Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft's New Hardware

Fresh off the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft invited media to New York on Oct. 6 to unveil new hardware using the operating system at an event it dubbed "The Windows 10 Devices Briefing."

Though the name lacked cleverness, it made it very clear what the company intended to do.

Myerson. Source: Microsoft

Terry Myerson, who heads the company's Windows and devices group, was first up on stage and before he got to the new devices he shared some stats about the new operating system's rollout. "110 million devices are now running Windows 10," he said, adding that, "the share of Windows devices at retail has grown since Windows 10 started rolling out." The executive also noted that the OS was being adopted at the fastest pace ever by the company's business clients.

That's a strong start, but the real question was not whether people would buy the new OS. There was clearly a pent-up demand for it after the relative failure of Windows 8, but the key question is whether the company can maintain momentum and get to its goal of having a billion devices using the OS.

To show how that will happen, Myerson quickly got into Microsoft's own devices, both those available now and those in the works.

New Xbox bundles coming

Myerson highlighted the already announced ability to play some Xbox 360 games on Xbox One before getting into the new lineup of consoles, which is really just new bundles with existing hardware. He showed a video that offered a glimpse at some new games, including the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians .

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. Source: Microsoft

The only hardware piece shown for Xbox One was a new "Elite Wireless Controller" that offers greater accuracy and also works with Windows 10 PCs. The $149.99 device is already available for pre-order for an Oct. 27 delivery.

HoloLens is a new take on VR

The company's next big hardware hope also involves gameplay, though that's certainly not its only use. The HoloLens, a virtual reality headset, also lends itself to business, and other practical uses.

"Whether it's for productivity, design, healthcare, or entertainment, Hololens creates innovative experiences that are not possible on any other device or platform," Myerson said.

HoloLens, however, is still a ways away. Developer kits will costs $3,000 and will begin shipping in the first quarter of 2016.

A new Microsoft Band

The second edition of Microsoft Band improves on its predecessor by offering a new curved screen, a barometer, and apps for actions including email, text, running, biking, and golf. It seems like an incremental improvement over the previous device with some improved features and technology, but nothing that's a radical departure.

Lindsey Matese, a member of the Band team, said that improvements to the device were made based on customer feedback and the personal experiences of the team members. She highlighted its uses as a health tracker and training device for use by a wide variety of athletes. She noted that her favorite new feature was the design.

"Make it breathable and flexible," she said. "...And above all it must curve nicely around the wrist."

The new Band is also integrated with Cortana and it offers a way to track elevation, which is something she said customers asked for. "Now you can track your fitness with even more precision by measuring elevation changes in real time," she said, noting that the company's research shows that people who use Band actually burn more calories.

Band's new iteration costs $249.99 but no on-sale date was announced.

A look at the new Windows 10 phones

While Windows phones have struggled, the company has decided to soldier on and release three new models. The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are top-tier devices selling for, $549 and $649. The phones are similar, with the basic model offering a 5.2-inch screen, 32GB of storage, a Snapdragon 808, hexacore, 64-bit processor, and a 20MP rear camera as well as a 5MP front camera. The XL has a 5.7-inch screen, a Snapdragon 810, octacore, 64-bit processor, as well as the same camera and memory specs. Both devices also offer USB Type-C. Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL will become available in select markets in November.

Lumia 550. Source: Microsoft

Microsoft also introduced a cheaper, entry level Lumia Model, the 550, which offers lesser, but still-decent specs for $139. Lumia 550 will begin rolling out in select European markets in December, with additional markets to follow.

Continuum is key for new Lumia Phones

The key feature on the company's new phones is Continuum, the ability to connect them to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse in order to have a PC-like experience. "With Continuum I'm empowered to use my phone like a PC," said Microsoft's Bryan Roper, who had taken over the presentation. Connecting a phone, he explained, requires using the Microsoft Display Dock.

Roper with the Display Dock. Source: Microsoft

The dock is a new piece of hardware that is a small box with a USB-C connection in from the phone and ports for monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse. It's not really pocket-sized, but it's pretty small and would be easy to travel with.

"What you're seeing looks like a WIndows 10 desktop," he said after pulling up a demo of his phone hooked up to the device.

The Display Dock has an HDMI port as well as three USB ports for accessories.

"How can we possibly make this more like a PC?" said Roper before explaining that the dock makes it possible to interface with devices including thumb drives and other portable storage.

Surface 4 reinvents the hybrid

"We want to make these the most productive devices on the planet," said Microsoft Surface VP Panos Panay before going into a long preamble that led to the introduction of the Surface 4. "Do you double down and bring the thunder or do you reinvent the category again?" he said. "I'll tell you what we chose."

That triggered a video on Surface 4, which was set to AC/DC's Thunderstruck . The highlights of the bombastic video included a number of claims about the new hybrid:

  • The company's thinnest type cover ever
  • a 40% larger trackpad
  • 50% faster than the MacBook Air
  • 8-million-pixel camera with autofocus
  • The thinnest glass ever shipped on a tablet

The Surface 4 also offers a new pen, which Panay said is important because 50% of Surface 3 users use a pen. He also explained that the new pen offers a year of battery life and he equates charging it to needing to add ink to a traditional pen. The pen also has interchangeable tips that allow for different feels and uses.

In addition to offering faster processor speeds, the new Surface Pro 4 is also thinner than its predecessor, coming in at 8.4mm, down from 9.1mm for the 3. "The only reason we stopped there was to make sure you had the full power of the USB-C port," Panay said. "It feels so much better in your hand."

Surface Pro 4 starts at $899 and pre-orders are being taken for an Oct. 26 release date.

The final surprise

While many expected the company to introduce a Surface Mini, it instead went in the opposite direction.

"What if you've wanted a Surface, but you wanted a laptop Surface?" Panay said, "Something with a bigger screen, something with the perfect typing experience of a laptop... We made the ultimate laptop. We made Surface Book. "

Surface Book. Source: Microsoft

The new laptop, the first made by the company, has a 13.5-inch screen with 267 PPI or 6 million pixels. It also has a new-look keyboard. "It feels unreal," Panay said. "It brings every Windows 10 feature to life in a beautiful way."

Panay said the device was for high-end uses including top-tier gaming and coding applications. It has "the latest generation of Intel core processors.," he added. The machine also has a 12-hour battery life and "it's the fastest laptop ever made," according to the executive, who claimed it was two times faster than a MacBook Pro.

Like its tablet cousins, Surface Book does detach from its keyboard so it's a laptop, but it's also a hybrid. The device has a hinge that allows the monitor to be folded back flat, essentially creating a fat tablet, or it can be completely detached, delivering a thin one. "This is the thinnest, most powerful PC ever created," Panay said. It weighs 1.6 pounds and is 7.7mm thick. The Surface Book starts at $1,499, can be pre-ordered now, and ships Oct. 26.

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The article Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft's New Hardware originally appeared on

Daniel Kline owns shares of Microsoft. He really wants a Surface Book, but won't spend $1,499 on a laptop. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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