Why the Windows 10 'Creators Update' should inspire PC makers

A perk of my job is I get to see a lot of hardware before it's released to the public. Another one is talking to the people and companies behind those products about the processes and decisions that lead up to devices being made.

While Microsoft is marketing the latest versions of Windows 10 as the "Creators Update" (the one released in May and then also coming in the fall, PC makers are also the "creators" of the hardware we use. Today's perfect storm of software, hardware, and processors is leading to some thought-provoking devices instead of the stodgy and boring laptops and desktops of the past.

Windows 10 everywhere

During the last few years, I've written a lot about Microsoft's goals with Windows 10. While the company is busy reinventing the desktop (Surface Studio), it is also working hard on getting Windows onto new devices and form factors, but also getting Windows off the desktop, too.

Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Mixed Reality, Xbox, and soon Windows 10 on ARM (not to mention Windows IoT) are all attempts at getting Microsoft's OS into new experiences.

Just this week, we revealed Microsoft's attempt at a new user interface (UI) that is flexible, called "CShell" or "composable shell." While OneCore created a unified foundation, CShell will do the same for the UI. Microsoft's Fluent Design System will be the language to connect it all.

The idea that your OS will adapt to your environment, display, and the task at hand is a new one, but it's easy to understand. Why have to choose between a dumbed-down mobile OS and a powerful desktop? Why concern yourself with processors such as ARM or x64 when you can just run Windows?

Microsoft's bold vision of a universal but adaptable OS feels like the right move. It also lets Microsoft's hardware partners – Dell, HP, Razer, Acer, Huawei, and ASUS, for example – try new and exciting things.

A significant shift in personal computing

Innovative ideas in how hardware and software can come together are popping up all the time.

Take HP's refreshed Sprout PC (opens in new tab) that can do 2D and 3D image scans for artists and engineers. Being able to have your PC scan an object and instantly make a 3D model that can be manipulated or shared is astonishing. You can now send that model to your 3D printer and make your own object all on a single desktop. Such technology years ago was primitive, expensive, and reserved only for large firms and professionals. Today, you can order it and have it the next day in your home.

HP's Elite x3 with Lap Dock is also notable. The system is in no way ready for consumers, and it may be early even for enterprises, but it's more about perfecting the idea at this point rather than being completely off-track.

Razer is pushing boundaries consistently, especially with its concept "Project Valerie", which brings three 4K displays to a laptop. Even its Razer Blade Pro is an audacious creation.

Related to Valerie is the now-shipping ASUS ZenScreens, or portable 15.6-inch displays that connect via USB Type-C. I'll take two, please. (Seriously, I already ordered two of them).

Dell is experimenting with new mobile experiences that still may happen.

Hit shows like HBO's Westworld (left) and Syfy's The Expanse (right) present fascinating ideas about mobile computing.

Hit shows like HBO's Westworld (left) and Syfy's The Expanse (right) present fascinating ideas about mobile computing.

Microsoft is leading many new categories with its Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio creations.

Then there's Windows Mixed Reality, which is just the beginning of that shift in computing experience. And Windows 10 on ARM will usher in a new era of ultra-mobile PCs that are always connected to the internet.

Even indie companies are getting involved, such as the seven-inch ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) from GPD. It's an actual pocket PC.

The next 24 to 36 months will be a pivotal time to watch the consumer space.

What's different about AI and technology?

All of the changes mentioned here are possible largely because of three advances:

  1. Smaller, more efficient processors (ARM and x64).
  2. Windows 10 and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).
  3. Ubiquity and affordability of 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks.

Companies such as Google and Apple are struggling in different ways than Microsoft. Apple wants to build iOS up from phones to larger screens, while Google is trying to hodgepodge Chrome OS with Android. Microsoft is trying to go from the desktop to mobile (and everywhere else). But they all want the same thing: an OS and ecosystem that spans devices. No longer do people have just one computer; they have many. How do you build for that world? And how do you prepare for a change you don't see coming?

In the coming years, artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud, and neural networks will all play a role in this continued move away from traditional computing models. Advancements in processors, displays, holographic tech, as well as touch and modality improvements, will be here in the near future.

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban recently stated that we'll "see more technological advances over the next decade than we have over the last 30. It's just going to blow everything away." He's right, too.

A PC in 2017 running djay Pro is very different from ten years ago.

A PC in 2017 running djay Pro is very different from ten years ago.

One of the big differences between today and 10 years ago is the investment. In 2006, "smartphones" were niche devices reserved for business users. Not much money went into related research because the market was small. Today, it's a billion-dollar industry, and almost everyone has a computer in their pocket. Every company wants a piece of the action, and everyone has ideas. It's not only a time for consumer creators but industry ones, too. Engineers, scientists, programmers, and more are leveraging computers to do more than to create spreadsheets or use Adobe Photoshop.

Everything is connected. Everything is getting smarter.

Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates recently said, "We have only begun to tap into all the ways [AI] will make people's lives more productive and creative." He was speaking to college graduates about what fields he'd consider if he were starting today.

The point is that this is all starting to happen right now. Whether it's metal Core i7 laptops that are fanless and weigh just 2.3 pounds or the HoloLens wearable computer, we're living in exciting times.

The internals of the Surface Laptop reveals how engineers are pushing hardware.

The internals of the Surface Laptop reveals how engineers are pushing hardware.

People may just Windows 10 today as an OS on a laptop or desktop computer, but I see companies creating some of the most advanced, beautiful, powerful, and original hardware in human history. Just look at something like the Spectre x360 with a 4K display or the Surface Book – it's all a little crazy compared to hardware from a decade ago, and it's just starting.

Putting what Microsoft is doing aside, the rest of the tech space, including Apple, Google, Amazon – and who knows what Elon Musk will do next – is outstanding and inspiring.

Wherever Windows 10, ARM, mixed reality, and AI go in the next five to ten years, it's going to be a fun ride. It's easy to get caught in the moment and think not much has transformed, but technology is going to see some serious advances in the next decade.

Take a moment to appreciate that and imagine what a "phone" or a "laptop" will be like in 2027. I have no idea. And that's incredibly exciting.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I'm not a PC maker, but I'm inspired as well
  • I'm not even a designer or sth, but I also got wet.
  • Wipe urself.
  • 😂 @onysi
  • me to
  • thing is Daniel. we do not want to leave the desktop behind and MS is building their AI on our meta data. Frankly the company is repulsive.
  • I don't know what you meant by repulsive, but, if you can not stand MS, excercise your right by buying Google or Apple product that I am assuming are ot replusive to you. Lastly, when you say "we do not want to leave the desktop behind" I am sure not one of your WE. so, speak for yourself. These good times that Daniel is alluding to while not here yet, I (Not We) have already left Desktop behind 3 years ago and that is honest truth. The most powerful PC in our house is SP3. All our 3 desktops gone 3 years ago when we got our first sets of SP2. Of cause our house use case is not same as everyone else. Our kids play games on 3 XB1.
  • Opposite here. I gave up on home desktops for a long while (from about 2004 till 2014). The wife always had one so I guess we never gave it up completely. Anyways, I started getting into video production as a hobby and my sons started doing digital art and animation (and naturally gaming followed). Since then we've built several and don't see them going away anytime soon. Times and needs change... it's great to have choices.
  • Why are you hear?
  • Yawn.......What meta data? Facts please...waiting.....forevz.
  • Nice one
  • It's amazing how personal computing is shifting from a device focused paradigm to a cloud supported paradigm where the cloud is the personal computing environment and - we are the hub. :-) That coupled with context-sensitive OS and hardware makes for some very interesting opportunities and experiences! :-)
  • The way you put it in this comment, all of your articles suddenly click like, NOW.
  • I'm glad to hear that AbhiWindows10! :-)
  • 😁😇 Microsoft as a whole is gonna reborn with innovative products like HoloLens improvements, XBOX Scorpio, Surface improvements and definitely future of Mobile computing.
  • The cloud and the black box that is proprietary and always-on, always connected arti-faux-cial intelligence is the hub.  You are not the hub.   You are the target.
  • I guess Scott McNealy was right, "The Network is the Computer". Just couldn't hang on to his company long enough to see it through. I'm not a fan of the old Sun Microsystems and have no use for Java and it's ilk; just remember that mantra BITD.
  • I wish Surface Pro could go bezel-less like the device in that picture
  • Smart bezels (or whatever it's called) - a certain sized black area around the screen when in tablet mode for holding, bezel-less when in laptop mode for more screen. Haven't heard about that lately
  • What @leonel said sounds super cool though!!
  • Yeah, that'll happen but not soon (at least from MSFT). There's a reason and that is, we need to HOLD a 12" machine that costs $1000 or else, it'll slip and fall.
    The solution is there already. It's NOKIA McLaren. Edge detection sensors that make sure, you holding the device doesn't register unnecessary touch inputs.
  • Yeah one hurdle going from research/idea to consumers is mass production of the technology and cost reduction. That holds up a lot of this stuff, so "smart bezels" will happen when it can be reliable, doesn't destroy battery, and can be mass made with 98% reliability. Case in point: Studio originally had an electric motor. You touched the sides to lower it and it did it for you. Wasn't reliable enough, so idea was scrapped.
  • Wow ! That was so cool idea! Thanks for sharing this information.
  • This! I was looking at the picture too and thinking "If a windows tablet and/or phone looked like this I'd buy it!"
  • Microsoft, Tesla and Hydrogen Fuel Cell manufacturers are gonna change the world very quick. There's nothing linking the above three as of now. I've just got a feeling. :) Android (on Mobile) will be the next BlackBerry - DEAD. Mac is already pretty much dead and that's why iOS is being pushed.
  • Israeli company say they have battery tech that charges phones and cars from empty to full in 5 minutes!   http://www.thedrive.com/news/10227/israeli-company-demonstrates-300-mile...
  • Interesting, but can 5 min charging of car batteries be realized? Check out www.tesla.com/supercharger. Tesla has 120 kW super chargers. Their web site suggests charging a 90 kWh Model S to 80% in 40 min. Theoretically, this can happen in 90*60*0.8/120 = 36 min. 100% can theoretically be done in 90*60*1.0/120 = 45 min. But with existing technology, 100% charging takes 75 min according to Tesla. Suppose this Israeli company develops a 90 kWh battery that can be charged in 5 minutes, at full throttle. That would require new ultrachargers that deliver 90*60/5 = 1.08 MW power. Totally not realistic anytime soon. Why? The Hoover Dam can produce up to 2000 MW of power. Which would enable charging of 2000 cars simultaneously. There simply isn't enough power available, and there would be a massive safety problem with extreme currents in the ultra charger. Much more realistic in computer batteries. Note: I'm not saying charging car batteries in 5 minutes is impossible, but we are potentially talking about millions of cars = thousands of Hoover Dams. Of course, those millions of cars will not charge simultaneously. But the grid will seriously limit the charging capacity. So normally, charging will take much more than 5 minutes. Maybe not due to limitations in the battery, but in the grid/available power in power plants.
  • Toyota has worked for quite a few years with hydrogen & fuel cells, so they may have a solution before Tesla does. Problems are producing hydrogen (less than 50% efficiency) and durable/efficient fuel cells. Ford has also worked for many years with fuel cells.
  • If only Microsoft brings their idea and technology to MASS quickly before leaving it to copy by others and if they market their technology at their best. 
    Otherwise their ideas will be successful only in theoreies not practically. I hate how fast apple and google is becoming the new Microsoft just by copying the device ideas, approaches than Microsoft itself is transforming to new Microsoft. e.g. Surface Pro vs ipad pro & Suraface Hub vs google jamboard. Apple has the media, PR power and google has both PR and mass power. 
  • Good article.  Future is exciting indeed.  Wish Samsung sold their PC's in the UK.  Asus Zenbook screen with Samsung 9 EXT 15 is perfect for travelling.
  • Great article. I just know I want to be a part of building this future.
  • Ok,  What about an asus fonepad type device,  just pushed farther.   Phone, that locks into a tablet...that can then sit in a keyboard dock,  or a desktop dock, with full windows...BUT NEED MOBILE apps (or the same feature set while mobile).  I am in!  All the monitors would need full touch and pen capability, and mounted in the tablet, keyboard and monitor docks would be Storage.  But with cheaper online storage,  no big deal!  
  • Hi Steve: Sounds similar to what I presented here: How Microsoft can ensure 'Surface phone' success ;-): https://www.windowscentral.com/what-your-surface-phone-aka-microsoft-ultimate-mobile-device-vision
  • yes Jason.   The big if though is mobile performance and experience.   It needs to do everything I can do on my iPhone now while mobile.  
  • woo hooo fangirl downvotes!
  • it is a phone. If it can receive and make calls, they both work equally. You certainly will go out of your way to find the only few apps that do not exist that you actually use. They might not be so many, and there is probably equivalents as good as on iPhone, or Android (let's face it, most of apps will be on both platforms, sadly windows phone never received the love it deserved, because ALL of those apps would have worked the same if the devs made a windows version)  
  • NO swarmhammer...I have approx 50 apps I use very reglualrly that are not available or broken/webwrappers on W10M.  I have lsited them numerous times....and explained the difference...the app gap is real and brutal to any chance windows as a phone has.  It may not be for the people who ONLY use their phone in their homes...but for us who are travellers and are moving around ALOT,  the difference is staggering.
  • Much more exciting that what happend at WWDC yesterday
  • What was revolutionary or exciting at wwdc apple 🍏 show?   Do share...
  • again..whoever is downvoting please share what did apple present that was SOOOOO AWESOME...don't be a panzy.
  • Woody, Buzz and Jessie faces for the Apple Watch. There, I said it for them
  • Must be.  That was about the only exciting thing.  I just use the normal watch faces on my apple watch.
  • Great article, Dan! This is timely and a good orientation to what to watch over the next year or two. MS clearly committed a short sighted error by backing off mobile - only to later on realize they needed a full spectrum set of devices to make their broad ecosystem work. Even 5-10% mobile share is enough (which they weren't too far from 5%). Once the whole UWP stopped making sense then they seemed to have gotten smart about things again.
  • Hitbtalbot I don't think mobile was ever off Microsoft's radar. Sure the company had plenty of missteps' in mobile, but it was never removed from the long -term strategy. Some things to think about is that MS was never going to win a smartphone war against Google and Apple. For various reasons both MS fault and competitive reasons, that battle was lost. But even before it began overt moves conceding that loss (which people interpreted as MS giving up on mobile) the company was on a path to create a mobile device that wasn't a phone, that would exist in the mobile space, but not compete directly in the smartphone space. Had MS been more successful in the smartphone space I believe the transition to what I believe will be an ultramobile PC with telephony would have been less abrupt and MS would have kept traditional phones in the market until it debuted it's ultimate mobile device. Since things were going so badly I think MS began "purging" the market of a rejected iteration of Windows on phone/mobile, to give it's next transition the best chance at success. But again, mobile from my perspective was always part of the plan.😉
  • The Empire will ALWAYS strike back......
  • They MS,  went about it really the wrong'est way posible..(nice word hey?).   If they said,  we have some stuff in the pipe that will be very very exciting and yada yada yada.....more people probably would have stuck it out.   but when they kept silent and called it a retrench....GAME OVER.
  • Microsoft has the advantage here, but they lack in knowing what people want. I found out recently that they are too much reliable on Insiders to get feedbacks. They should first learn to understand what people need! Nowadays Microsoft can only understand enterprise users and have left consumers! For a company as big as Microsoft, its very bad! Microsoft's old success in PC market has kept them in this position till now! Microsoft should start caring about consumers more because thats were they got everything! From past few years i have seen Microsoft focus on security too much that now it effects performance, if they really cared they would have found a balanced solution!
  • Very few companies engage customers directly as Microsoft does. Sure HP, Dell, large enterprise or partners have backchannel's but it's to resolve issues affecting millions of devices and have engineers that can work with Microsoft. That benefits everyone. Nothing irks me more that to see posts on support blogs where someone says "It's f'n broked and f'n fix it" and don't know how to provide an ounce of constructive feedback to get a solution.
    As for leaving consumers behind, the Insider program is the polar opposite of that. Before the Insider program there were ways for consumers to report issues or request features with wish lists, and now, enthusiast's who've always wanted to participate in testing have that. Not only that, Microsoft mangers from all divisions including the Insider team members talk directly to general public on twitter and If you haven't seen it, go check out the live Insider streams on Mixer.
  • People want yesterday's technology, MS should think outside the box and plan 10, 20 and 30 years ahead despite the fact that share-holders think "quarterly" (that's the real battle they have to fight).
  • What makes you think they don't?
  • So much potential.
  • Westworld Devices would be the perfect Courier
  • Nice article, as AI advances and nanotech does in not near future we will have human-machine biotech hardware attached to our eyes and minds to become better as guman race, I think tgis wilk be possible thanks to Qubit and quantum chips that will be made of tridimensional chips that work with light, goodbye transistor and hello Quantum chips, I will love to get A Windows Quantum PC in 2025
  • Technology will never make human race better. Forget about 2025, no way in only 8 years from now they will have harness the power of qbits. But Intel will certainly keep that naming for one of their own chip, because it sounds cool.It would still be a brandname and not a real quantum chip. And when the first Quantum chips are released, chances are it will be far from being a consumer grade product, and certainly not cheap.
  • This article reminds me of walking around a car show.  Car makers love to show off their concept cars.  They've done this for years.  And they look amazing and so futuristic, yet rarely do we see these in production for general audiences. Personally, it annoys me that I don't know what computing will be like in 10 years from now.  However, 10 years ago, it wasn't that different.  Smaller portable computers, larger screens, faster components.  Even looking at Apple's WWDC releases, everything is just +1 from the last model.  Innovation feels stagnant. I do hope Microsoft can lead the direction, though.  They've been doing well so far.
  • I think we pay for enough already. Is 4G LTE really that "affordable," when the carriers keep nickle and diming you just to put another device on the plan you're already paying for?
  • Great article Dan. I appreciate your ability to convey your thoughts succinctly. I hope you'll write more when there is more to talk about.
  • About that Cshell, I wonder if it will become available for the Alcatel Idol 4S, because I just bought one over at Amazon.com... Can someone clarify this for me?
  • How much did you pay for it if you don't mind me asking?
  • $279.99   https://www.amazon.com/Alcatel-Windows-Unlocked-Smartphone-Goggles/dp/B0...
  • Always said to my girl friend about how cool those expanse glass pads are, they even make em look scratched and banged up on the show, funny you put that in your piece. Watch Miller is coming back;)
  • It's funny that PC makers are really hitting their stride while fewer and fewer people need high powered computers. Time was you bought the best computer you could just so the OS ran decently. Now most average users' computing is done in a browser that runs fine on a $500 computer with 4GB of RAM, if not a smartphone.
  • Microsoft and PC makers should be figuring out a way to make the most of all that computing power, to give average users a reason to *want* (if not need) the latest Core i processors and 16 or 32GB of RAM. Otherwise they'll be fighting for smaller and smaller niche markets in the consumer space until they disappear.
  • Average users who just do a bit of browsing, emails etc don't need 16 or 32GB or ram. Businesses running multiple demanding applications, people who render 4K video and gamers can use 16 or 32GB quite easily. I just built a new desktop for my business with 32GB of ram and a Kabylake I7 processor. I'd put money on it that 5 years from now it will be showing its age and its limitations and I will be looking to build something even better. Sorry but I think many commenters on Windows Central seriously under estimate just how far the world is from not needing powerful desktops.    
  • I think you're missing my point. I agree average users no longer need powerful desktops. I think this is a problem for Microsoft and PC makers. What I'm suggesting is that perhaps the Wintel folks should be working on compelling new experiences or use cases where that power *is* once again a differentiator for normals. Do some extensive research and uncover new and/or unmet needs that they can exploit. Figure out some problem that can best be solved by lots of local computing power. I think that's part of the push with AR/VR; some hope that this can attract a wider audience than gamers for robust hardware. If they don't find something-- and given the paucity of new ideas on the desktop over the last decade I don't think they will-- then the high-end PC business will continue to shrink and become more concentrated in a few small pockets. Volume will shift even further towards low-end devices, even in enterprise. OEMs will try to make due with services and support contracts, but they'll keep shrinking.
  • Microsoft is great at thinking up what could be possible in the future. Can't wait for Apple and google amd Samsung to deliver on Microsofts vision...
  • Apart from all the innovations Microsoft wants to do with Windows 10 which is quite notable in the future, MS should provide a stable build of Windows 10 and make all the users who still using Windows 7 shift to Windows 10. Microsoft has out-innovated Apple in recent years but in order to be successful and profitable in Mobile, Tablet as well as professional PCs field as Apple, Microsoft need to push these new innovations as much as possible with reasonable price.
  • Windows 10 was free when it first released for windows 7 and 8 users. Most devices running windows 10 cost much less than their competition, like an apple computer. They tend to have fair prices usually. Certainly their own PCs cost a bit, still less than their Apple equivalent, when there is one. Hard to match the price and design of a surface studio. And you never get the latest, top-of-the-notch, high end technology at budget prices. 
  • I have been thinking about how cshell is working etc for a while now.  Hang with me...ok,  we have itunes coming for windows 10 soon via the app store,  so it can run on any windows device,  therefore, thats music solved....but  the new "surface" device should be a 950 xl sized phone with pen support.   Then,  there should be 3 tablet options for the phone to "dock into".  an 8" and 9.7" and a 12" surface pro size.  The 8 and 9.7" sizes should have the same aspect ratio as an ipad as I find those are the best for magazine and book reading.  even my surface 3 ratio was a little "off" for that.  The 12" tablet can be the surface book.  Then,  for each of those,  there needs to be pen support, etc.  And surface pro keyboard available for the two smaller ones,  and either the pro type keyboard,  or a surface "book" type keyboard (minus the ugly hinge), with boosted internals,  so when you dock you get more power.  The final peice of this puzzle would be a 23", 27" and 30" Surface Studio Docks again with boosted internals, pen and dial support.   I would be ALL IN on this package!
  • Oh.  Extra onboard storage in the tablet docks too.  
  • Well my experience with this Creators update is that I couldnt download it via upgrade assisstant even if I tried twice.
  • what computer ?
  • This update has had nil benefit to me. Literally nothing has changed since before it. So, I'm completely indifferent to the premise of this post.