So, it was a big week in tech, and really, it was a surreal week. Microsoft announced a massive new PC called Surface Studio, and Apple announced their new line of Macbook Pros.
These announcements are fascinating on many levels. The Microsoft announcement is a pretty drastic departure from their perceived strength of office-type productivity, and Apple moved even closer to the consumer market by adding the Touchbar that brings common IOS functions to their Macbook Pros. In the end, I think you will see it proven that Apple's new product matters and Microsoft's is just noise.
Let's start with the new Surface Studio. I will give Microsoft credit. It's a beautiful device. The idea is that it is a desktop PC that you can move into being an angled touchscreen canvas to work on more creative work that requires finer details like sketching. It also includes both a stylus and a new dial input device that lets you adjust settings such as color in interesting ways. The dial is also supposed to work on the Surface book, and I am assuming the Surface. Most of what was in the promo videos showed the advantages this type of device could give someone like a graphic designer who is doing things like digital sketching. Those advantages are pretty obvious, but in the end this device is really is just noise.
Let's start with the price point. It's 3,000 dollars to start! That's an incredibly hefty price point that takes not only most consumers out of it but also many businesses. From a hardware standpoint, there is a good deal to like, but it does not adopt what seems to be the new standard of USB-C. Software wise, I am still not convinced that a PC product is a good place for creatives. I can see the drastic advantages this brings to graphic arts and folks who are using programs like Photoshop, but Microsoft has to take drastic steps to catch up to Apple in the creative fields that are dominating our world today: audio and video. It's also a PC and not a laptop. That makes it tough to see this device being successful in our increasingly mobile world. Overall, this device is for graphic professionals. For the rest of us, it's just tech noise.
The new Macbook Pro's, on the other hand, are a next step in the evolution of the consumer laptop. The biggest change is that Apple added a touchscreen bar at the top where the functions used to be that customizes based on the software you use. To me, this is a move meant for the consumer market. It brings some of the ease of IOS to the Mac, and it becomes something folks have never seen which helps drive sales. I think it's brilliant, but like many Apple products, its true use will come from the software that updates for it.
The touch bar can be fantastic! i don't know that I have ever understood the appeal of a Touchscreen computer. To me, it's just not a natural interaction. Having a touchscreen bar though brings some of that type of interaction to the Mac in a more natural way. I also think that many sites and creative tools have become so complicated that common buttons in one place will be amazing. I think the possibilities are endless. It's classic Apple. They build something that is so simple but is a radical innovation.
The irony of the new Macbook Pro is that it is an innovation that angles more toward productivity and mainstream consumers rather than creativity. Microsoft's Surface Studio angles more towards creativity and creative professions rather than productivity. This is a surreal switch in both companies priorities. What will be interesting though is to see if Microsoft can take away from the major creative lead Apple still has. Apple is not going to give that lead away lightly as there was a focus in their event on software like Final Cut Pro.
Until Microsoft proves it can catch up in the creative department, look at their announcement as just noise. Microsoft's prices are high (Who in the world would have thought we would have said this over Apple?) and the software is just not there yet.
For most who are doing things like basic video editing, Apple is where you want to be. Now if you are a graphic designer, .....you have an interesting decision.