Just Wow! Microsoft And Hardware

By Xtian.

OKAY! So Microsoft is making hardware, and a lot of it actually looks good! As a newer maker of hardware, their first products are beautiful and intriguing in their own right. Some of the design decisions are puzzling to me, but Microsoft was/is a software company and sure they make Xbox, however shipping hardware is altogether a different beast, and Microsoft so far has proven up to the task! This is exciting!

While I no longer use Windows full time, I started my music career with a built to order Gateway PC running Windows XP. I loved that machine as it truly was the beginning of my career! Even being built to order, it still came with a bunch of bloatware and required a complete reload to become usable. Not Microsoft's fault I know, but something that became synonymous with the Windows platform.  There was also a signature program I didn’t know about, but apparently, not many OEM’s made them. Anywho, flash forward to today, and Microsoft is making beautiful machines!

Surface Pro was the first product that caught my eye! It felt great in the hand, was capable of running real win32 apps, and had the ability to be docked! What was not to like? The price when you compared it to an iPad. Don’t get me wrong, Surface Pro, is much closer to a traditional computer, in that there is an operating system, with a filesystem you can access, and manipulate, but it’s not a touch-first operating system, and large portion of win32 apps, are not and will never be optimized for touch. So there are tradeoffs for sure, but there are a ton of apps that are, and Microsoft has the resources to put plenty of wood behind developing the Windows App store ecosystem. 

Surface Book is probably my favorite of the Surface branded products! Wicked clean fit and finish! The hinge is weird, but the design is fantastic! Having more compute power in the base, and making the screen detach is brilliant! I only wish the hinge was closed flatter, however, I do understand the need for I leave an air gap, I just don; like it.  Looking forward to what the next generation of Surface Book looks like as I’m hoping it’s not just a speed bump. 

Surface Studio, this machine, made me sit up and take notice in a major way! First off, my favorite design for any desktop all in one machine was and is the G4 iMac! I love the fact that the Surface Studio’s position can be changed to fit the scenario, like the G4 iMac! This leapfrogs, that as I can touch the screen, and still have access to a mouse, keyboard, pen, and dial! While I am happy to see Microsoft with its mojo working, I still hope to see more improvements. The Surface Studio is underpowered for the price, and it would be nice if the display was available to stand alone. 

Surface Laptop, I like the color choices, and getting a retina screen at $999. is beyond amazing! At first glance, it looks like the retina MacBook Air we were waiting on Apple to make, yet not quite. It seems that both Microsoft and Apple, can’t make a true successor or killer, to the MacBook Air. Still, the Surface Laptop is a beautiful machine, even though it’s base config is in one color, and comes with 4GB of ram, and has a single USB A port, instead of USB C. It’s also too thick to be considered an ultrabook, and doesn’t transform or anything. To me, this machine should’ve had one of each! I’m not sure why these companies can’t make a laptop for today, that ages gracefully and give you one of each. Instead, it seems like these two companies want customers to simply buy what they’re selling, without giving us what we actually want. The fabric that can be perma-stained with Cheeto dust, not a fan.

Now there’s the Xbox! This is a product that I’ve been on board with since day one with the OG Xbox aka the Original Xbox. At the time I detested the PlayStation controller and so I bought the Gamecube and the Xbox OG as a way to play with anything but that unusable for me controller. The original was an interesting beast. A friend of mine and I were able to hack mine and install and run Linux on it, but that’s a story for another day. I also bought multiple revisions of the Xbox 360 and still love that system and still play many of the games. The Xbox One’s initial launch I approached with an extreme amount of trepidation as the company seemed to focus on the consoles ability to be a media box. As an owner of Roku, Apple TV, and multiple aforementioned Xbox 360’s I could’ve cared less.

Instead, it left me with more questions than answers. I wondered where were the games? Why wasn’t there a larger focus on Kinect 2? Why weren’t there more first party titles? A ton of the stuff they did announce seemed gamer hostel. No backward compatibility it felt as if the company line was to chide and deride the very notion. Then came Xbox One S which was meh. Flash forward to E3 2017 and Team Xbox came out swinging with the Xbox One X! A monster of a gaming console, and to date the world's more powerful! Sure we could build a PC that would obliterate this thing but wow for something that’s $500. it’s an amazing piece of kit! 

The briefing they showed an impressive 42 titles, and I was shocked by the level of detail in the Forza demo. They further blew my mind with announcing backward compatibility for original Xbox games! I’m hoping the Matrix games are supported as I still keep an original Xbox for playing this and the Star Wars Obi Wan. They also announced that Minecraft will be synced across platforms, so now you’ll be able to start the world on the PC and pick up from where you left off with pocket edition! This to me is an absolutely brilliant move! I know a lot of parents will be pleased with this development. With all of these announcements and the Xbox Team’s renewed dedication to gamers, I am happily buying a Xbox One X for Christmas, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about. 

There is plenty to praise and plenty of things that remind me of the old phone company bumper sticker that read “We don’t care because we don’t have to”. It’s one thing to ignore the market when creating something new, but the PC market is mature now, so you must assume a higher level of sophistication from the users. All that being said, I’m now giving Microsoft a shot in my workflow, time will tell if more of Microsoft’s hardware and software offerings will make it further into my home than the Xbox one and one X. For now, I’m keeping an eye on and dipping a finger or two back into Microsoft land. Interesting days for sure!