Today's Microsoft event was one of the best I've ever seen

I've watched a lot of press events recently. In my job as Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, that tends to happen. Over the last month I've sat through events online and in person put on by Samsung, Huawei, Apple, LG, ASUS, and Google. But today's Microsoft event was different. The hardware they unveiled was stunning. The presentation was impeccable. And the presenters were more than just personable — they were personal. I sat down for this event with relatively muted expectations (new Windows Phones and Surface tablets, yaaaay.) and came out not just impressed, but optimistic. I like this new Microsoft.

Gone is the Microsoft that used to bore me to tears. Panos Panay paced the stage as he announced device after device, elucidating with unmistakable passion not on just the details of these new phones, tablets, and wearables, but what those details mean to a user.

There was no talk of processor clock speeds or RAM bus speeds or any other technical mumbo jumbo like that (and I know what that technical mumbo jumbo means). Instead we were told that these devices were faster and more powerful than any competitor on the market, and then we were shown just how fast and powerful they are.

How fast is that SSD write speed? Doesn't matter, let me just transfer a 3GB file from the USB drive and show you. How many teraflops worth of calculations can that processor and GPU handle? Dunno, but they're the latest and best that you can put in a device like this and just check out this flawless and lag-free 3D rendering. Is it faster and more powerful than that MacBook Air? Damned right it is.

I want Bryan Roper to do every press event ever. I love this guy.

And then there's Bryan Roper. I want this guy to give every presentation I ever have to watch again. His passion and excitement was evident from the very start of his demonstration of the new Lumia 950 phones. Not just that, he walked us through exactly what we were looking at when it came time to demonstrate Continuum, constantly and helpfully making callbacks to how things work with Windows 10 and how similar they are with a Windows 10 Mobile phone outputting to a keyboard and monitor over a single cable into a dock.

Not just that, Roper's excitement was contagious. His passion was infectious. His humor was spot on. It's rare that I have fun and find myself enjoying something as dry as "you plug your phone into this box and it outputs as a desktop onto this screen and you can use a keyboard and mouse with it." That should be the dullest presentation ever, yet I was loving every moment of it. I mean, what press event in recent memory have you ever hear the phrase " 'Cause I can be productive like a boss wherever I am now."? Panos Panay stopped in the middle of the Surface Book unveiling to grab a few from the podium and hand them out to the press on hand to pass around

The specs don't matter, it's what they enable you to do that matters.

Microsoft in the past has put on some stunningly dreadful press events. They've let themselves get bogged down in numbers and specs and other things that just don't matter to anybody but the spec nerds (sorry guys, the specs still don't matter). They would bore on and on with talk about Microsoft's financial positioning or how many dull businesses are running dull Windows services. Somehow the message that we've been preaching here at Mobile Nations for years now got through to the campus in Redwood: the specs don't matter, it's what they enable you to do that matters.

That thought process was clear from the first moment they started to talk about the new Lumias. Here's some impressive technology, sure, but here's what you can do with that. Here's why you want it — not for the bragging rights nerd cred that these numbers bring, but for the sheer usefulness that they'll bring to your life.

And that's not even mentioning the Surfaces. Wow. I'm still not entirely sold on the flappy keyboard cover and kickstand, but that Surface Pro 4 is still a mighty fine piece of hardware. It's absurdly powerful, obscenely thin, and smartly designed in a way that only Apple rivals. But Apple's tablets are different beasts, designed with different goals in mind. Microsoft's packed a full-fledged high-end laptop into a body that's barely over 8mm thick. Think about that for a moment.

But the real star was the Surface Book. Is it really quite expensive? Sure. Is it pretty thick when closed, especially at that crazy rolling hinge? Yeah. Is it an piece of showcase engineering that smashes preconceptions about what a tablet, laptop, and convertible ought be? Absolutely. The Surface Book is a bit of an oddity, sure, but it's also absurdly incredible. It took a while for Microsoft's manufacturing partners to catch on and catch up to what Microsoft was doing with the Surface line, and I suspect it'll be a little while before they're able to pull off what they've done with the Surface Book too.

What Microsoft unveiled wasn't by any means a feat of technical brilliance that nobody else could have accomplished. It's that Microsoft was willing to accomplish that — the Windows and Office cash cows provide more than enough padding to absorb the massive cost of something like developing and producing the new Surfaces. But Microsoft is willing to take those hits to their bottom line in the goal of pushing forward the industry as a whole.

Surface Book

It took three years to turn a profit on the Surface laptops, and I suspect that Microsoft's not making much, if any, money on the mind-bogglingly-cool Surface Book either. But that doesn't matter to them. This is a product created because they had a vision that none of their partners had, a vision of what the laptop of the future should look like. It's not a perfect vision or execution, but it's the sort of thing that only a company in Microsoft's position could do.

And then there was the simply wild HoloLens. It's still a ridiculous first-generation product that nobody in their right mind should buy, but if it's not so damned cool. The interactive holographic gaming demonstration might have dragged on for a bit too long, but it was simply too cool to pass up. At $3000 the developer kit of the HoloLens is certainly far out of the price range of the average consumer (who shouldn't be considering something with the word 'developer' in its title anyway), but it's paving the way for the future of interactive computing.

Today I saw a Microsoft with a renewed sense of self.

Microsoft's leaders walked out onto that stage today and hit it out of the park. They had swagger and confidence and passion that was in no way misplaced. This has been a year of solid tech presentations across the board. Everybody's stepped up their game and nobody's really whiffed on the quality of their product or stage craft. Even Samsung's avoided making us cringe, which is a miracle in and of itself.

Today I saw a Microsoft with a renewed sense of self, stepping up and showing the world what they can do, and that they can do it with the best of them. In a very short time Microsoft has gone from a company that struggled on stage, in product quality, and in getting their message to consumers to a company that's confident in who they are, what they can do, and why they're doing it.

It's an odd position — I was more impressed and engaged by a Microsoft presentation than an Apple one. Apple's unveiling of the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro last month was more polished and perfected, sure, but that's what Apple does. But after watching today's Microsoft presentation, I feel like they somehow captured that excitement and passion that's been missing from Apple in recent years. Apple's presentations have lost the warmth and have started becoming almost clinical in their precision and predictability. Microsoft contrasted that today with an engaging and excited presentation.

I'm impressed, Microsoft. Not just by the products announced, but by the company that Microsoft has evolved into in so short a time. Keep it up, guys, you're doing good work.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

264 Comments
  • Agreed
  • +950
  • +XL
  • +Continuum
  • +Stop
  • "...the company that Microsoft has evolved into in so short a time...". Short time? They have been working for ages on software front, now hardware... They are the biggest/ best and always have been. Where have YOU been? Another dimension? I disagree with you here, pop-eyed.
  • I think he's referring to the fact that they've been dull, corporate and uninspiring - especially on the consumer side until the last few years.
  • You are right. I saw what he did and disagreed anyway. The piece is beautiful, but I disliked that part. Actually, I have always been a Msft fan and couldn't catch such responses like media did about W8 and so on. They were not truly representative. A harsh comment maybe, but, you know, why?
  • i think he is talking about how the company has changed since ballmer stepped down.  MS has been good w/ software for along time.  Their flaw was always hardware as their BS partners and oem make crappy hardware. when MS release the first surface, their ads were soooo damn bad.  They had people dancing, tapping tables, transforming robots, multicolor keyboards flashing on the screen .... I had no idea what the f the product is suppose to do for me. now it seem more focus, it is like, "Look, this is our goals and this is how we are going to get there."  and "This is our product and how it can help you."    rant: I swear, when I saw those first many surface ads of bullshit dancers and everything, I wanted to punch the TV, hoping that it would smash some heads at redmond and the ad agencies office.
  • LOL. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Yep. From a hardware standpoint yes, but, you know, hardware and software walk together and bla, bla, bla. I mean, of course, when W10 will be more mature (- remember, life cycle?), all those guys "denying" Msoft's efforts will write: ok, now they nailed it. Meantime, diehard fans, like me, I presume, won't agree, cause they saw all those apparent flaws as natural obstacles of a given process, or project ("project" seems more adequate here).
     
  • These are the lead products Microsoft need because they must lead that large parade of OEM partners developing the Windows 10 market. We see already The Surface 3 being copied by an OEM now these phones to join in is actly what the doctor ordered and very important for the developers so they can cross-platform to wp without major revisions that may decline functionality to the universal app platform which should give a positive boost. These phones should see some corporate purchasing by the bushels then other OEMs will soon follow suit especially because of continuum which gives serious flexibility. 
  • I totally agree. And, Facebook and others are already all-in for the UWP. Who wants to be outside 90% PCs? Nobody and Terry already told us about the new figures UWP are bringing in. My rant was also about Microsoft x Apple comparison... Can't stand this anymore... Nadella said: we don't have competitors where we're heading to. People are ignoring.
  • +like a boss
  • Lmao... Yes!
  • +iris scanner
  • I think the renewed confidence of microsoft was due to the fact that all other competitors are copying them and they know they have a winner on their hands. What's more confidence pumping than that?!!
  • Exactly
  • LOL
  • Agreed I'm watching it a 2nd time and I'm still blown away. Already ordered 2 Band 2's. Just in time for me to go to Nashville to rec again.
  • +1020
  • +10
  • Can't agree anymore.
  • +640 XL
  • +950XL!!
  • Absolutely....loved it.....great job Microsoft!
  • panos panay got more swag than tony stark panos panay > tony stark
  • Yup.... Even I was seeing tony stark in panos panay
  • Rename Cortana to Jarvis?  
  • No o.O
  • They already did that. It was named Jarvis prior to Cortana.
  • I got a bit tired of hearing him say "awesome" and "cool"
  • Panos was brilliant but Terry Myerson is the worst presenter I will ever witness and has no business grabbing a microphone or being on stage. He is absolutely brutal! That being said everything announced and all other speakers were fantastic! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I agree, every time Terry Myerson gets on stage he just about kills the momentum that was building. Panos should really be promoted as primary presenter or whatever for Microsoft, he did a fantastic job.
  • I would say Julie Larson-Green or Tami Reller over Terry Myerson. Terry has some work to do, but there have been worse speakers.
  • +everything!!
  • +950
  • That Panos Panay guy needs to present Lumias more ! That guy would even sell me a shi* If he wants to. He was really good.
  • Agreed. But there is also one more thing that kept us more interested. The surface book came out of nowhere. The lumias, surface pro, everything just leaked as hell. But surface book was their best kept secret. So, it was a bit of surprise to all of us, at a time when basically every product is fully leaked months before it is announced. So, kudos to Microsoft.
  • Agreed !!
  • The Surface Pro 4. Is as thin as a Lumia 950XL
  • Limited by the required thickness for USB ports. Can't go too thin, people will lose fingers.
  • Kind of surprising nothing had USB c ports but the phone
  • I didn't read it here but thought the presentation showed a USB-C on the SP4 too. Unless it was the dock.
  • Nah, no USB-C
  • I was also disappointed that the continuum dock wasn't used by the surface 4 and the Surface book. A dock that was used by all devices would have been a good story for having a surface 4 and a Lumia 950/950XL.
  • Surface pro 4 and book are already PCs so just connect them to your screen and ... That's all
  • I think this is more of a hangover from the Nokia hardware stuff. It would have been great if it was all one device but might have made it more expenseve. Not sure of which connector is used.
  • One port would have been nice, but the real value of the C connector is on smaller devices like a phone. Although a reversable full-sized connector would be nice.
  • If they made it thinner you could shave with it two.  Then it would be a 3-in-1.
  • I always tell my friends that going to events is fun, but it can be equally grinding. When you sit through as many as we do, something like today is a genuine thrill. Refreshing and enjoyable to witness. I was in the IFA press conference Microsoft delivered and that was my first experience with Bryan Roper. Glad to see he came back and hopefully he's used at every future event. Along with Panay. Microsoft has a dream team there.
  • I agree...excellant team work there... 
  • Yay, the girl presented Band2 needs more training from the duo.
  • She was hot AF
  • Not that much
  • agreed........the moment she came on stage, i was just checking her out & not listening much about the band 2 !! 
    i wasn't interested in band 2 either......it was the lumia's i cared about but then everything had pretty much leaked before only
  • she looked okay, wouldn't say hot AF.
  • Terry Myerson needs to take some lessons from those two as well. He's got almost no charisma, and uses pauses in his speech in the wrong places entirely. I almost feel like my brain is stuttering when he is presenting, which is unfortunate. Wholly enjoyed the rest of the presentations though!
  • She did seem pretty nervous, which is completely understandable.
  • When a guy comes out and wears DAT HAT... That is a sign that we entered BAWSE MODE! Seriously, they out Appled Apple. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • "out Appled" lol!
  • Panos is made for this stuff, he gets everyone pumped :) - he should do all the talking.
    Bryan is more like a salesman, but he's fun which is nice
  • Absolutely. They paced it perfectly. All the product demos were super. I guess the so-called vision that MSFT has been working hard to execute was finally visible to everybody in the auditorium. From the whistles, claps, and standing ovation, it is apparent that MSFT got a LOT of folks excited this time.
  • I love how the presenters, esp. Panay, sounded so confident and proud of what they were presenting.
  • I agree it was the best event I've seen from Microsoft in a very long time. However what was most surprising was the crowd response to the point of a small standing ovation. It was a small crowd and given past crowd reactions, our lack of, it seemed almost staged. I'll have to see a couple more events before I buy into their incredibly positive reaction. Having said that, what Microsoft demonstrated today is that they are innovators something Apple has been lacking for quite some time and I hope consumers start to realize this.
  • Those were Windows insiders
  • If they had announced the software bridges were ready and that they had a load of new apps, it would have been fantastic. If money was no object I would buy the Surface book and a 950XL. Without a stream of new apps I will hold off until the apps come, or by an Android phone.
  • They definitely had good salesman personas on stage. I'll wait and see the reviews to find out if everything's delivered as well.
  • I can't agree more with this. ;)
  • Totally agreed Derek. Amazing presentation today. So so so pumped for all these devices. 
  • Oh great...now you're also pumped. Panay's virus is clearly spreading across Redmond ;P 
  • Ha ha you sound mad. Why root AGAINST someone? Never really understood that.
  • Ahahah You clearly didn't get the joke. Don't worry, Sam did.
    As for you, go follow Panos on Twitter. Maybe then you'll get it ;) Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Sam better be productive like a boss when he gets back!
  • been saying this for the past year.... this "new" microsoft feels like google almost 10 years ago.... genuinely excited with what they have and it's contagious! Panos Panay had such raw emotion on stage, as if he was presenting his 1st child to the world. And Brian Roper should be a part of EVERY MS press event. He didn't feel like a salesman, but someone who has a blast with what he gets to do.  
  • If you're not a developer you have no chance of getting that HoloLens dev kit. You can't just order it, you have to apply to be invited. They're looking for serious developers who can help them push it forward
  • I'm pretty sure they sent the invite to more than just serious developers, or I wouldn't have gotten one. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Was actually clapping and grinning like a Cheshire Cat,despite being alone, on the couch, in front of the Xbox. I dont even feel guilty!
  • I found myself doing the same a number of times, felt really good!
  • Yep. I can only hope for a similar experience next year when this team develops the next flagship Lumia.
  • The next flagship phone will likely not be a Lumia.  It will be a Surface Phone with Intel inside.  Yet another quantum leap in power and capability.  Expect it in April.
  • I just want an awesome 850 with great specs and great price.
  • a 1080P phablet with 2 gb ram......ryt ?
  • Same. Espically for the hololens demo and surface book
  • i cheered and clapped loudly when they did the presentations with the surface book.... i think a tear fell from my eye :D
  • when they detached the surface from the base, I was like "WTF!!!!" because before I thought it was just another laptop.  Would be on my buy list if it had a kickstand like the pro 4.
  • Just finished watching the presetation and I must say, I too was impressed! The product line up was spectacular and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a Surface Pro 4 and the L950XL!
  • This is what we've been waiting for, it's great show
  • Love microsoft
  • All I know is that my wallet is going to be lighter in the next couple of months 
  • Anybody joining us at the Insiders party?
  • The slam back for those I hate waiting comments
  • Yes! I was smiling through this whole thing! They presenters were so enthusastic and it made me excited! I love the new Microsoft, and when they played Thunderstruck by ACDC as they introduced the Surface Pro 4, that was just awesome.
  • Seriously their marketing is getting so much better too. The surface book video was done so well the build up of music and then the explosion. Kudos to them.
  • THUNDER!
  • It's because Panos is the man! And I loved Bryan bringing the east coast :D
  • Fantastic article, I really loved every alphabet / word of this article
  • Panos Panay was excellent!
  • Panos Panay needs to do every single presentation from now on.
  • Agreed!!  I'm already thinking that the next devices event can't come soon enough, just to get another awesome presentation out of him.
  • Yayyyyy
  • I have to agree it was a really fun and fast paced presentation. I quite liked it, even the part where they were talking about things I couldn't care less about like the Microsoft Band 2 or the new Windows Phones. I'm glad they placed Panos in charge of Windows devices. And honestly, going forward, they should really leave Belfiore at home. Panay & Roper make up for a hilarious team and it gives a much needed breath of fresh air to Microsoft. And the public also seemed to enjoy it. I don't recall such meaningful reaction from the audience in quite a while. Actually, the only company I've seen producing the same reactions is Apple whenever they put together those Cult gatherings in September.   Oh and after this, I will dare ANYONE to come tell me they miss Eflop presenting anything.
  • Hate Mr. Elop all you want (it's your "heel gimmick" on here after all, and made you one of the memorable characters in the wpcentral community), but he is an excellent presenter and great in post-presentation interviews.  If Panay hadn't have hit a home run on stage this morning, I'd be posting about missing Elop and fabula design.  Panay was totally awesome, but I still miss fabula design though.  :(
  • But fabula design doesn't mean elop. Fabula design was the n9 created by the design master of Nokia. He is in Finland. And also, elop killed n9 right away then took the fabula design to lumia 800. So pls stop putting elop and fabula in one sentence.
  • Hear hear.
    And one must add: he's is not only in Finland, he's at Nokia. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I'm aware that Elop ≠ fabula design, I'm talking about two separate things here - on stage presentation, and phone design.  @DJCBS - Did Marko Ahtisaari rejoin Nokia after his resignation?  That's a facinating example of true national patriotism and company loyalty.  Not to get off topic, but in my opinion, the n9's design was best combined with windows phone metro design.  The n9 is a fantastic design, but the unsightly, round cornered, old fashioned icons of meego were nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the hardware.  Fabula + metro design = perfection.
  • No, but Marko wasn't the designer of the N9. Marko was the responsible for the 920. The N9 was designed by Anton Fahlgren (currently working for Saab Aeronautics) under the supervision and guidance of Axel Meyer (currently Head of Design at Nokia Technologies). In other words, the main responsible for the team that created the fabula design is Nokia's current Head of Design. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Panos is the hardware presenter, and Joe is the software presenter. Both are needed and do excellent jobs
  • Elop was a bore. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Roper and Panay were great.
  • Panos killed it. He speaks with a conviction that is lacking from the other usual presenters at Microsoft. He comes across as poised and controlled which makes you listen carefully to what he's saying. Instead of just rattling of specs, he takes time to contextualize the information.
  • the biggest highlight, for me, was when they were showing the surface book video a second time.... and the screen popped off. my jaw dropped. it's been a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time since something had the efect on me. I was plotting a way to nab a surface pro 4 to replace my pro 2, and at the moment the screen popped off, my mind was made up. Considering I do use premiere on mu SP2, and like games, that Nvidia GPU = Instant Win! now, what series GPU is it, since they didn't say.....
  • My jaw did that too.  An impressive piece of showmanship.  This is the best laptop, twice as powerful as the Macbook Pro.  Amazing.  But suddenly it was more.  He kind of hinted a few little things early that had me wondering what he meant and then when they dropped that it was a wow moment.  Very cool.
  • Yeahh, he said: "Now look a little closer".. And I was looking at every detail of the Surface Book, suddenly.. =0 it turned into a tablet... That was simply amazing. *--*
  • Omg that was such a great moment. I was exactly the same in that I didn't see it as any good because of the form factor and wanted something that could be as portable as a tablet... Then that moment happened...WOW! My mind was instantly made up at that point. I actually said out loud, "Yep it's mine!"
  • Now if they add a stand behind that screen, that would turn it into the Surface Pro.
  • 950M or better.
  • Spot on words.  It was quite a contrast to recent Apple events while being oddly Apple like at times.  In the Surface Book videos with the movie soundtrack I almost expected Jonny Ive to do a voice over.  Because Microsoft was showing truely innovative hardware with a passion.  This year Microsoft moved forward to set the benchmark in product innovation.  Which is a good thing.  We need companies to push the industry along and almost incredibly, Microsoft is doing it with not only with software, but services and now hardware too.  The new Microsoft really is working well.
  • Good thing
  • Panos and Bryan pepped me up with their enthusiasm and including family. I'd be shocked if Microsoft stock didn't close on a very good note today. Impressive show by all.
    *
    I would buy ice from Panos if we both lived at the North Pole.
  • They didn't have much choice, they know the market has changed, they NEED to bring people in with passion of their products, not just a fairly good sales pitch, as they have always done.  Direct to the point, no fluff with just enough detailed specs to pull you in but, showing passion of the product to really drag you in. Microsoft hardware has always been some of the best quailty stuff out there (Xbox 360 excluded), from mice to keyboards, they were always top notch and warranty has always been best out there.  I go back to some of MS's very first keyboards sold, still work 100%....(in a box now) On phones...The tables have turned. back in the Steve Jobs time, Apple used to be know as a innovator and now it's a copier of every one else. The 950 and 950xl are very innovative products, a big change from everything else out there. I really hope they can figure out the marketing here, get these new phones to every carrier to get it in more people's hands and do a MAJOR promotion on them. Not a soft release but, a super, hip and business marking campain to really get Windows Phone/Mobile in people's eyes and MAYBE this could be a success. Great hardware, let's hope MS does not screw it up...
  • Micorosft is Stunning!
  • I totally agree. Just over 18 months ago, there were factions that were writing Microsoft off. Then came Satya Nadella. Anyone who has worked in or followed big corporations will know that it is a massive endeavour to try and implement a new vision, break down internal silos, and then change corporate culture to one that enthusiastically supports "the new way". Many have tried and failed, even in much smaller organizations. In an almost unheard of 18 months, Satya has accomplished just that. What we saw today was more than just hardware. We saw a fully renewed Microsoft at the beginning of a full-court press that will once again bring them to the top. Well done Satya and team!
  • +950
  • MS may have bad times and failures but I will still support, not becasue I am fanboy but I trust this company!
  • I miss Joe Belfiore.
  • Said no one lol
  • I missed him too.... and I'm a someone.
  • Hahaha!  Agreed...
  • JOE BELFIORE is Corporate vice president for Operating System Group so he has no part in that event because that event is for Windows Devices only
  • I miss his hair.
  • I don't trust that guy for some reason.  He screwed me over with windows phone 7, pouring honey into my ear, and then screwing the entire platform right out of the gate. when i see him on stage, I have the urge to punch him in the face.
  • Well its bit off topic but why the hell I dont see all the topics on computer which I see on my mobile?
  • You need to click on "All Stories" tab.
  • Thanks bro!
  • Amen brother, my head was going up and down when Thunderstruck was played. Right on!
  • I remember when I hated Microsoft as a company this was around the turn of the century. It's quite amazing how much they changed. I guess losing market share does that to a company. Today, I'm a borderline fan boy ever since I bought my first Windows Phone device (an HTC Arrive).
  • Sure it was a really nice event and we saw some really expensive high end products but not everyone has extremely deep products. It feels like users that want a good mid range touch device with a really good screen are being forgotten by both microsoft and oems particularly in australia.
  • Surface pro 4 is quiet affordable.. don't forget Microsoft also has partners that produces laptops, etc. They can't compete in every level of product with their own partner.. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android