In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft’s hosting a big event tomorrow, and if rumors are right, this could be the company’s largest set of hardware announcements ever. Here’s our speculative cocktail on what to expect.
Surface Pro 4 – perhaps with a shape-shifting screen
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3, so there’s virtually no doubt we’ll be getting an update tomorrow. The company has done a pretty good job of keeping the Surface Pro 4 under wraps, but there are a few exciting rumors to whet our appetites.
Reports suggest the device will include an even higher resolution screen likely at least 4K. The device will almost certainly use Intel’s new 6th-generation Skylake processors, which should provide a significant performance and battery life boost over the Surface Pro 3‘s 4th-gen Haswell chipset.
Jumping into the crazier rumor territory, recent reports suggest the Surface Pro 4 will have an ‘edgeless’ display with adjustable bezels that only appear when used as a tablet (as seen here). This would allow it to be compatible with current accessories but fit a larger screen.
The device will probably include at least one USB-C port, though this won’t be used for charging given the SP4 will be compatible with the Pro 3’s accessories.
And of course, it will run on Windows 10.
New Pen and Type Cover
The SP4 will likely include an improved Surface Pen, given some users (in particular artists), were unhappy with the switch to N-Trig from Wacom technology in previous generations.
The company bought N-Trig back in April, so it has likely been toiling away at improving technology specifically for the Surface. The company also knew about the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil in advance, so it’ll want to offer a competitive product. We’ve no idea if it will be tilt-sensitive like the Apple Pencil, but at the very least it will likely include lower latency and more pressure levels.
Meanwhile, The Verge is reporting that Microsoft will include a new Type Cover with a larger trackpad, improved key spacing and a new way of attaching the Pen to the Surface (the old pen loop really sucks).
Windows 10 Mobile and three Lumia phones
Windows 10 Mobile is due this fall, so Microsoft will be unveiling new phones to coincide with the launch, and we already know most there is to know about them (they leaked on Microsoft’s own store site). These are Microsoft’s first flagships since acquiring Nokia, so it’ll want to provide a good showing.
There are two new high-end devices: the 5.2-inch screen Lumia 950 and the 5.7-inch 950 XL. Shared specs include 3GB of RAM, a 20MP camera, QHD resolution and 32GB of storage (microSD expandable).
That said, the XL jumps a little ahead with a slightly faster Qualcomm 810 processor (there’s an 808 in the smaller model) and support for Microsoft’s Surface Pen technology – though it’s not clear whether the pen will be embedded in the phone itself. A leak earlier today also suggests the phones will have removable batteries.
Meanwhile, a more affordable Lumia 550 is expected. This phone will supposedly have a 1 Ghz processor and a 5 megapixel camera for folks not looking for the greatest specs.
The two larger phones will also definitely use USB-C for quick-charging, and potentially for other connectivity too. Speaking of….
Display Dock and Continuum
The two 950 models are rumored to support Continuum, Microsoft’s feature for switching between mobile and desktop UI’s. Continuum for phones was already demoed by Microsoft earlier this year at its Build conference, so it’s not a huge surprise.
The display dock is enticing as it allows you to connect a keyboard, mouse and display to your phone for getting serious work done. It could change the way we think about using our mobile phones for productivity.
Windows Hello and Passport support
Microsoft wants to get rid of the password with Windows Hello, and its new devices will likely be the company’s first step towards that goal.
Hello is a unified standard for logging in using advanced face, iris and/or fingerprint detection. While it’s unlikely the Surface Pro 4 will be able to fit the large depth-sensing cameras needed for secure face detection, it could include a fingerprint sensor on an edge or Type Cover.
The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are expected to use iris detection on the front facing camera instead.
Along with Windows Hello, Microsoft Passport will allow users to use biometric security for logging into websites and apps.
Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft’s cross-platform fitness tracker and smartwatch is due for a big update as well.
The original model brought some interesting concepts and powerful fitness tracking technology, but was received with lukewarm enthusiasm due to its chunky size and lack of features.
The Band 2 is rumored to include an altimeter for measuring stairs climbed, and a curved screen that better hugs your wrist. Little else is known, but you can expect claims of improved tracking components as well.
Microsoft Insider (Spanish) also reports the device will launch in more countries, including Spain, France, Italy and Germany.
Windows 10 on Xbox One
Microsoft is clearly making a strong hardware push, but it also knows Windows 10 is about more than Surface and Lumia. Expect the company to detail some numbers on Windows 10 adoption, as well as show off some of the products its frenemies in the Windows hardware space are cooking up.
Don’t be surprised if it pokes some fun at the iPad Pro too.
Maybe: 14-inch Surface and HoloLens/VR Kit News
There’s some buzz that Microsoft will unveil a larger, more powerful 14-inch Surface. While the rumor-mill has been churning on this one for a while, The Verge suggests Microsoft will provide a “more laptop-like” Surface soon. If true, you can expect it to include bumped-up specs and a new set of accessories for the larger form factor.
On the VR front, Microsoft just announced its competitor to Google Cardboard just a few days ago. It’s not unreasonable to expect the company to spend a few minutes talking about the platform and the software behind it. If so, it will also spend some time explaining how VR Kit ties in with its HoloLens augmented reality headset.
Probably not: Surface 4, Surface Mini, and Xbox Slim
The 7-inch Surface Mini was a real product, but it was killed shortly before the Surface Pro 3’s announcement, and we haven’t heard a peep about it since. With a 5.7-inch phone imminent and the 10-inch Surface now prividing the smaller form factor, we don’t expect to hear any more about a 7-inch model.
Speaking of the non-Pro Surface, that model was updated in April, so we’re unlikely to see a refresh anytime soon, although a mild spec bump is possible. Rumors have picked up about a smaller Xbox as well, but Xbox head Phil Spencer has previously said these rumors weren’t true.
Microsoft’s event starts at 10 AM ET tomorrow. Stayed tuned to TNW for coverage straight from the NYC venue.