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Future Surface products could include USB-C webcam, modular PC

Of all the new Surface products announced this week, the one that caught most everyone off guard was the Surface Headphones, an upcoming $350 set of headphones with Cortana integration, capacitive touch controls, and advanced noise cancellation. But as it turns out, Surface Headphones could be the first step in a bid to "[complete] the Surface experience," according to a new interview with Surface head Panos Panay.

Speaking with The Verge, Panay commented on the impetus behind creating the Surface Headphones, driving towards that idea of a complete Surface Experience. From Panay:

Now that the company is designing these products as one company, the tech is evolving where we want it to be… there was an opportunity to complete this thing in a way that I'm passionate about and that the team is passionate about. Just like a Surface, there are a few little elements that we can bring to the table that are transformative for your experience in getting things done.

Further in the interview, Panay also hinted that Microsoft isn't done with exploring new ideas for this complete experience. Turning his attention to the Surface Hub 2, Panay hinted that we could eventually see a USB-C camera based on the Hub 2's high fidelity shooter.

Look at the camera on Surface Hub 2, note it's a USB-C-based camera, and the idea that we can bring a high fidelity camera to an experience, you can probably guess that's going to happen. Is it completing an experience or bringing the next level of an experience to something that you wanted, even if it's not Surface? I've been looking at all of that. While I won't announce a new product, I think that's important. I really think the completing of experience is our design from Microsoft that's hardware and software.

Surface Hub 2 notably also features a modular design that allows users to upgrade its internals. And it turns out that is something Panay could see trickling down to the Surface Studio at some point – though that's far from a guarantee. When asked whether a modular design may be in the cards for Studio, Panay responded:

Probably, you look at it and you see what's the evolution and how do we make it better for our customers. Yeah, there's still so much more to do, and while I won't tell you what it is you can put stories together.

In any case, Microsoft is certainly focused on filling out its Surface lineup with a cohesive experience that encompasses more than just its PCs. The Surface Headphones and various mice and keyboards are just a part of that, but we could potentially see more surprising additions going forward.

For now, the latest Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, and Surface Studio 2 are all available for preorder, with prices starting at $899 for Pro 6 and moving north of $3,500 for Studio 2.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

46 Comments
  • Hey! Look at that USB-C webcam on the Surface Hub. It would be a shame if other Surface products didn't have USB-C...
  • You know what would be a great addition to a Surface? ANDROMEDA. Just do it.
  • Ultramobile PC.
  • An ultra-mobile PC like the one in my hand? We have been calling them smartphones for over a decade now.
  • Troll......... Pathetic
  • Can your smartphone run MPLAB microcontroller programming software?.... Until it can give it a rest, and stop embarrassing yourself with your childish mommy problems.
  • Actually, yes it can. They list Linux support right at the top of the page. Ubuntu on Galaxy makes that possible. Like I said, my Galaxy S8 is an ultra-mobile PC. You realize you will not be able to run that program on Andromeda, right? Windows Core does not support legacy applications. Even Surface Hub 2 will not be compatible when it gets WCore in A COUPLE YEARS!
  • You know they are just ultra whatever smartphones with the right amount of processing power, right? You're so wrong, PCs can do a lot that smartphones will fail to do.
  • I know right? If Andromeda is released, which I am certain it won't for a couple of years, it has to offer something a smartphone can't. I think it can work as a Surface Go kinda device but on a smartphone it will depends a lot on useful apps and consumers won't buy a Windows Phone like device IMO. I know I won't.
  • I don't want to hear squat from you Panos until you put Type-C ports in your devices. Until then, forget it.
  • The only reason the majority of people would want USB-C is to stop hearing a minority endlessly whinging about USB-C.
  • I think the majority would like a portable powerhouse thanks to an e-gpu, eliminating the need for multiple external hard drive or wasting money on multiple computers
  • Oh get real! eGPUs are great for the right person but they are a niche product. To claim that the majority want support for them is either lying or stupid. I'm disappointed that there's no USB-C on the SP6 but, at the moment at least, the vast majority of people will get along just fine without it.
  • @Jim Jon, egpu's right require thunderbolt which is a properitary standard by Intel. It's not an open standard, if it was there would be wider adoption. Also Thunderbolt requires PCIE lanes and coupled with an intel only lock down there is not much scope.
  • For that money between "upgrading" to a new Surface Pro with thunderbolt and buying that eGPu I could just build a way better PC and still keepy Surface Pro 😉
  • True, however you can't lug a massive pc onto a plane for example... sure there is remote desktop but how many airlines do you know have reliable WiFi and don't charge an arm and a leg for paltry amounts of data?
  • The USB-C camera idea, I like a lot. I don't see the modular PC going anywhere.
  • How about a Surface Watch. One that doesn't have rubber bands that break when you are doing bench presses.
  • Yeah surface watch and surface note come in 2019 with Andromeda ake surface journal.
  • There is nothing coming out in 2019...
  • Other than the finally redesigned Surface Pro and perhaps Surface Book 3. Mary Jo Foley reported on the redesign of the SP. While SP6 was a minor update (don't know why they called it SP6 instead of just SP for that), the next one will have a different chassis, rounder like that of the Surface Go (meaning a new Type Cover too - possibly with typing improvements), as well as USB-C port(s). The USC-C port means the design could be even thinner! - I remember Panos mentioning in the SP4 announcement that while it was thinner than SP3, the only reason they stopped there was because they wanted to retain the full-sized USB A port. If that's out of the window (the biggest port on SP currently), it can be thinner. In that case, a rounder design would make sense (or else it's just going to be a pain to hold).
  • Do you know anybody that works at Microsoft? lol You do realize there launching surface book 3 in 2019 lol
  • I would like a modular battery in my Surface Pro 4 to get a couple more years use out of it!
  • the only native USB-C products I saw that are sold on Amazon right now are external SSDs (Samsung, SanDisk), and USB-C sticks. And even these are compatible with USB-C to USB 3.0 adapters which cost less than $3 bucks, so adopting USB-C is not something that is needed for the majority of consumers at the Q3 of 2018.
  • USB-C to dongle: USB 3.x, HDMI, Wired ethernet, SD card reader: $50 Surface Dock: $200 for what it does, and its a buggy mess, and I know because our company stopped letting the management buy Surfaces because of the problems with the docks.
  • I call BS on the Surface Dock being a "buggy mess" -- it works perfectly. Sounds like your IT department is clueless.
  • Most IT department's are usually staffed by people who are clueless about IT infrastructure (hardware, software and networking) and optimisation of said IT infrastructure. I've seen it time and time again.
  • In my experience, most IT departments are staffed by Linux neckbeard types, even if it's an all-windows shop. They have no idea how to properly manage Windows PCs, and blame Windows for their own lack of education.
  • Lol, I know what you mean however these days it's starting to turn into a chromefest and android centric... not really a good sign either for anyone's sanity or anyone wanting to do proper work that is not tied to a browser. I mean when was the last time anyone used a browser to draw a floor plan via cellular connection? lol...
  • LOL. I am not the entire IT department but for real the execs have problems when they dock them, like one screen won't work sometimes or the thing doesn't charge. Still my original point stands.
  • owned two for over a year. Both work perfectly well for me.
  • WD has an external USB-C SSD. The USB-C to USB Type A adapter is included. It is a WD My Passport and it is tiny! I got the 512gb version. This is a perfect companion for a Surface Go. It fits in my purse. Edit: Here is the link from Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C5BG857/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s...
  • I would absolutely love if you could re-map the Cortana function to Google Assistant. My pixel-buds suck for sound quality and fit and finish but the Google Assistant integration works great. The Cortana integration would work best I think as a background function, like a little helpful reminder for your outlook calendar meetings and such, but the idea of asking cortana a question on these headphones and then the awful cortana companion app launching on my Pixel 2XL sounds like a horrible experience. but who knows! I'm in love with the rotating cuffs (love that mechanism) and the ability to adjust the noise cancellation level.
  • I woulda upgraded my 1 year old Surface Pro i5 if the new Pro 6 had USB-C. I guess it's really hard to add those USB-C ports instead of the near-useless mini display port, huh?
  • I'm waiting too, to upgrade from my 2 year old SP4 (m3, which is a pain sometimes). This was a minor update but another is coming next year. Mary Jo Foley reported on the redesign of the SP. While SP6 was a minor update (don't know why they called it SP6 instead of just SP for that), the next one will have a different chassis, rounder like that of the Surface Go (meaning a new Type Cover too - possibly with typing improvements), as well as USB-C port(s). The USC-C port means the design could be even thinner! - I remember Panos mentioning in the SP4 announcement that while it was thinner than SP3, the only reason they stopped there was because they wanted to retain the full-sized USB A port. If that's out of the window (the biggest port on SP currently), it can be thinner. In that case, a rounder design would make sense (or else it's just going to be a pain to hold).
    Also, IDK about your work environment but mini-DP has been very useful for me at universities. Almost all projectors have mini-DP.
  • It was called Sp6 because of the minor iteration 😉. You answered your own question lol.
  • USB-C to (anything) is superior to DisplayPort in a lot of scenarios. Why not have USB-C to DisplayPort / HDMI ? As it is you have to have a mini-dp to regular adapter a lot of the time anyways. Dongles no matter what.
  • How large is the Surface Hub 2 module compared to the Surface Studio base? It would be awesome to have a future Surface Studio model be compatible with the Hub module.
  • Panos..... Give us Andromeda
  • Big surface fan, but....I don't get how the guy can talk about "completing the experience" when there are massive, blatantly obvious gaps. Wearables and mobile devices (whether you choose to call it a phone or mobile pc) are just too big of a gap to ignore. No one was asking Microsoft for earphones. No one is asking them for a usb camera. And honestly, the "man on the street" user doesn't really care about USB design choices. Not one bit. I get the risks, I really do. As a long term Lumia and band user, I get that Microsoft threw a tonne of time, energy and money at those sectors, with very little return on investment. But still, it just seems bizarre to hear the head of surface talk about completing the experience, all the while knowing it'll never be complete without a mobile and wearable solution.
  • USB-c and a webcam. Good grief, those are highlights? Today they should be basics. Seriously MS, when will you get ahead of the game instead of catching up to last month's standard? Does anyone really not understand why the customers are slowly drifting away from MS?
  • They don't care about customers. They care about stink ridden, pain ridden, jail like enterprise market. I wonder when they will make a Suface lock!
  • You haven't read the words properly. He's not talking about USB-C and a webcam. He's talking about a USB-C webcam. Can you name any other webcam on the market today that is USB-C rather than USB-A? If there are any, I'm not aware of them. That's still an iterative step but it is a step that no one else has taken yet so your complaint isn't actually valid.
  • A number of people have been suggesting for a while that they would like to see a monitor based on the Surface Studio design and I've been saying that that wouldn't really make sense. Microsoft are a software company and they have been making hardware predominantly to sell their software, as well as push OEMs to make better hardware to sell their software. A monitor doesn't do that so it doesn't make sense under that model. If Microsoft are shifting their focus to a more complete hardware experience though, a Surface Studio-based monitor would absolutely fit right into that.
  • anyone want to guess if Intel will release a 10 nm processor for the surface line in time for an October 2019 release? Or is that wishful thinking? the SP6 is just swapping out the processor, no significant changes to the internals. But how much lead time (processor in hand) does MSFT need to design a circuit board and commit to manufacturing. and distribution?
  • Re: Intel 10nm … hahahaahah Intel has been bested by AMD in all ways except IPC speed. Unless MS goes AMD (which they should for Ryzen + Vega APUs) they won't have 10nm until 2021