Windows 10 and Surface have pushed Microsoft's PC partners to a higher level

There's a lot going on with Windows 10. With features like Cortana and Continuum and Universal Apps, PC manufacturers have a lot to work with. And they're producing devices that are increasingly impressive and diverse. So we sat down with Microsoft's Nick Parker to talk about how manufacturers like ASUS, Lenovo, HP, and more have adapted and adopted Windows 10.

"The original Surface is evidence of how we are creating category awareness, raising the tide for all boats and just generating demand."

There's a lot that's changed in the past few years, from the explosion of the cloud and its integration with operating systems, to the way updates to the Windows platform are distributed. Not to mention the emergence of Microsoft itself as a top-tier PC manufacturer, putting it at odds with Microsoft's own OEM partners.

While Parker's not directly involved with Surface, he's witness first-hand the effects of Microsoft's foray into hardware have had on other PC manufacturers. And contrary to prognostications about PC makers fleeing with Microsoft dipping their toes into hardware, they've instead kicked up their game. The Surface tablets more or less inagurated the era of the 2-in-1 PC, and it's a mantle that other manufacturers have picked up and run with full steam.

"You've now got this kind of continual innovation cycle — as we both invent capabilities, we can land them in the market."

That's not to say that there weren't changes to how Microsoft approached PC makers with Windows 10. We've heard it from the start of this new version: Windows is no longer strictly a platform, it's also a service. An evergreen OS, if you will, with new features and fixes continually being delivered to users.

The arrival of Windows 10 and new hardware has coincided with the release of Intel's new Skylake processors, which offer better performance and lower power consumption. And that's enabling PC manufacturers to make their devices thinner and lighter while maintaining (or even improving) performance. Intel's chips also power the new HP Stream notebooks, which come in at a mere $199 but offer full Windows 10 and a compact design with performance that puts the netbooks of old to shame.

For more, watch our interview with Nick as we delve deep into the tight relationship between Microsoft and PC manufactuers.

Derek Kessler

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.

  • So, what does Nick do at Microsoft?
  • He's in charge of the sales, licensing, and marketing of Windows to PC manufacturers
  • Great. We need better pc's.
  • Personally, I think lack of better PCs is exactly why WinXP, Vista, and Win8 all generated huge backlash at launch. Sure they all had their respective UI issues and backlashes for those. But one thing they all did was kick the OEMs squarely in the pants to do more than crank out the same product with new packaging. Microsoft made that even more apparent a few short years ago by also releasing hardware to run their latest version of the OS. Windows tablets have been around since the days of XP, but not until Windows 8 (and Surface) did we finally start to see mass-market Windows tablets. Windows 10 (with Surface 4/Book) continue to kick the OEMs in the pants right where they need it, since we still see far too many new systems with essentially 1-3-year-old hardware specs.
  • Sad thing though is the lifespan has dramatically decreased eg. Manufacturers not willing to create new drivers
  • Not a problem now though with WindowsAsAService since I'd assume that driver models might be expanded but not completely gutted for future releases so a windows 10 driver should still be a windows 10 driver 5 years out (hopefully)
  • Surface phone coming!! So u people gonna Buy 950/xl or rather wait for a surface phone?
  • Wanna wait but not sure I can.
  • Go to the forums...
  • The Lumia 950's are great devices and definitely not anything to frown upon - they compete with what other flagships offer and infact are superior in several areas.  Every first look I've watched about these devices has nothing but positive things to say, yet many people on here are already waiting for the next "best" thing; this community simply doesnt seem to know what it wants.  --------------------------- Considering the Surface phone isnt on the horizon but you already have great devices soon to be available, it wouldnt be a bad idea to support these devices because waiting (again) for the Surface phone (or whatever next device) isn't going to sell numbers which in turn could backfire by making devs even less motivated to create/port apps and this could also be discouraging for MS which can't really be good. 
    Food for thought: What IF the Surface phone also doesnt live up to your expectations or isnt your cup of tea? ..or too expensive? I personally believe, with technology you can never wait, otherwise you'll always be waiting, because there is always something new out there that you will want.  So just purchase the 950 on day one and when the Surface phone eventually comes out, worst case, you can just sell your lumia and pay the difference ...but atleast for now, you will be able to enjoy a new flagship device, while motivating devs and encouraging MS to give us even greater devices.
  • Surface phone or whatever will be such a great leap in tech that it will be mind bogglingly expensive and MS will not sell them through carriers only thrrough its store for $800 and up.  It will also sell out fast so good luck with that 2+ month long waiting list after waiting 1+ years after Lumia 950 started selling.
  • This is why I will skip Xbox 2 and wait for Xbox 3.
  • Buy the Lumia's. There is no Surface phone now, and it hasn't been announced. If it does happen, you can always buy it then.
  • Neither 950 .. Range disappointing its only got a 2k screen when the chassis specs. released showed upto 4k & surface phone is just not worth the time as to keep with their mantra of power efficient phones they'd have to limit it to just ws apps/games which even with a top spec. PC with just intel HD is meh.
  • You want a 4K screen on a 5.5" phone???  Add a power hungry processor, and you'd create a 1 lb monstrocity whose battery life could be measured with an egg timer. I'd be more than happy with a 1080p screen (I actually like the 720p screen on my 640XL) if it meant  terrific battery life....
  • I'm waiting.  I'll have to put up with my old 1520 with its pathetic day and a half battery life for a few more months yet.  I do NOT want another Nokia phone.  I'll wait for a Microsoft one.
  • From where do you get this news???? I'd like to know too. However, if its going to be in 2016, then I'll just go ahead with the 950 XL.
  • Daniel , Is nick parker is on Twitter?
  • Daniel didn't write this article.
  • Don't tell him...damn it...
  • He is not. Signed,
    Not Daniel
  • i was specting a rant.
  • Sorry to disappoint.
  • This is good some OEMs need a kick in the rear to keep tech moving forward. instead of a refresh that includes the latest intel chips or graphics chips, they should have to create new designs and add cool new features. This will make them think outside the box.
  • Like the new HP 34" curved widescreen...that mother is going to be mine...
  • It´s not enough EOMs need to compete against each others. Now they have to compete against MS also. And MS is collecting license payments also from OEMs. But OEMs have one advantage, marketing. They need to advertice their products. That is one thing why Android become so popular, because of Samsungs marketing. If OEMs start to move to Chrome OS, MS will suffer long and slow shrink to subcontractor for Apple and Google.
  • If OEMs start to move to Chrome OS....they'll literally kill themselves which no company would want.
  • MS only charges for the OS licensing because they pay for it. If Dell or HP directly funded millions into making their own OS, they could use it without paying fees. They don't, because it's much better to license.
  • Surface may be encouraging oems when it comes to high end devices but its doing nothing in Australia for low to mid range devices. I'm seriously considering buying a device with an operating system that I don't really want just to get a decent screen in my price range. Thats something I never thought I would say. I think the oems still need to do some work. I was in JB Hi Fi yesterday and saw HP Spectre X2. When my jaw came off the ground when I saw the very high price tag I actually took a look at the device. My first thought was that I didn't like the fabric on the bottom of the keyboard. It looked like a dirt magnet that would be difficult to clean. Secondly I tried the keyboard and it was so soft in the middle due to the fabric and had so much flex that it didn't feel like a good typing experience. The screen wasn't on so didn't bother checking that. If money did grow on trees don't think I would buy that device.
  • You kids stop blaming OEMs for Windows down turn. Whoever lived long enough saw OEMs innovating a lot for an OS and CPUs that could not keep up and company that was not interested in making it really better delivering the same software with the same flaws over and over and over again!!!!! Have a look at this: It is not that OEMs needed a kick in the butt but both MS and Intel. Intel from ARM and MS from iOS and OSX. It made MS to try and understand better what devices are actually for. They are not definitely built to serve Windows as it has been all the time, but users.