Microsoft's reimagining of the PC for creators heralds a new generation of computer

If you ask any creative professional, such as an artist or musician Apple's iMac is the preferred tool for most, hands down. For artists of varying disciplines, Apple's high-end and expensive hardware have been the industry standard for anyone serious about their craft. That is not to say the non-artistic consumer will not find value with a Mac. Apple's desktop computer has simply set itself head and shoulders above other PCs for the artistic professional.

Conversely, Microsoft's productivity focus has made it the go-to tool in the enterprise. Furthermore, Redmond's allegiance with hardware partners helped push the PC to bargain basement price points and thus into 90% of homes in the market.

The contrast between the Mac and the PC has seen the two placed at opposite ends of the spectrum at times. Apple's high pricing and the Macs appeal to professionals has given it an elite and luxury branding. Microsoft's reliance on manufacturing partners who have represented Windows on both high end, but more visibly for the masses on low-end, hardware has positioned Redmond to contend with a "generic" perception of PCs. Windows dominance in the market on 90% of PCs and the familiarity of the Office productivity suite has reinforced the polarization between the Mac and PC.

Surface Studio and Creators Update is aimed at mainstreaming creative tools for everyone

With the introduction of the Windows Creators update and the Surface Studio, Microsoft is looking to make its platform more appealing to all creators. The company is also aiming to make its hardware the ideal tool for content creation. Moreover, in line with the first-party Surface line, Redmond is positioning the Studio to "rebrand" Windows desktop PCs. As a high-end, high-priced $3000 aspirational device the Studio (and other Surfaces) combat the low-end legacy perception associated with PCs when compared to the iMac (and MacBook).

Ideologically Different

Apple's business model positions the iMac, and its other hardware at the high end of the market. Furthermore, the company's marketing has imbued its products with the intangible value that an elite luxury position imparts. The high price many customers have willingly paid for the iMac has not only been justified by the quality of the hardware but by the immaterial quality of the Mac as "the tool for creative professionals."

Microsoft sees everyone, not just professionals as creators.

Though the iMac is a PC that can be used by anyone, Apple sees creative professionals as a distinct group that benefits from the Macs position as a creator's tool.

Microsoft, however, is indirectly targeting everyone as creators with the Surface Studio.

Before you quip over the $3000 price tag, let me explain. Actually, allow me to pass the mic to Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Windows and Devices Terry Myerson:

In a recent interview, Mary Jo Foley mused to Myerson that Microsoft's appeal to creatives was to go after Apple's core base. Myerson gave the following enlightening response:

No. We're thinking about each of us as creators, and I would say a distinct inspiration has been watching today's younger generation and the trends in how they're embracing computing. Truly going to MineCon for me was such an influential event. They're creators. They are such a diverse group, and it's so different from how we grew up. My interaction with CAD came when I was in mechanical engineering school. And these kids are so fluent and interactive in really quite rich 3D concepts.And, likewise, seeing how -- and I see this in my own home, seeing this eager desire to not just play videogames, but broadcast their interaction with these videogames, interact with the broadcasters. So the inspiration really is in looking and saying what are the trends in this next generation that we can foster and invest in. And in a way that's relevant for a broad base, but also looking for inspiration for what's coming next.

Let's take a look at how that statement translates to Microsoft's indirectly aiming of the Surface Studio at everyone as creators.

Positioning for a cultural and generational shift in content creation

The first point we glean from Myerson's response is that the Creators Update, which brings innovations like 3D Paint to Windows, targets everyone as creators. Of note is the inspiration Microsoft drew from the younger generation for this strategy.

Microsoft sees a generational shift where young people today are well-acquainted with creative tools that previous generations were not exposed to until they took part in formal education or professional environments. There is, therefore, an ideological difference in how Microsoft and Apple see the creator.

Microsoft sees a cultural shift where young people comfortably use complex creative tools.

Microsoft may be strategically positioning the reimagined desktop and Windows as a creator's platform on the cusp of a cultural, technological shift where the tools previously restricted to an elite segment are the providence of children and the average consumer. Conversely, Apple' view of creators remains focused on professionals.

It is worth acknowledging that Redmond is not forsaking its productivity legacy. The company is just pairing a creator's vision with its productivity forte to help all users do more. For example, Microsoft Paint, the creator's tool for every Windows user has been updated to 3D Paint to help herald this new vision.

This evolution of the app adds a range of creative tools that allows users to build creations that more accurately reflect the real world. It also allows these creations to be shared and incorporated into other Microsoft products such as PowerPoint (and HoloLens) allowing a broader range of expression. This and other aspects of the Creators Update, like an app that lets users take 3D pictures, put creativity tools in the hands of every Windows user.

Partner power, a Surface Studio-like convertible PC for everyone

So how is Surface Studio targeted at everyone? As an aspirational device, Microsoft is looking to manufacturing partners to build similar devices to spur a rebirth of the desktop that is both the traditional productivity tool as well as a tool for the creator in each of us.

Microsoft has reimagined the stalling PC.

As a category-defining desktop computer that converts into an immersive 4K drafting table, Microsoft has reimagined the stalling desktop PC. Combined with the Surface dial and pen, Microsoft's vision enables a user to directly interact with digital content in a deeply immersive touch environment on a 28-inch display. TrueScale is a powerful feature that makes the digital content an accurate representation of its real-world counterparts. An inch on screen is an inch in life.

Just as the Surface inspired an industry of 2-in-1s, Surface Studio is meant to inspire an industry of convertible PC's that turn our desks into studios.

Myerson envisions partners helping to replicate the Studios form-factor and deeply interactive touch experience with devices more accessible to consumers:

When we go to WinHEC, we're really thinking how are we going to democratize this technology, how are we going to work with these partners to build devices that can reach all price points, that can reach everyone on the planet. And really I find it such an inspiring part of my job to be able to do that, because …most of your readers are not necessarily using our Microsoft devices. Most of your readers are using devices that are a product of these partnerships that we have that enable these hardware creators to express their own creative ideas for Windows.

Thus, the Surface Studio as a north star represents visually and tangibly Microsoft's bold leap as the leader in the provisioning of the tools and the platform for a new vision of the PC for creativity and productivity alike.

Winning a generation of creators to Windows

The Minecraft generation that has so impacted Terry Meyerson's and Microsoft's realization of the apparent shift in how young people are creating and sharing content positions Redmond and Studio-like devices to usurp Apple as "the creator's platform." It won't happen overnight, however.

Though Microsoft has been clear that the Surface Studio is not targeted directly at the masses; Redmond is looking for partnerships to, over time, bring Studio-like convertible desktops into homes to replace traditional desktops. The Studio's innovative design and accessories (and creator's tools on Windows), if successfully replicated by partners, may provide an incentive for consumers to replace their aging desktops as 2-in-1s have replaced many laptops.

The next generation of children may grow up creating on Surface Studio-like convertible PC's

If this occurs the next generation of children will likely grow up accustomed to creating on convertible PCs, just as traditional Windows PC's are the familiar go-to productivity tool for the older generation. Microsoft is counting on retaining this productivity heritage while gaining the advantages of the Creators Update on a Surface Studio-like form-factor as the reimagining of the PC going forward.

Of course, per Microsoft's broad vision the Surface Studio, and high-end OEM devices will serve professionals at the high-end, potentially rivaling Apples domain. Other partners, per Myerson, will fill the space at varying price points. And though not a direct assault to the iMac it is a long play that may, in time, perhaps a generation, see Microsoft undo what has long been the forte of the iMac.

Windows and Microsoft's reimagined desktop may become the tool for creative professionals and creators of every type.

What are your thoughts? Sound off in comments and on Twitter!

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

91 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! With Redmond's identifying of everyone as creators and thier supplying in both hardware and software what they believe to be key tools for creators, Redmond is potentially positioning the reimagined Windows PC to be perceived as the go-to tool for professional and all creators over time. The democratizing of the convertible desktop combined with the Creators Update can potentially lead to consumers replacing aging PCs with this type of device as manufacturing partners bring them to all price points in the market. It will be interesting to see if the next generation of children see and use creatively and productively, convertible PCs, as normally as previous generations used traditional desktops. Well folks...LET'S TALK!!!
  • This is a bigger deal for Apple than Microsoft. There will always be more creators, and by that I mean those who create something anyone else wants, than there will be consumers. So this will hurt Apple's bottom line more than it helps MS bottom line.
  • It seems mostly about the continuation of shifting from highly paid positions in a smaller workforce pool, to expanding the pool of creators into ages and regions, "worldwide". Globalization, outsourcing, demographic shifting, etc. There are winners and losers both in terms of workers and corporate players when global scale economics is factored in. Microsoft is positioning themselves for the continuation of globalization's efforts for lower wage workers. Good for some, not so good for others, but Microsoft is positioning themselves well, nonetheless.
  • Rest in peace APPLE
  • Yay
  • That's great but can it run Crysis?
  • can anything run Crysis?
  • My Computer runs 1 , 2 and 3 fine(top detail).... now 4 is a different story when it's released... but, DAM you need a lot to run it correctly
  • i think there's a super computer in china that can.
  • In Mother Russia, Crysis runs you!
  • I want one whether it can or not. Maybe I'll just hide my gaming PC under the desk and stream games from the gaming PC to the Surface Studio? I might lose a few frames but it would be worth it to have this beauty on the desk.
  • Microsoft and Apple both are great but they should never let google come up
  • With what, chromeOS??? windows and macOS are waaaay out of it league
  • That's probably not their decision. Previously there where 2 it giants, now there are 3.
  • Heads up...  In the "Category-defining desktop computer" paragraph, it should say a 28" display, not 24".
  • Thanks!
  • Great article that puts Microsoft's vision in a proper perspective.
  • Thanks Rensul.
  • Good article.
  • Thanks Iocowd.
  • Apple imac is not the best for design, video, etc., for long time. It still be used as a question of "status". The idea of you only can be a good designer if you have an iMac on your desk still prevail.
    The truth is iMac stopped in time for long time. Since Adobe (and others) use the same resources on pc version as macos version there's no real advantage of using an iMac (or even a mac pro).
  • I have a friend who is a film major, and he used to be a long time user of iMacs due to Final Cut and other Mac exclusive software, but he's done with them now. The reason is he uses Adobe software, which is also available on PC. He wants to build his own rig, which will be more powerful than anything Apple has to offer, and cheaper.
  • That's one of the big advantages of the PCs, you can have your rig updated. You can change you GPU to a new edition (e.g., you can have the new Quadro GPU), upgrade RAM, HDD, CPU, etc.
    Even about monitors, the best ones are from third parties.
  • Yup! That's why he got sick of Macs. He had to keep shelling out money to keep up with the Mac hardware. And the internals of Macs aren't that cutting edge when compared to custom PCs.
  • Yes, exactly. I'm a high school video production teacher and a video editing professional, and in my personal business I left Macs behind a long time ago. There is absolutely no advantage to using a Mac for video production. Sadly, in education it's hard to convince the administrators (who are always at least one generation behind on current trends in technology) that Macsw are not the way to go. They wrongly believe that "Macs and FCP are the industry standard". In reality, there is no "industry standard" Many TV stations use NLE software that is only available on PC's. Hopefully Microsofts venture will begin chnging stubborn minds.
  • "Apple' view of creators remains focused on professionals." This is incorrect. Apple forgot about professionals years ago. They make their money selling iphones and taking a cut from the throngs of unproductive games played in said devices. As a full time creative professional, this is the general feeling coming from Mac users alike. The current Mac Pro was a huge WTF to working Pros who need power. The imac really isn't an ideal tool for imaging creatives as the display falls short for absolute colour accuracy. People who work on documents all day are happy, but I know many real creatives are feeling a bit jealous from the Surface Studio demo. At least that's the feeling in the communities I frequent.
  • Completly agree with you! Apple don't care about professional market anymore. That macbook pro is the perfect example that Apple gave up on professionals. A touchbar?! A touchbar with smiles and garbage?! Who care's about a tiny preview of the photoshop blends on the keyboard area?! This is so ridiculous!
    Who cares about a small interactive stripe if you can have a full screen touch where you can directly interact with what you are doing?!
    Apple is having a deep lack of vision - Jony Ive, the "design guru", simply lost the touch :D
  • Jason, I've commented to this in a few other areas but I think it needs to be pointed out more often and wish the press would do so to educate people...  When people balk at the price of the Surface Studio they should not really compare it to a standard desktop or all-in-one.  Sure, it can be used as one but that's an oversimplification of what it is.  I think the closest comparision feature-wise would be against a design workstation that uses a Wacom Cintiq 27" QHD Touch display/digitizer. What most people don't know or realize is that a 27" QHD Touch Cintiq on its own cost in the ballpark of $2800.  If you want the Ergo Arm accessory to get Surface Studio like adjustability that's another $400 and the Express Key Remote (closest thing to the Dial) is another $99.  And then you still need to buy a computer to drive it! By comparision, the Surface Studio is in no way overpriced considering you are getting a beautiful, streamlined, turn-key package.  A package that provides a lot of additional capabilities and features that the Cintiq currently doesn't.  Better resolution, 1-to-1 scaling, enhanced color profiles, Surface Dial, etc...
  • ^THIS. Yes, people tend to compare with iMac and forget the Wacom solutions. The Cintiq tables are great but really expensive and probably going to loose customers to Studio - that gives you much more solutions in the same equipment.
  • Thanks for the informative additions to the discussion!:-)
  • Apple have been losing creatives in droves, you only have to visit Adobe's forums to realise this. As there are persistent issues in OSX that make using this professional software more difficult than it should be, and Apple are still silent on when the fixes will come... this has been going on for well over a year too!
  • No doubt they will suddenly get their act together ;-)
  • I'm a user of adobe software and I'm using it on an iMac and on a PC.
    The MacOs versions tend to crash more often than any designer would like.
    My PC has less RAM that iMac but PC actually performs better.
    Oh, and the macos Sierra has a lot of bugs and issues.
    Hopping next year get rid of the iMac and get a more powerful PC.
    I'm really upset with Apple and the way they ignore the professional needs.
  • What did I want to say again?
  • "I'm a Creator"
  • Meet your Creator ;-)
  • It sure is reimagined trying to sell old hardware at premium prices. Everything about the Studio is outdated apart from the screen.
  • agreed. It's "lipstick on a pig" … at a taxidermist.
  • Also agree on this. 2 years from now, most people will want to replace it because it's not fast enough. That is the problem getting older hardware in a new computer of any form...
  • The idea of the Studio wouldn't be as much of a problem if it weren't insanely priced for the SKU's offered and if and only if it were user-upgradeable/repairable and had a desktop-class motherboard and PSU for desktop-class components.
  • You obviously have no clue as to what this was designed for.
  • "You obviously have no clue as to what this was designed for."
    You obviously have no clue how to make a point. If you have a point, declare it instead of whatever you wasted time posting above. The internal parts have everything to do with "what this was designed for".  Pricing has nothing to do with "what this was designed for" when the external design covers up weak and quickly outdated parts that can't be replaced by the user.  Creators and professionals use user-replaceable desktop-class CPUs and Quadro graphics (not superficial mobile gaming graphics) so as to not have to repeatedly replace entire pieces of equipment. Microsoft claims the Studio is targeted at creators (which is nonsense) but has spent every minute since the first minute of the announcement trying to convince non-creators that it's for them, too.  Bloggers are writing articles trying to do the same.  It's nonsense.
  • Your entire post is nonsense, but I'm guessing you're an Apple lover. This is a new category that graphic artists will love.
  • "I'm guessing you're an Apple lover"
    Don't quit your day job if guessing is a new venture you'd like to undertake. I'm not a lover of tools but I am a user of tools.  Apple and Microsoft are both guilty of overpricing. This is an artificial category that no one knows is a home run or not. Give it time.
  • Yea in some cases it's good, some graphic level people but, with that level of video card, there are FAR better cards out there so in 2 years, it will be so outdated graphic editors will be asking for a new computer.... Trust me I deail with them. The Video card is fine for now....but, like I said in 2 years its a different story. it's you who does not have a clue
  • No, it's you that has no clue. It's just my profession. These aren't gamers so their needs are different.
  • "Everyone is a creator"
      Starting at $2,999 for laptop CPU and GPU components, no, everyone is not a creator just because Microsoft wants to sell these soon to be obsolete black boxes. I don't care what other "comparable" Wacom or Cintiq devices are out there around the same price points. Everyone would already have those options if everyone really were creators and their creativity needed a $2500+ digital easel.
     
    "Microsoft's reimagining of the PC for creators heralds a new generation of computer"
      The only thing Microsoft is "heralding" is outpacing inflation in its pricing of weaker and weaker desktop and laptop configurations.  This will only lead to more expensive yet underequipped, non-user upgradeable/repairable devices.  This isn't about new paradigms.  None of these ideas are new.  Microsofts "devices" initiative is about normalizing higher price points to help 3rd party OEMs that are only going to deplete people's finances when they have to replace these "newer" devices; practically nothing inside them is user-replaceable/repairable.  These are not long-term tools.  They are gimmickware.
  • The point you missed went that way >>>>>
  • The points made were weak. Enjoy the author's bromides.
  • The only "weak" points made are your constant Apple fanboy hand-wringing
    Poor Apple fans :-(
  • What the f*** does Apple have to do with anything I said?  Explain yourself.
  • LOL
  • You just read the header, didn't you? Naughty, naughty... :-)
  • The author is advocating for furthering the digitizing of the intangible creative process, handcuffing it to technological constraints.  That makes no more sense than the quickly outdated technology undergirding this innane belief that the Studio-like technology makes people creative.  It is actually those who are already talented and creative who use certain technology that render certain technology itself only a limited tool, not a spawner of everything creative that people euphorically make themselves out to be all of a sudden when a new device is announced.  This author's writing is an emotional essay to humanize the inanimate and diminish the inherent creativity that comes from exploring being human without some technological handicap that the tech gods have "offered" us.  The effort that goes into this article is advertising Microsoft's vision that Microsoft will benefit from more than anyone, retard-ing independence from technology and increasing reliance on it. Cui bono?  Microsoft. Do you have an actual thought of your own to share that isn't constrained to the "code" of the article or the echo of The Borg that is blindly regurgitating Microsoft's vision in the comments?
  • Everyone is creative, some dont' have the right tools and others simply don't care to push up their creativity.
    The professionals and the best creatives have the right tools and spent hours and hours to push their creative up.
  • The ethos of this article is that everyone is a creator, as in everyone does work at creating (either professionally or on their own).  The professionals and the best creators are not defined by the tools they use, but how they use the tools that they have.  There are limits to being creative on a computer.  Creators who are reliant on computer technology can only push their "creative up" as far as the molders of the code allow.  That is "I'll do whatever this programming will allow".  That is a constraint, not creativity.  That is planned obsolescence.
  • And when you're playing a guitar, you're restrained by guitars' physiological properties. Or painting you're limited by your brush, paint, canvas etc.
  • Why are you so angry? MS doesn't make pc's. The only reason why this Surface Studio exist is to showcase their software. It doesn't have to have the best specs, it just has to showcase. The OEM's will spec it out for you. It's not gimmickware, it's inspiration for the OEM. Now there can be other iterations from the Razors, hps, Lenovos, Dells of the world, highly spec'd, with upgradable parts, and at a price point just for you. This is the birth of a new form factor. You should rejoice for what's coming, not be frustrated because the first of many iterations doesn't fit all the pieces in your life. Your thinking misses the point of what the Surface Studio is. MS is not Apple. MS makes software, Apple makes hardware. When MS creates hardware, it's to showcase their software. Because sometimes software needs special hardware to shine.
  • It never fascinated me that people with their own observations and opinions are labelled "angry" by astigmatic zealots, but it's always saddening to see it continue.
    "You should rejoice for what's coming, not be frustrated because the first of many iterations doesn't fit all the pieces in your life. Your thinking misses the point of what the Surface Studio is."
    I never look at any tool (e.g. technology) as fitting all the pieces of my life nor as solving any of the problems of my life. You reading that in to this conversation shows that may be your way of thinking about using technology, but it clearly isn't mine.
    "This is the birth of a new form factor"
    Microsoft enlarged the Surface Book and gave it yet another overrated hinge and put the components in it that should have been in the new Surface Book. This isn't something to get all holy about.  It's a disappointment (that you haven't even tried in person yourself to know if it is worth all this worship you are offering up for it).
    "MS is not Apple. MS makes software, Apple makes hardware."
    • Just like Apple, Microsoft is rehashing old product ideas that OEMs have already built in one form factor or another.  Have you been paying attention? • Apple AND Microsoft make hardware.  Have you been paying attention? • Apple AND Microsoft make software.  Have you been paying attention?
     
    "You should rejoice for what's coming"
    What religious pipe smoking ceremony are involved in each day so I can avoid it?   Computers, no matter what form factor they come on or will come in, are not "savior" devices. Technology is just a tool. Get ahold of yourself, if you even know how to drop the technocratic holy ghost that's got you entranced.
  • Apple's iPhone proves you wrong. The iPhone was (and is) Apples savior device.
  • Apple's iPhone proves you wrong. The iPhone was (and is) Apples savior device.
      Mutually exclusive concepts. The iPhone saving Apple (just one of DARPA's dummy corporations that cares nothing about you) has nothing to do with what I was talking about.
  • But that's exactly what you said. Computers don't save companies. But the iPhone is what saved Apple.
  • Maybe this is why we didn't get a Surface Phone this year.  Microsoft is definitely moving away from devices that simply load Windows 10 and into products they believe serve a specific purpose or a specific audience.  A Surface Phone would have been just that, another device running a vanilla version of W10M.  Given that the Surface Phone is coming (supposedly) after the Creators Update, it would not surprise me if the Surface Phone was a more focused product for a specific market. 
  • In the same interview with MJ Foley Terry Myerson more or less dismissed the prospect of there being