Microsoft's Windows division is busy wrapping up the Anniversary Update (aka 'Redstone 1') for Mobile and shipping for PC, but the hardware division is hard at work as well. I'm now starting to hear reports of refreshed Surface devices being developed that won't radically change the current design but do offer some modest modifications.
Surface Book - Please mind the gap
First up is Surface Book, which sounds like is getting Intel's new Kaby Lake processor. Kaby Lake won't start shipping until late 2016, and it brings native support for USB 3.1 (Gen 2) along with a new graphics architecture for 3D and 4K graphics. While I have not heard Kaby Lake specifically name-dropped I do hear of 'updated internals,' which jives with earlier rumors of a SoC refresh for the Surface line.
Perhaps the bigger news is a fix for something that bugged some Surface Book owners: the gap in the hinge. The space allocated for Microsoft's unique fulcrum hinge, bothered some owners on aesthetic grounds (concerns over dust collecting in that area or structural weakness though seem to be unfounded). The alleged redesign I hear makes the display and keyboard flush when closed similar to a traditional laptop.
How the Surface team managed the change while keeping the dynamic-fulcrum hinge's functionality is currently not known.
No word what, if anything, is new with a Surface Pro 4 refresh (or if there will be one). It could be just an updated Kaby Lake processor, but there is no firm info just yet to reach a conclusion.
As far as release time frames it is not clear. There are some reports from All About Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley and our Zac Bowden suggesting a Fall announcement in New York City with shipping a few weeks later. The timeline seems tied to the mass production of Intel's Kaby Lake processor – assuming that is still a part of the equation. Nonetheless, I have no definitive information confirming any announcements this Fall instead of early 2017 with Windows 10 'Redstone 2.' Watch this space.
Surface All-in-One (AIO) – Three sizes?
Microsoft's unannounced Surface All-in-One (AIO), which I have heard is targeted for the living room is allegedly being tested according to my sources with three different display sizes:
- 21-inch at Full HD
- 24-inch at 4K
- 27-inch at 4K
Nonetheless, there is no confirmation if all three devices are actually planned for retail or, alternatively, Microsoft is merely testing the three versions with a final decision on variants closer to launch.
Not much else is known about the Surface AIO and like many internal projects to Microsoft may not make it to production if it doesn't meet their high standards. The latest information I heard about any Surface AIO was that the design was supposed to be "elegant" and something that you will want to be seen in your living room.
Just how a Surface AIO differs from a tradition all-in-one remains to be seen, but the Surface team has a superb track record of creating aspirational flagship devices that are category creators.
Odds and Ends
For those curious about the alleged 'Panos phone' aka Surface phone there is no new information to share just yet (which probably makes Microsoft happy). Considering how difficult it is to get information from Microsoft's hardware division, this is not too surprising. The good news is I have not heard anything bad either so there is still optimism for a spring 2017 announcement tied to Windows 10 Mobile 'Redstone 2.'
Finally, it is worth pointing out what should be somewhat obvious about the new Xbox One S. I heavily praised the One S design in my review noting how it reminded me of work done German industrial designer Dieter Rams (it does look great in the living room). Therefore, it should not be surprising to learn that some members of the Surface team (aka Microsoft Devices) had a hand in its design.
Surface creator Panos Panay did take over engineering of all Microsoft Devices in June 2015 and that includes hardware like Band, HoloLens, Surface, Phone, and even Xbox. That bodes well for whatever Project Scorpio brings later in 2017. Then again, once people connect the dots, it will be just a matter of time before 'Surface Box' is being batted around by fans as a possible marketing name. Let's hope not.