more than Photoshop / Illustrator for drafting wireframes and quick visual designs for web + mobile designs.

Not to say that Photoshop / Illustrator aren't being used. Sketch is also more beginner friendly.

Interesting. Thank you. The comments on this article are http://hackingui.com/sketch-design/a-year-using-sketch/ good to see the prevalance of the tools. I didn't know anything outside adobe was considered good.

New MacBook Pro will be coming out tomorrow.

Correct me if I'm wrong?

All the designers I know on their MBP 13-inch/15-inch, without dGPUs will surely agree with these statements about needing the latest dGPU.

You don't need a desktop for that kind of work in the first place, a laptop is way more convenient, you're probably going to want one even if you get this, and at that point you can just plug it in to a high end monitor for half the price of this. Hell you can buy a top of the line laptop with better specs for the other half.

Doing video editing, 3D at that resolution, VR, etc. are the kind of workloads you need a desktop machine for - this doesn't cut it.

Mmmh, so I wonder why I know people with iMacs? This is precisely targeted at the cintiq + iMac market. The dGPU on this is roughly equivalent to the iMac.

iMacs are half the price of this ? This costs the same as high end laptop and a high end monitor combined. For the pricing this would need to compete with Mac Pro not iMac

an iMac needs a cintiq to replicate this functionality. You're looking at 2.5k more and now you have a clunky thing plus a monitor.

You're missing my point - he asks why he sees so many people with iMac - it's because the iMac is in a completely different price segment - iMac is just a pretty desktop, with a slightly higher price tag.

This is in the price range of Mac Pro, you need to justify spending 3 or 4k $ on this machine - and it doesn't cover the Mac Pro use case at all. For the price of this machine you can buy a high end laptop that beats this on specs and utility (because it's portable) and a high end screen.

I mean I like the device and the screen - but no way in hell am I paying 4k$ for something that's outdated out of the factory - maybe on the next update.

iMacs with a Cintiq certanly ARE NOT half the price of this. The Cintiq itself is very expensive.

Incorrect. You do not at all need the latest and greatest gaming GPUs to run the latest and greatest graphic software package at top-notch performance.


"I am intimately familiar with how it feels to create things on these sorts of devices and the Studio honestly feels like a generational leap forward. If you are a digital artist and you are currently working on a Cintiq you have to go to a MS store and look at the Studio. I’ve always given you my honest take on this stuff and this time is no different even though I can’t think of anything bad to say. If you draw on computers the Surface Studio is something very special."

Hybrid drives are a good call for professional graphic designers and video editors. I have moved my video editing efforts to hybrid drives because of price/space ratios while maintaining performance.

Pure SSDs only shine for gaming and compiling, and much more for the former than the later.

A machine where you're constantly shuffling for space is no fun.

Pure SSD's have come down in price so much that it's irresponsible to spec out a computer for professional use without one.

The SSD impacts every single aspect of computer performance - from startup times, to application start times, to swap space speed, to reducing times when the computer is locked up loading from disk.

And these days, a 1 TB SSD can be had for around $300 USD - at which point, there is no obvious need for shuffling for space. Of course, if you are needing the 3 TB drives for video editing, that's fine. The surface studio specs say 1TB or 2TB - so even at such a high price, I find it really disappointing that it's not offering the 1 TB SSD (which is probably the first aftermarket change I would make if I bought one). For many 3D graphics pros, you would run the OS on a 512G SSD, and load the assets onto a larger 3TB hybrid drive or even better, a 10TB RAID array, for example, but you can't discount how much performance that SSD drive brings just for loading the OS and the software (Maya, or Adobe suite, etc)

Face it - any new machine today without an ssd is one where the manufacture is trying to claw back some profit.

Just for a note, those 1TB cheap SSDs are not very good or very compact SSDs. The new ones we associate with such stellar performance are still more expensive.

This device has some pretty intense performance requirements for the form factor. Could we wait a bit for some hands-on with reviewers before saying MS botched it?

If you look at the form factor, the hybrid drive is most likely a 2.5 inch drive. As far as I know there are no hybrid drives in the compact ssd size (either m.2 or msata format - the spinning platter wouldn't even fit). Just by listing that it uses a hybrid drive, they are already revealing what the form factor is - which is larger than a m.2 slot, and therefore competes head to head with the last gen 2.5 inch SSD with the SATA connector - which at 1TB is around 300 bucks these days.

And yes the SSD's are not as fast as the latest m.2 drives, but are still miles ahead of any spinning drive. I'm not really sure what you are trying to say ... like a Ferrari is faster than a Tesla in Ludicrous mode, so ... go for an electric hybrid like a Toyota Prius? I know that the car analogy doesn't always work, but can you think about your reasoning? That a true M.2 SSD (which can be thousands of dollars) is faster than a last gen 1TB SSD in the 2.5 inch form factor, so therefore MS should use a spinning hybrid drive???

You can wait for a teardown, or you can use logic and common sense.

The only other choice is for MS to use a non standard size spinning platter, maybe around the old Compact Flash drive size - but in that case, there is absolutely no point - they should have just gone straight to M.2, especially for something in that form factor.

To be honest, current generation hybrid drives pair up a really slow 5400 rpm drive with some flash. Now it can still get good performance, but in the end, you're dealing with a hard drive from a few generations ago. Seagate had 7200rpm hybrid drives last generation, but they recently changed to 5400 rpm drives, which makes the drive kinda slow, even with the flash addition.

Microsoft may certainly have gone custom with custom parts, but I don't think they have the volume, even in the wildest expectations, to go against the now popular ssd juggernaunt that is overtaking all of the slim laptop (Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Razer, etc), small form factor embedded pc, and high performance pc space - for good reason. It just makes sense, the parts are really widely available, and people are expecting that type of performance.

Are they using 2.5gb drives? I know they make very small spinning drives now for custom gear.

Think about it - 1 or 2 TB hybrid drive ? Do you think very small spinning drives come in that size? and would they pay for custom gear vs just going with an SSD (which can also be custom sized too don't forget)?

Microsoft has a lot of money, but I'm not sure that's where they should spend their money. An SSD in m.2 size is expensive, but less expensive than getting all custom gear.

This is about thinking things through ....

The logical thing is to have a 512G M.2 nvme paired up with a 2TB regular spinning drive (at 2.5") and calling it a day.

That's I would go with for a deluxe, small form factor, graphics pro oriented machine. That's the sweet spot. And it's really easy to build with off the shelf parts like the Intel NUC as a base.

... But that's precisely what a hybrid drive can be, except with more work to make it so the user doesn't have to juggle things by hand...

I am no longer a professional (as in, primary income) photographer, but I was and trying to keep all my work on the "right" drive was about as fun as weddings.

Btw sorry I said 2.5gb but that was mobile correcting 2.5in.

And what I'm trying to say is that SSD's are so cheap now that for the lower spec (1TB) of the surface studio, you no longer need to juggle space in order to far exceed the performance of a hybrid drive, even with a last gen SSD. SSD of any modern kind >> hybrid drive in performance.

I'm not arguing for abstract systems, but for that specific build that Microsoft has put together - in that form factor, a hybrid drive takes up too much space and they are not offering 3TB+ versions where the hybrid drive would excel.

I'm criticizing that specific assembly of parts.

I don't get how you're privy to what components MS has available. I think you assume ANYTHING in that machine is a stock PC part off the shelf.

It's not. It's really not. There is no damn room.

It's the same with the MBA, it's the same with the Surface 4 and Surface. Hell, it's the same with every all-in-one now.

I'm trying to take you seriously here but you keep repeating this line that makes it sound like you have some deep and clever insight into a machine the press has barely touched, let alone teardown specialists. You're mad because it's not a full SSD on principle but you have no idea what the hot set size of the hybrid is. You've got a bone to pick with performance but Surface devices have always been forced to use custom configurations of hardware (e.g., every Surface Book has an unusual configuration of their video card that gives substantially better performance).

I think you're arguing based on theoretical specs and without knowing the domain. Unless you're an ex-Surface engineer with special insight, I don't see why anyone here should trust you about this given how you insist this is all stock parts and it's trivially verifiable that that's not the case.

A not very good SSD is going to be better than an SSHD.

Hybrid drives are noticably slower than SSD for a lot of use cases. It's like saying a USB2 part is good enough when USB3 is pervasive, expected, and not that much pricier.

SSDs (and preferably PCIe or NVMe) should be table stakes at a $2k price.

It'd not though because the price per GB is still pretty big.

A lot of people here are talking as if they've actually tested these hybrid drives and found them wanting. Hybrid drives have an SSD-like component so as long as your working set fits in those and is relatively predictable, the performance difference is not noticeable.

SSDs have a definite positive performance impact for editing photos, especially when using programs such as Lightroom that also manage photo libraries/databases

Actually Lightroom works well with hybrid drives. You're using going to be building 1:1 previews anyway on a fast scratch drive and RAWs on a cheap storage option. Any RAWs you're working with will be in ram anyway.

Develop mode definitely hits your raws. I just switched from SSD(1)-boot/SSD(2)-cache/HDD(1)-raws to full SSD and the difference was substantial.

This looks like an amazing experience, I'm just worried about performance in my workflow. That said, the future is bright.

I find pure SSDs much better than hybrid drives for photo editing. I don't think I would use a hybrid drive for any purpose now.

Try setting up a RAM disk as scratch. Scratch is where most of your I/O goes when editing, and an SSD can't touch a RAM disk for performance. PS (if that's what you're using) doesn't make much use of RAM above 8GB - it prefers scratch space at that point - so if you partition anything above that off for use as a "disk" you get a huge performance boost.

Having glanced at recent hw prices - for a desktop/workstation I'd say a reasonable baseline for new equipment for professional use would be 128gb ram, 1tb ssd and maybe a 10 tb 3.5 inch HD, if more space is needed (or a smaller drive, but the recent seagate offering looks pretty good value - even if you pay the customary ~2x/gb price [ed: for getting the largest capacity/newest drive on market] compared to a ~4tb drive):


Count audio as another environment where the hybrid drives make sense when paired with a suitable RAM amount. Nobody wants hiccups...but with the right USB 3.0 soundcard, RAM, and DAW, the output WAV files will stack up. Sure, uploading to cloud or network storage helps, but for general utility the hybrid scratches both performance and space itches.

You're getting downvoted by zealots who are angry Apple still doesn't have (and won't anytime soon) a beautiful touch screen.

Hybrids are totally fine in a great majority of use cases. For this price I agree you might as well have thrown one in, but still, performance difference will be neglible.

As a dev I run an ssd because ides are shitty bloated awful pieces of crap (all of them tbh) they don't know how to run in memory and always spend time on file io.

If you think professional graphics and 3d editing software aren't as bloated and shitty as IDE's then you are mistaken.

Adobe CS suite ... that's a load of hot steaming garbage when you try to load it up.

They are one of the really bad culprits causing designers and graphics pro's to need fast SSD's.

Think having multiple copes of IntelliJ IDEA AND Eclipse running at the same time, and being saddled with poorly optimized code paths. (Because designers often need to run Photoshop and Illustrator, and sometimes Premiere as well for example, simultaneously)

In fact, I think photoshop on a code quality level (loading, optimizations) is worse than Eclipse by a factor of 2. Designers have been getting around this by throwing brute force processing power, gpu, and SSD's at it.

The image processing algorithms are top notch, that's why people buy it - but everything around it ... the ui, widgets, update framework, a ton of it is creaking old and really poorly maintained.

and not just the form factor, the dial is just amazing. I am really curious how developers will exploit its functionality.


> I must be missing the value proposition here

The screen.

Then sell the screen itself.

Why chain it to mediocre, non-upgradeable hardware?

Because user experience. Simply selling a screen that can move like this one with the proper touch inputs is going to require multiple drivers to make it behave correctly. Selling the screen by itself and now you have this issue of supporting all sorts of hardware (and you just KNOW someone is going to buy it and try using it with their Windows XP machine).

Tying it to the computer allows them to control the entire user experience including adding specialized software to take advantage of such an interesting screen. There is a reason Apple owns the full stack and why Microsoft and Google are trying to get into that space: it offers the best UX and ROI.

I guess because when you inevitably go to upgrade the hardware in a couple years, you'll have to buy a new screen, too.

Works for Apple. Seems to be working so far for the "Smart TV" market.

I don't get it myself, but then I have not owned a completely "new" desktop in over 15 years, even though my desktop PC is full of modern components (and I'm fairly sure at this point, not a single piece that was in the original is left, including the case).

I'm not the type of person who thinks "Hm, I need more disk space. Guess I better throw out my PC, monitor and keyboard and buy a completely new system." but I think this is aimed at the segment of the market that thinks that way, or at least is willing to in order to get the new input/interaction features.

This is actually targeting illustrators and people who typically work with large wacoms (cintiq). The true display 1:1 ratio is amazing for checking designs for letterheads, business cards, etc. The process typically involves printing it out and doing side by side comparisons.

They probably went with the hybrid storage since PSD / illustration files take up an enormous amount of space. Unfortunately there's no such thing as git for design. The SSD would be appreciated, but once Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator is opened, SSD makes little difference.

From a feature aspect the surface dial seems pretty amazing. Ill be interested in trying it out at the store. The ability to go from desktop to working directly on it is also incredible. Cintiqs take up a lot of space...

Perhaps because this machine is basically a very big platform for professional input methods. If you have no need of a stylus and a large working space for media with flexible positioning factor...

Then you're not the target market.

What's more, when we're talking about the professional space it's like... it's quite normal to NOT have hyper-upgradable boxes with cutting edge hardware that isn't well supported by the current crop of editing tools. Cutting edge hardware is the product of Dentists and Software Engineers who fancy themselves a member of that space even though they're really not. Not unlike how professional photographers almost never ride the latest model release.

It seems like a lot of people here are thinking of this as a recreational gaming box for rich people. Surface machines in general perform poorly there.

Works for Apple. I'm only trolling a little bit. :)

If they were to, would you buy it?

Honestly, I would in a heartbeat. I mean, I guess it depends on price but yeah, I totally would.

Lower resolution than a 5K iMac

Is the 5K iMac a touchscreen?

Not sure if this was a troll or a question. If it was a question, the 5k is not a touchscreen. The Microsoft Surface Studio is though.

It was neither, it was a rhetorical question since the comment I responded to was discounting the value of the Studio's screen because it didn't have as much resolution as the 5k iMac.

That's true? That doesn't mean it's not still a good screen though.

typical HN naysayer, if Apple did this everyone would be raving about it. Maybe you missed that the screen also includes a Wacom digitizer ? Compare the price to a 27" Wacom Cintiq and it might make more sense to you. Other than that it's gorgeous, GPU performance is adequate for the usecase, better than the 5K iMac anyway.

No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

Yup. My thoughts exactly. Typical Apple fanboy camp. This truly reminds me of how Android camp always pointed to the specs and completely overlooked the design, form and function of iPhones. Irony that the Apple camp is now doing that to the competition :)

Is it a Wacom or nTrig?

I haven't really spent much time with nTrig based Surface models, but the Wacom in my Surface Pro 1 really sucks at the edges.

I'd rather have it just be a nicer Cintiq that I plug into a proper desktop.

It's probably more than adequate for most professionals. I don't think they are pegging it as a gaming machine, or a render machine/farm. The graphics capabilities, similar to the mobile graphics chips in iMac's and MacBook Pro's will probably serve the vast majority of graphics professionals just fine.

The 10X0M cards are perhaps too recent, or the extra 20-30W (?) blew the envelope. I'd definitely get the least powerful graphics card for a machine like this, just to minimize the noise. I can put a real graphics card in my gaming rig, this one is for illustrator.

Re: price - I'm thinking the digitizer and screen is the whole reason for the price. It would be good if the box could be updated while keeping the screen.

Wacom Cintiq 27QHD 27 In. Creative Pen & Touch Display by Wacom

$2,799.95 https://www.amazon.com/Wacom-Cintiq-27QHD-Creative-Display/d...

Wow so much hate. The tilting screen, a phenomenal display that looks sexy, specs to match the intended graphic workload and all you could see were "specs".

Would be cool if you could connect a real machine to the display and touchscreen, would that be possible with the DisplayPort?

You can already get a Wacom and attach it to a random computer.

Which is like saying my blackberry had a physical keyboard why do I need an iphone 3g.

Have you used a hybrid? They work pretty well. Unless you're just churning through file after file you'll be fine.

As for the rest of it, no designer cares about previous gen stuff - if they didn't they wouldn't have gone to macs in the first place.

Hybrid drives don't always work well. The one in my iMac did, until I reinstalled macOS and then restored from a Time Machine backup, and now I get hard disc speeds, with a second or two delay to (say) open a small file, rather than instantly as with an SSD, as was the case before. It's been a week or two, and I don't know why Fusion Drive didn't optimise the data placement to move frequently used files to the SSD.

This! Why design this amazing display and put such an awful GPU inside? The GTX1000 series performs way better (especially GPGPU professional apps), is more power efficient and has only a minor price difference. At this price it is a deal breaker for me. And I'm like exactly their target audience for this.

> I'm like exactly their target audience for this.

If you are concerned with graphics performance, you are not their target market.

Do you guys actually know designers and illustrators? Seriously.

I suspect this computer took a while to develop and the 1080 wasn't available at that time.

That's next year's upgrade. This year it's the feature screen, next year it's the performance boost. Keep that marketing department ticking over.

> I must be missing the value proposition here(...)


Microsoft likes to get shit out the door and gen3 is typically the good one. so wait 2 generations.

I have to say this is the first time in years when there's a feeling that MS has outpaced Apple. The product looks amazing.

"I have to say this is the first time in years when there's a feeling that MS has outpaced Apple. The product looks amazing."

That is what I came here to say (as a mac user who uses only apple computers, currently[1]).

See this animated gif from the article:


Now ... I don't know what that's about and I am pretty sure that's an action I will never use, but that's something new and interesting. That's innovation.

[1] 11" macbook air, mac mini HTPC and 2009 mac pro as primary desktop

Presumably you can use the jog dial off-screen and for any number of things, in which case it would be useful to almost everyone for volume control, scrolling through lists, adjusting values in control panels and so on.

Obviously video editors use them, but I know of professional photographers who find them really useful in moving through a catalogue while editing photos too.

Yeah this seems to aim straight at the complaints that Apple has been ignoring the creative segment of their market.

Both digital illustrators I know work entirely on PC's these days simply because the tooling there is more flexible. I have no doubt they will migrate to this device over time.

Apple these days are designed for optimal usage of iTunes and Safari.

It is no longer the platform of choice for creative content creation.

Surprisingly, two of the worst pieces of software that come with OSX. I would love it if they were really optimizing anything about iTunes.

> I would love it if they were really optimizing anything about iTunes.

Indeed. iTunes has become so bad I bit the bullet and signed up for Roon - despite its eye watering price. It's a vastly better (and of course in some other ways inferior) alternative.

One thing which I like about Roon and indeed a lot of 3rd party software from smaller companies is that I can talk to the devs and product managers on the community forums and find out where the product is headed or make suggestions and get feedback.

As far as iTunes goes, I have no idea where in the hell it's going. It went from a music manager to an eBooks platform, an App Store and now a Spotify clone.

Good time to be a software company specialising in catering to the disgruntled user who wants something a little more sophisticated than what Apple's currently selling.

Safari is my favorite browser except for non development. I agree about iTunes though.

iTunes has been completely awful since the last update. For a while it wasn't usable at all if my laptop woke up from Sleep mode, and a patch a couple weeks ago seemed to fix that, but it still happens. It's like the application doesn't have logic anymore to handle reconnecting to networks.

Plus most of the interface feels unnatural to use, at least for Apple Music and the Store.

Since the last update? I think you mean, for the last few years...

Well, specifically the issue I mentioned with reconnecting after losing network connections. I've never noticed anything like it before this major iTunes version.

if they can optimize iTunes it would represent as a momentous shift in general computing.

Indeed. Coreaudio is much than whatever it is on Windows. Easier to sync software and lower latency overall.

Indeed. Safari is lagging behind, it's like IE in the old days. iTunes is the shittiest App I have interacted with in the OSX eco-system.

Maybe for visual content. The music technology classes I teach are a sea of MacBooks.

My thoughts exactly.

Not sure if anyone listened to Satya's closing comments but they sounds eerily similar to something Jobs would say.

Either way, good for Microsoft on putting out a product for the high end creative segment.

This seems to compete with Wacom Cintiq more than any Apple product I'm aware of.

I think that's part of the point the parent. This is a combination of an iMac and Cintiq. Something Apple currently doesn't have a answer to.

And it's based off NTrig tech, too. Competition is good ;)

The indie tool market has a much stronger foothold today than they did a few years ago. Adobe, Autodesk, etc. still reign supreme, but that's slowly changing. They are being overtaken by smaller, more niche products. See affinity, sketch, figma, etc. Unless Microsoft can woo these companies into building apps for their platform, I don't see MSFT making a dent with this market.

Affinity Designer for Windows [1] is currently in beta. Figma is available for Windows too [2].

1: https://affinity.serif.com/fr/windows/ 2: https://www.figma.com/downloads

As an Apple (Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, PowerBook, PowerMac G5) user for 15 years, of photo processing & inDesign layout, I agree.

XCode & iOS development is going to keep me on Apple for now, though, but the Linux subsystem for Windows is really appealing. The BSD Unix environment is the whole reason I went with Apple in the first place. OS X is basically a Unix workstation & perfected anything the Linux desktop wanted to be.

Surprised MS went with nVidia 980s instead of 1080s, & Win 10 still a little clunky compared to OS X.

> the Linux subsystem for Windows is really appealing

In theory. To anyone who feels that way, please try it out for yourself before making a leap. I thought it would let me develop Ruby on Rails under Windows like I could do on Linux or macOS. I discovered a whole bunch of unimplemented features that prevented this. After a couple of months of commenting on bug reports and watching and trying, I gave up. I'll check back later. YMMV.

I'm a bit of a WSL fanboy, but this is the right advice if you're not a windows user normally.

When it works, it's great, but some things just don't work and you're stuck.

I've found the WSL devs to be fairly responsive, but not to everything.

However, I've found open source projects to be pretty responsive to bug reports of their projects running on WSL; it's far easier for them to support that than support a native windows build.

There are often workarounds for issues, but their coverage is certainly not where we would all like it to be yet.

For the good of the world, I hope no one except Windows has to deal with WSL specific code. When programs start to have to include WSL specific code, the 'extend' part of EEE has begun. While it would be foolish to believe a few programs here and there including support for WSL means doom, it is certainly not the right direction.

Usually it's issues with assumptions about the completeness of the platform; e.g. ZeroMQ assumes that if it's on a UNIX-ey platform it should use UNIX sockets rather than TCP and doesn't check to see if it's actually supported.

I'm not very familiar with OSX, but I'd be surprised if there weren't differences between it and mainline Linux that needed special care and I see this as similar.

To be honest Microsoft has a habit of layering on functionality on top of existing functionality in a piece meal approach so that you end up with a solution which is 75% compatible with the standards but not quite.

Despite being a software company (or because of it), I think innovating on the internals of Windows and its APIs and cleaning house on the software front will be the real challenge for them - making incredibly beautiful hardware might prove to be the easy part!

what you are saying may be true for now, but Microsoft is really trying to achieve 100% userspace compatibility, ( they set the line clear it is about user space programs ).

I couldn't cross compile simple toy kernel (xv6) in OS X (because I needed to have i386-elf-gcc, which need to compile whole binutils , which really cumbersome, and brew doesn't support it -as far as I looked into it ) but in BashOnWindows , it just works, it maybe a little slow (specially file system operations) but it works like charm. I actually tried to compile linux kernel and running it on qemu, It worked, but compilation (which is a lot of file system operation) was so slow it hadn't worth it.

Nadella (MS CEO) aimed perfectly, instead of introducing some limited amount of support for linux apps, his company tries to port whole ubuntu user space. After this project matures enough, rest assured, it will be equivalent of using linux workstation (which is dream of most developers).

> Microsoft is really trying to achieve 100% userspace compatibility

> After this project matures enough, rest assured, it will be equivalent of using linux workstation

Didn't Microsoft say WSL wouldn't support graphical apps? That's a big portion of userspace; and without that, it simply can't be a linux workstation

The biggest issue I have had with their subsystem is that of the file system (NTFS). The fact that I can't have long paths and can't soft link seem ridiculous.

NTFS has a functional equivalent to soft links in the form of reparse points, although I don't know to what degree that feature is exposed in the UI, if at all. Last time I looked into it (admittedly, years ago) they could only be created via the command line. Not sure what you mean by "can't have long paths" though, NTFS allows you to programmatically create paths up to 32,767 code points long:


Windows seems to have a certain hard limit on file path characters (a max of 160) which they seem to have recently removed [0] - So while my point is technically moot it's not enabled by default.

As for soft links, a lot of linux tools create soft links (ln -s from to) and generally that fails on NTFS (I tried installing a bunch of npm modules and all had this specific issue)[1].

[0] - https://mspoweruser.com/ntfs-260-character-windows-10/

[1] - https://stackoverflow.com/questions/8232778/nodejs-npm-insta...

It's a max of 260, and it's a Win32 subsystem limitation, not the limitation of NT OS or NTFS file system - and even in Win32 there are escape hatches for it, it's just that you need to know of them and use them explicitly to get such support.

With respect to symlinks - NTFS supports them, but there are subtle semantic differences with POSIX. WSL does actually support symlinks (i.e. you can do ln -s), it's various other behavior around them that breaks, like trying to untar a file that contains symlinks.

The team said that they're working on a custom implementation of symlinks that would provide proper behavior (but wouldn't be seen as a symlink from Win32).

I think the problem here is that Linux NTFS drivers are all a pile of reverse-engineered hacks, so obscure features are overlooked or not fully implemented.

Now, Microsoft should be in a position to put something better into their WSL, but that might entail the risk that someone else will hack that implementation and provide good drivers for everyone, something they clearly don't want (or they would have provided open specs for NTFS support by now).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you should be able to loopback-mount a "proper" file system (e.g. ext4) from a file on NTFS, and then you'll have no limits other than what ext4 imposes. Of course, you then lose easy interop with the filesystem from Windows side, but that is the inherent trade-off here.

WSL doesn't actually run a Linux kernel; it emulates the syscalls and process environment Linux offers and provides a binary loader. It's WINE in reverse.

So there's no ext4 driver, and no concept of loopback mounts.

Ah, indeed (although it's not quite WINE in reverse, since WINE emulates userspace calls, not kernel syscalls).

I see that there's considerable demand for this exact thing in their bug tracker already. If they go for a low-hanging fruit here, it'd be FUSE support - and that should give us ext2, at least.

>> I discovered a whole bunch of unimplemented features that prevented this.

I'd be very interested in a blog post about your problems and I don't think I'm alone.

"Linux subsystem for Windows is really appealing." Have you actually tried it out?

I thought nobody anymore believed in this after the first versions came out and people actually had a chance to try it in action. There are endless amounts of bugs, unimplemented features, complications between 2 filesystems, permissions, applications etc.

When MS announced this I was pretty hopeful. Not that I would change my dev-computer from way superior macOS to Windows, but that when I'm at home gaming on my Windows PC and I get some cool idea, I could do some small development or create simple prototypes without changing from my desktop to my laptop. After trying it out for real I don't belive anymore this "linux" subsystem thingy is ever going to be anything more than niche PoC.

I run a Windows 10 PC at work with the Linux Subsystem enabled. It has been a godsend. We are historically a C# shop, but have a new front-end web server in NodeJS. I continue to work on a PC because the NodeJS site consumes C# web services. I will sometimes work on the C# service and the node site at the same time and have the Node site point to my local builds of the C# services. Before, I used to use Vagrant, but it was extremely finicky and would break or corrupt randomly. While I know NodeJS runs on native windows, certain dependencies such as Couchbase have given me pain trying to get working. Now I do my NodeJS work running inside the Linux Subsystem. It's been extremely performant, and I always catch case sensitive bugs and other Linux issues that the Mac developers miss due to have a case insensitive file system.

Most binaries run really well. A lot of the stuff that didn't work in the first preview has since been fixed (like tmux, 24bit colors in bash etc.). Plus you can now call linux apps from windows with bash -c and call exes from bash which makes cross platform development amazing.

> Plus you can now call linux apps from windows with bash -c and call exes from bash which makes cross platform development amazing.

Unless you need to pass a directory path.

WSL is still in very early beta. It works amazingly well when you consider how early this project is.

Windows NT has done a good job supporting multiple APIs/subsystems in the past. Windows NT for example does a perfectly good job with the Win32 subsystem - software targeting Win32 for '95, '98, etc. still works on Windows 10, perfectly, despite being a totally different kernel.

What did you try and what bugs did you run into?

There's a reason you have to go out of your way to install it. It's nowhere near a final product.

"OS X is basically a Unix workstation & perfected anything the Linux desktop wanted to be."

Exactly. How do they not know this ? Or, why do they not care ?

There is one big huge reason that "smart people" switched to OSX and the computers that ran it and that institutional knowledge appears to have evaporated at Apple.

When you know your core, core base is here for the UNIX, you don't take away the escape key ... or keep breaking and re-breaking crontab ... or introduce the weird-stuff-I-can't-do-even-as-root.

> "Surprised MS went with nVidia 980s instead of 1080s"

It's not even 980, its 980m which is significantly slower than 980, nevermind 1080. And the 980m only comes in the $4199 option, that's ridiculous...

Okay, seriously. The iMac comes with a 395x mobile gpu. It's pretty comparable to the 980m. The 1070m and 1080m don't exist yet. If you guys actually knew more about hardware than nothing, maybe you'd realize that it's not possible to get a 1080m.

iMacs and Macbook Pros (top of the line 15-inch with dGPU) have always used mobile GPUs. Also, illustrators/designers don't need dGPUs. That's why the designers/illustrators at hte tech companies that you work at can use macbook 13 inch laptops and 15-inch laptops without the dGPUs

NVIDIA got rid of the m distinction for the new gen. Razer (and I believe others) have already put a full "desktop" geforce 10xx in some of their laptops.

They got whupped bad in the mobile market, and PC market has been stagnant/in decline for some time now. They have to come up with something.

> PC market has been stagnant/in decline for some time now. They have to come up with something.

Quick, someone page Apple because Mac sales are declining even faster than the market. Surely they have to do something, that's the only possible motivation /s

Yeah, if only they had another product which makes tons of money............. hmmm................ I wonder what it could be......................

My thought is that it doesn't matter because MS missed the mobile market. People will default to the products that best integrate with their phones, and that will be iPad Pro or .... whatever the android space has to offer.

Do you think a lot of people care about PC/phone integration? I don't see it outside of "contacts and email" which is already fully integrated everywhere thanks to the cloud.

People don't buy Macs because they work well with an iPhone as far as I can tell. They buy Macs for all sorts of other reasons, but that doesn't seem to be one of them.

Every corporate office in the world is running Windows. I'm pretty sure people are going to continue buying whatever they use at work, so unfortunately for HN, Windows is here to stay...(sorry!)

I just installed macOS Sierra and have up-to-date iOS 10.1. I still cannot get handoff working. From reading the reports this is not just me. At least Chrome still syncs.

Similar experience here. I use iPhone, MBP and iPad. Originally thought that having everything under one umbrella would be a huge help, but the reality is the syncing is such a pain that I never do it. Took me many, many months to even get AirDrop working between my own devices. iTunes is very frustrating to use in managing iOS devices.

one of the things that apple didn't pointed out is that there are 2 versions of airdrop. i didn't know this and had an older version of osx that wouldn't sync with my iphone. no error message either.

"Every corporate office in the world is running Windows."

While many companies do use Windows, many others do not, including some very large ones. You think they are using Windows at Apple? That's the world's most valuable company and they have 70000 employees. What about Google? It's another huge company with tens of thousands of employees and you have to beg for permission to run Windows there, and very few do so.

I think Windows has a lock on mid-sized businesses that are large enough to have serious information management challenges, but aren't big enough to solve them. Outside of that zone it is by no means universal.

"Outside of that zone it is by no means universal."

I'd say that outside of your two examples, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Fortune 500 company that doesn't have >90% of its corporate fleet (not servers) being Windows boxes.

I feel like an iPad mini sized device might help break them into that market. Since I really don't make phone calls, when I have my iPad mini with me I don't really use my phone.

Nearly everyone in the world owns a phone. It's the default computing device for the world.

See: http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2015/7/8/capitulation http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2015/11/7/mobile-ecosyste...

Any additional computer purchase is some kind of conscious choice, and people will default to what they are familiar with. I.e. iOS and Android. This is a big hurdle for microsoft to overcome to convince anyone to buy a computer from them. That's my point, and I think it will be very difficult for them to accomplish at scale.

Can't wait to install Kaspersky on it! :)

Maybe there's some scenario I'm missing out on, but I've never had any issues just using Windows Defender.

That was irony :)

That was sarcasm. Irony is that you've confused one with the other :)

I'm sure he's being serious. I've stopped using other antivirus since Defender came on board. Whenever I buy a new laptop, the first thing I do is uninstall Norton and activate defender.

The guy kidding, was the one who wanted to install Kaspersky

uBlock Origin + Windows Defender = pretty good defence for people who don't click yes on everything that pops up

+ unchecky

It protects from toolbars, addons and other bundlewares of free software.

I can't but feel sad that Microsoft somehow is dropping the ball on mobile despite them having been, briefly, in a prime position to succeed. They've executed well with their "One platform"-strategy. UWP is great and with the new composition API their finally moving into being able to compete in the modern software arena. Meanwhile on the hardware side Panos is basically doing what Apple should have been doing if they had any creative leadership left... but it doesn't matter, for some reason they've seemed to abandoned mobile despite having all the pieces in place.

Their mistreatment, lack of support and quality assurance of the mobile side of the platform has been dismal. It's very weird, obviously they can do hardware, they have the ecosystem to back them up and the API teams have been doing some great stuff when it comes to w10, yet they've seemed to given up on mobile.

I must say I don't understand it, how can such a big player as Microsoft abandon such a strategic area of their ecosystem? I understand that it's hard to be a profitable in the harsh reality of consumer electronics and that the money is in business... but yet, if you're not in mobile you're leaving a gaping hole in your ecosystem that leaves the other parts vulnerable. I don't understand why they don't simple pour resources into mobile with the same enthusiasm as tablets/laptops and gaming.

Something must be off with the leadership or I'm missing something

I'm kind of sad that the top comment on HN is about a part of Microsoft that has nothing to do with this new and frankly exciting piece of technology =(

As for the "how can they", the answer is remarkably simple: it's hurting their bottom line and there's no indication that a better strategy exists in the markets they're active in. If you don't understand why they don't just pour resources into mobile: resources are finite, and Microsoft is not the powerhouse it once was. Budget is allocated based on return of investment, why invest in a segment that you can see failing year over year. The best call is to wind it down and make new and exciting things that people didn't even know they wanted instead.

This new Surface Studio is a remarkably good step in that direction.

I see your point, I think it comes down to if you believe a major actor like Apple/Google/Microsoft can afford to ignore mobile... I think it's too integral with their ecosystem, being present in mobile will bring more business to their other devices... but I can see the other POV as well.

Anyways, I'm really glad where they're headed with the Surface Books/Studio. It's been a little slow getting the next generation of windows apps/store going and this is a step in the right direction

> I think it comes down to if you believe a major actor like Apple/Google/Microsoft can afford to ignore mobile

I think it's important to note the distinction that they are seemingly ignoring this generation of mobile. Windows Phone has been a disaster and not for lack of trying on their part. The phones themselves have been mostly solid but it's hard to overcome the ecosystem problem. That said with the moves Microsoft has made over the last few years they are well positioned to be a major player in whatever the next iteration of mobile is. We've seen companies become major players and then all but disappear in the 10 years since the first iPhone kicked off the smartphone revolution. It's not to think that crazy that Microsoft might leverage some of their new input device knowledge to craft some new device that allows them to be major players in Mobile 2.0 or whatever you want to call it. If you believe that the current state of mobile HCI is the zenith then yes you are right to be concerned. But if you think we are going to keep pushing pass the status quo then Microsoft is probably is good shape.

Well, what are you thinking will replace it? We can all imagine glasses/brain plugs/löksoppa but even in our fast-paced world it feels like a paradigm shift away from the mobile factor is 4-5 years away... and an eco system/fan base isn't exactly something you easily kick start from scratch but rather migrate over from previous technology.

I think Windows Phone has been a disaster in many parts, but the actual ideas and UI has actually been one of the bright spots, especially considering iOs is still stuck in an icon springboard paradigm.

For sure it's a bloody fight but I don't think it's a battleground MS can surrender until the next thing comes around

UWP is mostly a validation that Microsoft employs brilliant engineers. They took all the knowledge of their platforms over the years and condensed it into a unified story. For that, UWP works.

However, the same problem that plagues the Mac App Store, UWP code is sandboxed in weird ways that make it hard to just recompile your existing IP into the new environment. Plus Microsoft developer relations pushed C# as the defacto way to write apps targeting the platform, something that doesn't scale when you also need to support Android and iOS.

As far as mobile's concerned, it was continuously mismanaged, release after release.

* First they paid Seattle contractors to rewrite top-tier iOS apps for the original Silverlight C# version of WP and then dumped the resulting code onto the companies hoping they would continue the effort. I took a look at that code at the startup I was at at the time, and it was a mess, full of proprietary dlls that we couldn't even inspect.

* Second, they moved the kernel to Windows NT-lite from CE, meaning all the early adopters essentially got fucked over and it crushed early momentum.

* Third, Microsoft would go a year before announcing relatively inconsequential updates. (Oh that's nice that the same software will run on 512mb devices, is that what you spent the entire year working on?)

* Fourth, updates never seemed to hit devices, and the only way to get updates was with actual firmware. Android solved this problem by moving most of the interesting bits to the Play store.

Ultimately for a platform in 3rd place, Microsoft never gave the impression they were busting their butts to catch up. Everything seemed to move at a glacial pace and felt like run by a tiny greenfield team.

You make some good points, and some I didn't quite agree with. The notion that you could just recompile old win32 apps, while nice in theory is not practical IMO. Software has gone from being heavily GUI oriented (windows, dialogs, buttons) etc to converge into something between web and UI. I'd rather they make a clean cut with that past than incorporating it into the future. Also lots of new stuff like notifications, roaming notifications/settings etc are things that simply did not exist with traditional software. I do agree however that I miss some deep level win32/OS integration possibilities in the current UWP world, on the other hand there's lots of new cool stuff like App services, notification listeners etc.

I agree completely that a big problem was the constant reboots between Zune/silverlight/NT/Win10. They ended up where they needed to be but it certainly made things difficult for both developers and consumers, and lost them a lot of momentum

Supporting 512 mb devices was one of the biggest mistakes they ever made, the impact on that the development side was just devastating, for what, saving a couple of bucks in RAM memory?

I think it's hard to generalize the speed and pace of Windows Mobile overall, they put a lot of money and effort in it, and still is, but something definitively changed with the Nokia acquisition and/or Nadella taking over from Ballmer

As for updates I always got frequent updates (europe), the problem was more that their QA seemed substandard. Might be an american problem with providers like Verizon. They had an interesting strategy with their insider updates... which is nice in theory but it sometimes felt like they fired their QA team and put the burden of testing on their consumers, resulting in major bugs frequently getting through

> Microsoft developer relations pushed C# as the defacto way to write apps targeting the platform, something that doesn't scale when you also need to support Android and iOS.

Actually, our company has an Android and iOS App written in C# with a 80-90% shared Codebase using Xamarin. It has been pretty awesome so far.

Yeah I wish more people realized that C# + Xamarin tools (that Microsoft now owns & is totally free with Visual Studio Community) making C# something that can take you cross-platform in the mobile space.


Also .NET Core now runs on Mac and Linux for the server OS code written in C#.

Then if you add Unity supporting C# on top of that for game/dev and I really can say that we're in a cross-platform world now :). But I am a bit biased since I work on these teams.

They were in mobile from the beginning with Windows CE. Balmer thought the iPhone was a joke and they so they didn't try to adapt. By the time they did, Android and iOS had hundreds of thousands of apps. So they are in a catch-22, they can't gain marketshare because they don't have enough apps and no one will write apps for it because they don't have any marketshare.

I think their strategy so far is good. Get Windows working well on various form factors, move from Desktops to Laptops to full PC tablets. With those in place, they'll see developers writing UWP apps that will work not only on big screens, but can be scaled to smaller screens, giving them the apps they need to move down into the small tablet and phone spaces.

Microsoft were late to the smartphone OS market, but they were making headway. In 2013 they were back into double digit market share in many countries, and the numbers were heading in the right direction. Then Ballmer left, Nadella took over, and they just... gave up.

OK, so they still had a long way to go before they displaced Android. But iOS only has ~30% of the market, and nobody is suggesting Apple give up on mobile because they're not the dominant player.

In the 90s, Microsoft were notorious for entering existing markets, usually with a substandard product, then grinding their way to a leading position. Even if it took years, even if they lost a lot of money at first, and even it took a few product cycles for them to become competitive, they stuck at it, and it eventually paid off.

This strategy worked for web browsers, office software, and console gaming. Would it have worked for smartphones? Maybe, maybe not. But I'd argue the signs were positive, and that they gave up before we really got a chance to see for sure. I mean, they've kept Bing alive for years, despite only having made minor headway against Google, and web search being a far less existentially vital market to them than operating systems.

Now, the problem with Microsoft's current strategy is that consumer IT is heading towards smartphones being the only device most people ever own or use. Desktops, laptops and tablets are becoming niche devices in comparison. It doesn't matter how great your UWP apps are if 90% the market doesn't own or use a device that can run them.

>I mean, they've kept Bing alive for years, despite only having made minor headway against Google, and web search being a far less existentially vital market to them than operating systems.

Bing is necessary for their AI efforts. They need the knowledge graph to back up everything their AI touches (Cortana, Office, probably LinkedIn soon).

> Microsoft were late to the smartphone OS market, but they were making headway.

Late? They were among the first. I also remember Danger OS. Oh - and the Palm Treo.

I had a Palm Treo - loved it but was happy the iPhone did everything my Treo did except (and I still miss this) the Palm feature of having a "home" area code - ie, when dialing, it tacked on my home area code on all 7-digit numbers (e.g. "415"). I even got bookworm game a year after I bought my iPhone.

Indeed. HTC made their name making Windows CE/PocketPC/Mobile devices in the early 2000s.

The saddest part is maybe how close they where:

I so wanted it but waited and waited for a waterproof Nokia and then ended with a Sony Z series and later a Samsung something waterproof flagship.

Others waited for instasnapsomething but I almost can't care less I think as long as the platdorm has a couple of good alternatives for notes and calendar + Whatsapp and Telegram.

Now I almost feel bad for not supporting them. Who would have thunk for someone who used to despise all their products until some 4 years ago :-/ (since early 2000s).

This video was probably mostly just faked concepty stuff, but they were showing it before ipad:


If they had managed to get something like that out that would have helped them a lot.

This was very interesting back when the initial concept was shown. Turns out it was killed by MS because it didn't fit in with their Windows/Office strategy:


Developers won't optimize UX of their apps for phones, unless they'll see valuable target audience there. And this isn't going to happen without selection of new devices of market (their current best one is so inferior to iPhone 7, that the only excuse to buy it is the price). So what we'll get is a lot of ugly apps that barely work on small screens.

Don't forget though that these apps need to support split screen view and other things.

When you get down to it, at the more extreme ratios, split screen is just like a really, really tall phone, and developers are used to dealing with tall UIs on short screens (scrolling).

I didn't think about it from that perspective. Thanks, that makes sense.

What is going to set Microsoft apart in mobile at this point? The fact that you probably can't answer that is why Microsoft is still at the drawing board. One day they will return to the mobile world, probably next spring; but for now launching a good smart phone, even a great smart phone, that lacks the eco-system of Apple and Google is DOA unless it has something else appealing about it.

I suspect the "Surface Phone" will be announced next spring, and I'm sure Panay and his hardware team will knock it out of the park, but without Windows 10 Mobile catching up there's no point in releasing it even if it's the greatest phone hardware ever created.

Once the proper software that can set Microsoft apart is in place, it will strike. The smartphone market is so saturated right now they could catch everyone off guard and make a dent.

This. I think this is why they are pushing UWP and convincing more people to build apps for Windows 10 using it. If this strategy succeeds, they'd have everything in place for a relaunch. It would be so seamless for developers to support Windows 10 Mobile, they'd just do it.

Actually I strongly beleive the Linux subsystem in Windows 10 will be used on The next Windows Surface/Phone to accommodate Android apps and the android market. Then UWP will demonstrate its performance and Graphic API advantage. Hell Microsoft could even import android projects into UWP projects through the flexibility of CLI if they really wanted to.

That's a pretty silly belief. MS failed at running Android apps. They also failed with their attempts to port iOS apps to their platform. In fact, all of those "bridges" have been burnt to the ground.

One more thing, Microsoft will never be able to use the Google Play store unless they make an Android device that passes all of Google's requirements.

Your suspicion is somewhat backwards: the Linux subsystem was built to accommodate Android apps. However, the decisions were made not to, excuse the pun, "Black-bury" the platform by directly supporting Android apps after all.

I can see some business applications that might benefit from UWP, but that's not terribly exciting.

Other than games, what's the last interesting consumer-focused Windows application that's generated buzz and revenue for anybody but Microsoft?

Microsoft feels like they are headed out to the same (incredibly lucrative) pasture that IBM and Oracle inhabit.

That's a good question, and the mobile market is cutthroat when even companies like HTC/Samsung/Lenovo etc is struggling to survive.

However I think Microsoft has a lot of synergy good both on the gaming side with Xbox and on the business side with Office/Sharepoint/Outlook etc, not to mention that Windows still is the most popular OS.

Now I tend to agree with Nadella's "be everywhere"-strategy but that doesn't mean they can put everything into Microsoft services and software being the best on their own devices. I think the fact they're doing xbox games that are free to use on PC's is a good example of such synergy.

In the end selling hardware is never going to be what they earn money on, but rather they need to be a hardware actor so that they profit off their app store/software/services.

That's some pretty optimistic thinking. Unfortunately, you just don't come back into a market after getting beaten badly and exiting with your tail between your legs. They have no developer support and UWP has, for the most part, been a failure if you judge its lack of adoption as a metric - where exactly are all of the UWP apps?

As for Microsoft "striking" when they get the software right - I couldn't tell if you were joking or not. There's nothing that Microsoft could ever announce that would ever make them relevant in mobile.

Is it possible that Microsoft ships an Android-based phone with Microsoft services plugged in? If it could run existing Android apps yet plug into Microsoft developer tools API for the future, that might work?

I don't think so, making hardware is not something you do for profit these days IMO. Only Apple has been able to do that and I think the days of their margins is coming to and end. The new way is simply being their in hardware to feed people into your ecosystem of software, services and app store... and there is no need for Microsoft to do that on Android.

They can "do" mobile. For development purposes, I have equivalent priced 2016 devices ios / android and a 2015 Lumia 950. The 950 is by far the one I use for personal use (no it doesn't have pokemon go, no I do not care). I have a lengthy comparison of the three platforms typed into a txt file that I was thinking about sharing.

Whether they can successfully get mind / market share for mobile is probably another matter entirely, and I have no idea how that works.

Can you please share the comparison? It will be interesting to read and compare the experiences.

Sure: (warning not really edited, and I don't expect everyone to completely agree on my ratings here, but yeah it is 'my' experiences)

Some random thoughts- for recent software development stuff, I have use of a iphone se / sony xcompact, and then I have my personal phone (lumia 950), so I think I can give a good cross-platform comparison for recent models of ios/android/windows.

1. Security / privacy: Lumia feels best for security then ios, don't feel that great about the android one, just based on reading the news. But you know, I guess the point of android is that you can root it and do crazy things if you are that kind of person - I personally used to enjoy this, but just prefer security recently. (Note that the fingerprint scanners on Sony / iphone are way more convenient than the iris scanner). See also point 4 w'r't' flashtool I had to use for android.

2. Ease of use: lumia is the easiest organization-wise, with the tiles, and I have trouble finding things on the other two- (screen size may play a factor)

3. Search: android (with homescreen search bar)/ lumia (cortana button) are about tied, se requires navigating to that left hand screen to search which takes a few more taps / swipes.

4. Configurability: for me this is somewhat backwards, although android is way more hackable / configurable, I actually like the Lumia's defaults, and the fact that I don't have to fiddle with them to get good results (e.g. it took me a while to find a good keyboard on android, including lots of installing / etc, and then find the right launcher, not to mention the incredible pain of installing UK firmware to get the fingerprint scanner working, which included downloading some sketchy flash program to my computer which I would normally never do). Ios also ok defaults, though I did spend a while trying to find a good keyboard (settled on wordflow lol).

5. Camera: megapixels actually matter- I can take a picture of mount Hood on both the Sony and Lumia and take one from the SE from the same location where it's completely impossible to see the mountain. Sony / Lumia about equivalent- I would say the sony has a 'tiny' bit more bright pictures, but I also have dropped the lumia in a river and the camera lense was all fogged at one point, so who knows if that had an effect.

6. Developers: Honestly I mainly use vs.code (react-native) for all of them and the experience is about equivalent. Maybe android gets a point since android studio works on both (edit: windows) / osx if I for some reason need to use it.

7. Maps: windows is a tiny bit more glitchy than the other two, but speed alerts make me prefer it (maybe there is a way in google/apple maps that I just need to fiddle around in some menus)

8. Apps: I'm not the best person to ask as I prefer browser for all things other than maybe enpass / skype / shazam / instagram / spotify which seem to be about equivalent on all- actually spotify is a bit smoother on android than the other two. There is one fitness app the iphone has that the other two don't have a good equivalent.

9. VPN (not sure if counts as apps or system function) but android / ios have apps for the VPN's I use while lumia does not (and I've only been able to get l2p working for these)- this surprises me, given that this is a business function.

10. Battery: (in use) xcompact + battery saver definitely wins here, iphone / lumia about tied. (Off battery saver, the xcompact is tied). However, the iphone definitely loses less battery overnight. I must note though, I've used the lumia battery far longer and more intensively at this point, and it is also replaceable compared to the other two.

11. Build quality: iphone obviously feels very premium with whatever material they use for the case. Lumia with plastic back feels more durable (indeed it has survived some abuse), also screen is beautiful. sony usb-c port already loose, but did buy it used.

12. Browser: overall I like edge navigation and browsing better (possibly an outlier that I use the swipe to go back), but certain transition effects (in web-pages I've created no less) do render noticeably better in chrome/safari: example, try something like a react animated side menu with a bounce effect.

Because mobile operators in the US rule their kingdom. Unless you are willing to kowtow you get nothing. Apple lucked out that Jobs managed to get control from AT&T out of the gate, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Without the mobile operators pushing the platform in their stores, MS won't get any traction. And they aren't going to do that unless MS both fills the phone with bloatware, and makes the changes they demand.

As for their being a gaping hole in their ecosystem? How so? Their focus is on their cloud, they don't need to own the mobile device for their cloud to succeed. I would imagine 90%+ of the fortune 500 have iphones and droids happily grabbing email from office365 all day long.

They arn't in a prime position to succeed with mobile. Not anymore. That ship sailed 3+ years ago.

Disclaimer: msftie.

I don't buy that, despite how much I hear it. there are a few situations I'd agree that if you don't have the first-to-market advantage you're basically fucked (social networking being a prime one, any system where network effect dominates). And while people cite apps as being the "network-effect-esque" factor in this case, I'm not sure I buy that. Looking at data of how many people NEVER use a single app, how many domains/specialties could use a "professional" phone without a broad app base, how many niches are untapped (constant laments from myself and others about how there are no small, robust, non-feature-obsessed "working mans smartphone") I truly believe there are ways into the market that are just fine to grow a sufficiently profitable business if you're simply OK with not trying to be the next iPhone RIGHT NOW. Maybe this ties back into the whole "vc doesn't want companies that _just work_, they want growth" mindset, but I fundamentally reject that as a philosophy so perhaps I'll never see eye to eye with the decision makers in this case.

(to clarify something for responders, all of the above is aligned as well with the implicit statement that you can't let investment slack; because then you lose your grassroots/what little mindshare you could have had to grow, take the above as "why I think a company should continue investment even in the current scenario")

The problem with that philosophy is Microsoft already tried that path for years. Windows Phone 7, 7.5, 8, and 8.1 were all about "not everyone needs lots of apps" and "let's be awesome in ways uniquely different than iPhone". Microsoft's Lumia 640 was your "working mans smartphone", a small, robust, non-feature-obsessed phone that was silly cheap (roughly $100 US) and felt better designed and outperformed Android phones at the $300+

But the market didn't seem to care -- at least, not enough to justify Microsoft's spending. Perhaps now is different than 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. But it sure feels like Microsoft already did exactly what your asking for, for many years before giving up.

Disclaimer: not a Microsoft employee, but owned and used a LG Quantum, Dell Venue Pro, HTC 8X, Lumia 900, and a Lumia 640.

You make a fair point; I don't make my observation from any internal knowledge, but from a perception of how the win-phone stood as an option during the time period you cite, namely that it didn't fit the needs I described. The lumia 640 was still larger, missing a removable battery, and very tied to the MS ecosystem; in that time period some of the early droids had these functionalities + the sliding keyboard + smaller form factor at a comparable price point. Now, that last point re: non-MS ecosystem may shoot my thesis in the foot from a pragmatic standpoint, but again, I'm talking "pipe dream getting foot into market" here.

I would emphasize my point re: less viable competition for the niche I'm describing though, since as you say "perhaps now is different"; I'm certainly having a much harder time finding my next phone upgrade that fits my criteria now than I felt like I had in 2009~ and in 2012~.

Arguably true. But the real problem is simpler: consumers don't trust MS.

You've inflicted too many false starts, bad products, update nightmares, u-turns, and unplanned obsolescences on the consumer market.

MS as a consumer brand has mostly negative/indifferent associations. You could build the best product in the world, but unless you can sell it in reasonable quantities and prove you're committed to supporting consumers no one - literally - will be buying it.

My experience of MS is that MS products are always broken in major ways. This has been true from MS-DOS onwards.

The most recent example: I've been using Office 365 on the Mac for more than a year, and there hasn't been a single release that doesn't have at least a couple of obvious problems.

Right now I'm looking at a handful of Word windows that are supposed be that corporate MS gray-blue, but which have random bright red corruption in the title bar.

I mean - how do you even do that? How do you, as a multibillion dollar company, have such amateurish QA that you can't produce a flagship business and consumer product without these kinds of spectacularly stupid bugs?

I must say I've long abandoned any illusions of personality and values of big tech companies like Apple/Google/Microsoft, are any one of them better or worse than the other, more moral or less? It's all big companies, shareholders and bottom line, with perhaps the current leadership making a little difference how the company is run.

But companies are not people and we can't trust them as such, the larger the company the more that's the case. It's naive, unfortunately , to think differently.

I have so many things to say in response to this (mostly not negative, actually, and I'm surprised this was so aggressively downvoted, likely because similar problems exist at most large companies?) but to try and both be concise and not overstep what I can say given my position:

Very simply, incentives are not aligned to produce the results you seek. There is some writing that explains the dynamic far better than I can (would heavily recommend Dan Luu's writing, especially normalization of deviance) if you want a window into some of the pathologies.

I can promise that engineers are "fighting the good fight", and I would encourage you to keep calling out when shit is broken despite the negative reception. This is one of the few paths I see to getting the needed alignment of goals to actually start internally prioritizing the stuff you call out.

(Aptly to this topic, I really loved the "errorsazurethrows" blog, it was a moment of brilliant vindication for someone who has both liked the underlying platform but railed against its often esoteric error/failure cases after years of having to use it as a primary tool)

I would still rate Microsoft QA above both Google and Apple. Google doesn't believe in QA, they trust automated testing implicitly, and have no preview cycle. The whole fast ring, slow ring, release preview cycle is fantastic as a thing, and knowing my Windows Mobile device is getting day one direct updates from Microsoft, despite being on Verizon's network, is key.

Microsoft has taken some of the wrong lessons from Google though, between forcing cumulative updates and collecting telemetry data. I really hope they figure out that they're losing out there. Being able to claim how many million minutes people were using Edge isn't worth losing so much customer trust.

> consumers don't trust MS.

Well, Microsoft is actively chasing consumers away. Proof: reneging on OneDrive offer to Lumia phone buyers, current lineup of two phones nearing end of production.

They want to be Oracle in place of ORCL, milking those big fat enterprise cows, and the stock market is nodding approvingly.

Good luck, godspeed, and thanks for the nice phones. Didn't last long, but was OK while it did. Designers never got any props, too.

I dunno. Microsoft's problem is that they kind of seem to give up on a technology and let it wither away.

People were excited about it, it was making forward/upward progress for a few years. Microsoft bought Nokia, and people got even more excited.

Then what happened? Years passed with no flagship phone, literally no reason from me to move on from my Nokia 1020 because there was no hardware to move to. Then they announce that older models weren't getting the Windows 10 update, which was another nail in the coffin (not to mention a big "fuck you" to the fans that have stuck with Windows Phone this long). Now we're hearing basically... nothing at all about anything.

I loved Windows Phone 7 on my HTC Titan II, and I love Windows Phone 8 on my Nokia 1020. But unless a really killer new phone is in stores before January 1st, there's basically no way I can stick with Windows Phone for my next phone.

I think the main thing holding MS back is that people are doubting their commitment to mobile. It's so weird, they finally clawed their way to a position where there most of the "must have" apps finally are on the platform (snapchat being the exeption) and then Microsoft went into a kind of "wait-and-see"-pattern where they didn't seem to want to over invest or put too much into it. The reality might be one thing but the perception of Microsoft right now in mobile is horrible.

I can kinda understand them wanting to stay silent until they have something substantial to announce after the Nokia transition... but they've been too slow and have almost lost all the momentum they had. And again, I see now reason why they should be acting like this except for short term gain over long term strategic benefits.

I just wrote a post making this same point, but you did it so much better. Thanks.

"...there are a few situations I'd agree that if you don't have the first-to-market advantage you're basically fucked (social networking being a prime one..."

10 years ago there where a number of articles about how MySpace won the social media war. The current king of that particular hill did not have first to market advantage. Your argument is invalid.


I think you're reading too much into my argument. I never said you win _forever_ but that it's not worth trying to win market share iteratively when an incumbent with heavy network effects is already well serving your niche.

I'd argue myspace is a perfect example of this, largely due to when you look at when it was finally dethroned, it was VERY sudden, and came after years of the platform languishing from a user point of view. It took a hell of a lot of pain to push myspace past the point where the network effect could be overcome.

I love my Lumia 929, but Microsoft has essentially abandoned Verizon, so even I'm having a hard time staying here. (The idea that Microsoft is targeting professional users in the US without Verizon is COMICAL, since Verizon is the number one carrier for enterprise use. Selling to non-Verizon enterprises in the US is basically selling to a non-existent market.)

Windows 10 Mobile currently does have all the apps I need, but it seems very few people are willing to give up Google's apps (particularly Gmail and YouTube) to switch, and Google refuses to allow another competitor into the mobile space. As long as Google's monopoly persists, they'll decide who has a successful mobile platform.

The problem is that for a lot of us, some apps have become necessary for day-to-day life.

For example, I cannot get around without using Uber and Lyft. I need to carry a phone on me with these apps at all times. Windows doesn't support either of them, so I can't use a Windows phone until it does.

I'd love to use Windows on a phone -- I'm actually starting to fall in love with the new MS -- but I simply can't.

Uber's official app is available on my Windows 10 Mobile device. Just checked for you.

And it's not "Windows doesn't support either". It's "They don't support Windows". The platform does not have to do anything to support them, they need to choose to make apps for the platform. ;)

Huh, that must be a pretty recent thing. I remember checking a year or so ago and being disappointed that neither of them run on Windows. Thanks for letting me know it's changed.

Your company has lost over 10 Billion in mobile and your platform has no developer support and apps. It's over.

Never say never. Apple was not in position to succeed in mobile (they were even not on the market at all, when there were Nokia and others). But now they have pretty big share. Despite the iPhone, Samsung was able to become the top smartphone maker. Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi are the rock stars of today. There are always opportunities if you are ready to innovate.

Microsoft was never in a prime position to succeed in Mobile. I'm not sure why you think this, but it's probably related to their European market share numbers that placed them close to iOS market share numbers in certain markets. What people, that use these insignificant metrics, fail to realize is that these market share numbers were composed of cheap devices that had very little, if any, margin. In fact, Microsoft was probably losing money by selling all of those cheap devices for less than what it cost to make them.

Microsoft lost Billions in mobile and never were able to gain any traction with their platform. There comes a time when you need to stop the bleeding and move on. Only a fool would continue pumping resources and money into a venture which has never returned a profit or market share.

I think they just try to capitalize on the fact that Apple is abandoning the desktop/productivity market and that might let them emerge as the high end reference, this time controlling the end-to-end user experience.

I strongly agree with your sentiment. As a Surface Book and Lumia 950 user, I have watched the Surface product line receive good attention and necessary quality improvements. Meanwhile, the phone space is all but ignored, with a curious caveat: for whatever reason, Windows 10 Mobile continues to see gradual updates and improvements. The core applications (email, music player, browser, calendar) continue to improve. So I remain a Lumia 950 user because, frankly, it does everything I need a mobile device to do.

But I am an edge case and broadly speaking, people want much more glamour from their mobile phones. At some point a few years ago, I think Windows Phone was up to about 5% share but it seemed Microsoft's work on mobile was put into slow motion. It's no wonder share has decreased since.

Continuum is a very good idea, but the progress on making it solid, reliable, and high-performance is astonishingly slow. I don't know the technical realities of the Broxton cancellation, but that really put a big kink in the notion of a real, solid Continuum experience. For the time being, it seems Microsoft is just hoping that HP can explore Continuum innovation with devices like the Elite x3. Virtually no one has even heard of an Elite x3.

Windows phone fans have been absolutely clamoring for an ultra-high spec glamorous phone. I think this is an artifact of everyone knowing one of the key drivers of phone adoption: make devices that catch other peoples' eyes and force them to ask, "What is that?" Word of mouth is a key part of adoption. I know when I purchased one of the first Lumia 920s (you might remember them as the very colorful Windows Phones from a few years back), many people would ask me about it. The 920 was hardly a success compared to iOS and Android, but it was probably the most successful Windows 8 phone, and I think that's in large part to it being something that people noticed.

Evangelists of the Windows platform have been eagerly awaiting a Surface Phone because they know it would be such a device. It would be a conversation starter. And frankly, despite it being a hard hill to climb, Microsoft hasn't been trying on mobile for years. They're not even interested in starting the conversation.

And that's a bit boggling and frustrating. I know several people bored of iOS, uninspired by the iPhone 7, and similarly disenchanted with Android devices. These people aren't vocalizing the words as such, but they are open to something new. If by some magic you could drop a Surface Phone onto the market with a rock solid Continuum experience, and put serious marketing effort into it, I think you could earn back that 5% share, and then work to grow from there.

Yeah that's exactly the thing. There's always been something missing. In the beginning there wasn't any apps and hardware was lackluster, but at least Microsoft was putting everything into the platform. Then Nokia shined in knowing how to market a consumer device and make a brand out of Lumia... but still the critical apps were missing and Microsoft's many turns with OS'reboots created an platform that was always trying to catch up with themselves.

Now W10/W10m is basically everything we want it to be, I mean there's some amazing stuff in the new API's and composition API stuff but no one is using them. Continuum in theory could be a game changer. The concept with tiles despite being several years old now is still something that feels fresh and ahead of the curve compared to iphone and android. but Microsoft can't launch and market a flagship phone that pulls everything together.

Just make one gret flagship phone that says "We're in it to win it" and a budget phone that'll mop up the budget/mid-tier. We'll see, maybe that's what they're working on but time is running out

«for whatever reason, Windows 10 Mobile continues to see gradual updates and improvements.»

Well the big obvious thing is that this shows how the efforts put into making the UWP truly Universal seem to be playing out. Certainly a lot updates and improvements benefit every device and the low overhead benefits a "low usage" platform like mobile.

That said, I'm still kind of weirdly optimistic and I think this quiet, continual improvement really is a good sign. I know some criticism existed that Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 and Windows 10 Mobile were "half-baked" early/at launch, and there's an interesting question about how much Microsoft just wants the platform to "catch up" and "feel solid" before a bigger marketing push.

For instance, one thing that I think has unfortunately been under-cooked has been Windows 10's efforts in the People hub, especially given where Windows 8.1 eventually built up to before some of it getting broken up in 10. The new "My People" functionalities shown at today's event seems to prove that a lot has been going on that space and is due for the Creators Update. I was hoping they'd at least give us a small glimpse of the mobile experience for it, but I realize the gee whiz factor of showing it off on a desktop taskbar.

There was a definite signal in Microsoft only using an HP mobile device on stage. Could be Microsoft is confident in deeper OEM support for Windows mobile devices.

> yet they've seemed to given up on mobile

Though we'll never know for sure, there's some conjecture that that Intel's cancellation of the Broxton smartphone chip in May torpedoed MS's plans for an x86 Windows Phone this year.

5/3/2016 - "Late on Friday night, Intel snuck out the news that it’s bailing on the smartphone market. Despite being the world’s best known processor maker, Intel was only a bit player in the mobile space dominated by Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung, and it finally chose to cut its losses and cancel its next planned chip, Broxton."


Isn't the Surface "mobile"? I know you mean smartphones and tablets, but if they're capable of making a portable tactile device with a fully functional OS they should be able to one day easily port that to a screen with smaller dimensions.

They already have that in Continuum: http://www.pcworld.com/article/3065895/windows/windows-conti... although I'm not sure it has a future given the shaky status of Win10 phones.

As it stands right now, I can fire up Visual Studio and write a UWP app that'll run on phone, tablet, and desktop.

The problem is that hardly anyone is using Windows Phones, and the smartphone market is one that MS hasn't had much luck with. Maybe the rumored Surface Phone will help if it ever materializes, but I'm skeptical.

Since the moment they started investing in hardware, they have always been capable of doing great smartphones. It's not the hardware part that is an obstacle. Probably it's the lack of determination to win.

yeah, I totally agree with you, unfortunately :/

Literally nobody bought the mobile side of their Windows platform. You have to kill your darlings, and Microsoft did it. They are now putting apps on other people's mobile devices, without having to compete in that space. It's a good move.

They are winning the netbook market instead.

I was looking around for netbooks on the 300 € price range, on the shops around me they are all tablets with detachable keyboards running Windows 10.

Besides the Apple section with the iPad Pro, there were almost no hybrid notebooks with Android on sale besides a few Samsung models, all the other ones have been wiped out by such Windows 10 devices.

Out of curiosity, what's the use case for cheap win10 netbooks nowadays?

When I think of something that has a web browser and a keyboard, the low end of the market seems to be the current crop of Chromebooks, and schools seem to agree - they've been phenomenally popular in education.

Typical Win10 netbooks don't have a lot of CPU+GPU grunt, so it doesn't seem to me (maybe you'll correct me) like they'd be very good for running most Windows apps.

Is this a big market?

People that want a computer with a real OS instead of a browser window juggler.

I keep seeing references how the low end is using Chromebooks, but that seems to be an US phenomenon.

Here in Europe on the area where I live, I only ever seen Chromebooks on sale on a specific chain, and they are seldom there.

When they are, they always follow the pattern of being on sale with the usual Google price, people play with it, never being thrilled by it, the price slowly goes down every few weeks, it goes into shop "product of the day" offers, until eventually they get sold.

The market is the one of anyone that wants to use a tablet with keyboard, with a desktop experience when they need to.

Basically anyone that a few years ago would buy a netbook.

The market is the one of anyone that wants to use a tablet with keyboard, with a desktop experience when they need to.

I guess that makes sense, although I think we have a very different idea of what a "desktop experience" is.

Basically anyone that a few years ago would buy a netbook.

The conventional narrative is that tablets killed the eeepc/netbook. I didn't even know that this market still existed - I knew about Surface, but those start around the $900 mark.

I wonder if the Chromebook issue in Europe is about trusting a foreign company with holding your data.

I know that this is definitely the case in Canada. In the US, I've been told that Chromebooks are everywhere in schools. From working with my local school board here (I'm in Canada), no one thinks deploying Chromebooks or using Google services in general is legally viable because we would be putting student data on US servers where it wouldn't be protected by Canadian privacy laws.

We don't use Chromebooks, but we don't end up using win10 netbooks either - it ends up being a combination of ipads and windows desktop PCs in classrooms.

Here in Germany I've never seen them particularly cheap. Which is too bad, since I was looking into throwing Linux on one and use it as a "lighter and a lot less expensive to loose" web machine.

The specific chain I mentioned is Saturn.

I only saw them there, until they eventually get sold out on those campaigns where they put products on the containers at very discounted prices.

But I only saw this happening a couple of times.

Good to know, if I end up in one of their stores for some reason I'll keep an eye out just in case. At least with a Chromebook you know that there are drivers somehow, not so sure with ultra-cheap Win10 devices.

My wife works at a small bridal shop. They are currently using HP stream 10 netbooks* to take orders while setting at a table with the bride/groom and family. The orders are stored on a desktop PC's hard drive where they are aggregated and sent to the vendors. I think that there are a lot of edge cases where you don't need a lot of processing power that netbooks excel at.

* I don't think they call the netbooks anymore, but effectively that is what I consider the HP stream devices. 32GB of non-upgradable solid state storage is all they have, and near half that is the OS install.

Windows 10 is a superset of ChromeOS and that makes it a great conservative choice for casual users.

They might need iTunes/Office/tax software/... in the future and Windows will have them covered, without buying another machine in the next 5-10 years. It's like a Swiss army knife for computing.

I just wish MS would either ease up on some of the restrictions on their UWP apps, or bring out a UWP adapted file explorer.

Right now you need to drop back to the "old" desktop file explorer (though ribbon seems to take some pain out of it once you bump the font size a bit), complete with all its UX gotchas thanks to the mouse assumptions.

This because UWP apps can only manipulate certain folders by default, and you have to authorize others (via the age old file picker dialog no less) manually. On top of that you can't launch a exe or similar from inside a UWP app.

Is mobile really that critical for all use cases? User experience for productive work on mobile is kinda shit. On any platform.

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