Like clockwork, Microsoft is gearing up to announce its latest batch of Surface devices tomorrow. We've already gotten a preview of some hardware, thanks to a recent leak: it looks like there's a new Surface Pro, a sleeker ARM-based Surface and a new Surface Laptop on the way. But really, none of that is really surprising, since they're all due for a refresh. What else could Microsoft have in store? Well here are a few less obvious things we'd like to see.
A dual-screen Surface prototype
We've heard that Microsoft has been showing off a dual-screen prototype internally -- though it's apparently not the pocketable Courier-successor we've been longing for. Instead, it's more in line with the dual-display systems Intel was pushing at Computex and ASUS's Project Precog from last year. It's clear that plenty of PC makers are thinking about juggling two screens on a single laptop (just look at the ZenBook Pro Duo), so the real question is just how and when this new form factor hits shelves.
Above: One of Intel's dual-screen laptop prototypes.
A dual-screen Surface would make plenty of sense for Microsoft (and according to this morning's leak, it'll run a new OS variant called Windows 10X). Don't forget, the original Surface was a bold bet on combining tablets and laptops. And while it had a very rocky start, the company managed to turn the Surface devices into some of the best PCs on the market. You know they're on to something when Apple is trying its hardest to mimic the Surface with the iPad Pro.
Just plugging two screens together won't be enough, of course. Dual-screen PCs will also require a fundamental rethinking of how we interact with our computers. But given just how far Microsoft has pushed PCs with the Surface line, which involved a huge bet on touchscreen support, I'd wager they've got a few smart ways to handle two screens. While it's probably too early for Microsoft to launch a dual-display Surface, we're hoping to get a good look at a prototype.
AMD-powered Surface Laptops
The Surface Laptop is a sleek machine, but its slim frame doesn't leave much room for a decent graphics card. That could change if Microsoft offers models with AMD's Ryzen CPUs, which include RX Vega 10 graphics on board. They won't rival what you'd see from a gaming laptop, but they'd certainly be a notch ahead of Intel's integrated offerings. You might be able to run Overwatch pretty well on an AMD-equipped Surface Laptop 3.
It's unclear if AMD processors will find their way into the rumored 15-inch model, but one particularly intriguing rumor points to an eight-core Ryzen chip heading to the new Surface Laptops. That would offer a solid performance leap beyond the current lineup, especially for multitasking. Plus it would give shoppers a powerful option without stepping up to the much bulkier Surface Book line. The only problem with this rumor is that AMD doesn't have an octa-core mobile chip on the market, but it could end up surprising us at Microsoft's event.
A worthy ARM-powered Surface
It's been six years since Microsoft's last PC with an ARM-based processor, the so-so Surface 2. It moved to Intel for the Surface 3, which we liked a lot more. Last year's Surface Go, meanwhile, felt like the best distillation of what Microsoft was originally going for with all of these machines: a light tablet that was still pretty useful as a PC. The only problem was that Intel's Pentium Gold chip felt sorely lacking.
So, where can Microsoft go next? If the rumors are to be believed, it'll be heading back to ARM with the Snapdragon 8cx system on a chip for the Surface 7. That chip is a year old at this point, but based on Qualcomm's initial pitch, it should be more than enough to drive a PC. It's also geared towards fan-less machines, and, true to its mobile roots, the chip also includes an LTE modem. While it might not end up being a huge jump in performance from the Surface Go, the ARM hardware should allow for better battery life. And judging from yesterday's leaked image, it also looks like the Surface 7 will be thinner than any previous model, and it'll include a higher-quality screen with slimmer bezels.
We were surprised to see Microsoft take the leap into audio with the Surface Headphones last year, which featured solid noise cancelling and a unique ring control system. Now that wireless earbuds are all the rage, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Microsoft offered its own take. In April, we heard rumblings that the company was working on smart earbuds meant to take on the AirPods, but the rumor mill has been quiet since then. That makes me think Microsoft isn't quite ready to show off its earbuds yet.
Based on Microsoft's latest offerings -- the Surface Studio, Headphones and Go --- the company's big focus is on bringing something new with every device it launches. It could just be too soon for it to truly differentiate with its smart earbuds. I just hope they arrive ahead of the long-rumored noise canceling AirPods.
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