Microsoft has rounded out 2016 with an emphasis on 3D and virtual reality, and by bringing a whole new family to town. At their recent October event, the tech firm rolled out its latest Windows update with a focus on creativity and 3D, and introduced the new "Surface family".
Here are the highlights of what was unveiled.
The Surface range now has a new member, with Microsoft announcing a whiz-bang Surface Studio model to complete its "family" of can-do computers.
This all-in-one PC is set to rival Apple's iMac and is designed to enhance the user experience by taking them to their "most creative place".
The Surface Studio features a massive 28-inch PixelSense display that can be used upright or as a drafting table. Compatible with the included Surface Pen, and the separately purchased Surface Dial (we’ll come to that later) it allows users to sketch, design and create with ease.
Microsoft Windows Pro comes included, while the Studio can also be paired with Xbox controllers to transform the PC into a full gaming experience.
The look is clean, simple and minimalist but packs a punch in terms of processing and power. Available with a minimum 1TB storage it comes with an Intel i5 or i7 processor.
The Surface Studio starts at US$2999, can be pre-ordered now, and will start shipping in early 2017.
Surface Book i7
Many had widely tipped Microsoft might release the Surface Book 2 as part of the October event and to a small extent they did, announcing an upgraded Surface Book in the form of the i7. This improvement on the original offers a more powerful, speedier base, while the clipboard remains largely the same.
Rumor has it the Surface Book 2 will still be released in the second quarter of next year.
Also known as the Surface Book with Power Base, the Surface Book i7 features a minimum Intel i7 processor, extra cooling and additional battery life, with Microsoft claiming 16 hours video playback.
These new additions have made the Surface Book i7 a little heavier and thicker than the original, but the result is barely noticeable.
It has also added compatibility with new devices like the Surface Dial.
The updated Surface Book is available with 256GB storage for US$2399, 512GB for $2799 and 1TB for $3299. It will be released on November 28.
The Surface Dial is a new component that gives users a new innovative way to control Windows functions. Billed by Microsoft as "a completely new way to interact with technology and create in the most natural, immersive way" it enables users to "store, customize, access, navigate, and reimagine physical tools in the digital world".
As a stand-alone dial, it can be used to open various functions, or place it on Surface touch screens to access key features.
The Surface Dial is compatible with all Windows 10 devices, will retail for US$99, and will start sipping in mid December.
Along with innovative hardware which enables users to draw, dial and rotate screens, Microsoft announced the next edition of Windows 10 would also have a focus on creativity.
With push towards 3D content, Creative Update will boast new Paint 3D, and allow users to scan in 3D from smartphones. Users will also be able to create their own emojis, while 3D will be incorporated into popular applications like PowerPoint, which will now feature a 3D models section.
The software update will change the way contacts are handled, making communication via SMS and email more connected and convenient.
Gaming also gets some improvements with game broadcasting, allowing users to share between their Xbox and PC, while virtual reality and augmented reality experiences will also be supported.
Microsoft's Creative Update will be released early in 2017.
To support all this gaming and virtual reality, Microsoft's partners will also be launching VR headsets to work with Windows 10, while immersive sound will be offered on Xbox with the introduction of Dolby Atmos.
The final word
Microsoft's October event may not have enjoyed all the fanfare of Apple's Keynote address, but it has brought some exciting new innovation to the tech world, particularly in the form of the Surface Studio.
If this all-in-one stands up to the Microsoft claims, which so far it looks like it will, then Microsoft may have just hit the high note of the big-ticket tech opera, making a PC that's not only cool but can challenge the iMac at its own creative game.