What to expect from Microsoft’s Surface hardware event?

Microsoft surprised the tech industry when, in 2012, it announced the first Surface hybrid tablet. Until then, Microsoft had primarily been a software company, with the exception of its Xbox video game console and some phones. Now, seven years later, the Microsoft Surface Pro is still well-regarded for its tablet-like slim form, keyboard cover and digital stylus pen.

Tomorrow Oct 2nd , Microsoft is expected to announce a plethora of new Surface hardware, ranging from new Surface Pro’s, to wireless earbuds. This is going to be one of the biggest hardware events Microsoft has ever held, and speculation around what will and won’t be announced is rife. So, here’s everything we’re expecting to see Microsoft announce tomorrow in New York City, thanks to various leaks and information from sources.

Rumors suggest we’ll see some refreshes of popular devices like the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, alongside a new mysterious ARM-powered Surface. The most significant part of the day could be Microsoft ushering in its dual screen plans for Surface and beyond, and a new Windows variant to make those plans a reality. Let’s explore what we’re likely, and unlikely, to see on Wednesday.

What we are expecting

Surface Pro 7

Microsoft refreshed the Surface Pro lineup with the sixth edition last year in a new black matte finish, but crucially without USB-C connectivity. We’re expecting to see the Surface Pro 7 arrive on Wednesday, complete with USB-C support. How Microsoft adds USB-C to its Surface Pro 7 isn’t exactly clear, but we’re hoping the company simply replaces the Mini DisplayPort with USB-C at the minimum and keeps a USB-A port for compatibility. Patents from earlier this year suggested that we might even see some type of new Surface Type Cover with a future Surface Pro.

Outside of USB-C, it’s highly likely the Surface Pro 7 will include Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors, and perhaps even some new color options (according to rumors). There could even be a new Surface Pen with wireless charging, as a recent FCC filing revealed a new stylus is on the way.

Surface Laptop 3

We’re also expecting Microsoft to announce a third generation Surface Laptop 3, and this is where things start to get a little more interesting. Microsoft is expected to unveil both a 13.5-inch and 15-inch variant of the Surface Laptop, both featuring USB-C in place of the Mini DisplayPort found on the Surface Laptop 1 and Surface Laptop 2. Just like the Surface Pro 7, we’re also not expecting to see Thunderbolt 3 support alongside the inclusion of USB-C.

Specs wise, rumors suggest Microsoft will be using AMD processors for the Surface Laptop, a first for the Surface line as a whole. It’s unclear which specific processors will be used, but it’s likely a variation of different AMD processors depending on the SKU you choose to buy. Externally, the Surface Laptop 3 will remain much the same, except with the option to not have Alcantara around the keyboard. We’re also hearing that the Surface Laptop 3 will feature a removable SSD, which is pretty interesting.

Surface Earbuds

Microsoft is also planning to release a new pair of wireless Surface headphones in the form of earbuds. These aren’t a successor to the over-ear Surface Headphones announced last year but are a nice addition to the overall product line as many prefer in-ear headphones. The earbuds, likely called Surface Earbuds, will feature a similar feature set to the Surface Headphones, including a touch-sensitive control mechanism on either bud, and Cortana integration.

ARM-powered Surface

Microsoft has been rumored to be working on an ARM-powered Surface for months now, and it’s likely we’ll see the unveiling on Wednesday. Unlike previous Surfaces with Nvidia Tegra ARM chips inside (Surface RT, Surface 2), Microsoft is rumored to be working with Qualcomm on this particular Surface. That means the device will likely be powered by Qualcomm’s latest 8cx chip, which was first unveiled nearly a year ago.

We haven’t seen many ARM-powered Windows laptops throughout 2019, but Samsung surprised us with its new Galaxy Book S recently and a promise of 23 hours of battery life. If Microsoft creates a Qualcomm-powered Surface then it could be the push that other OEMs need to take this type of device seriously. Windows on ARM still lags behind regular Windows 10, thanks to some app compatibility and generally poor performance from previous Qualcomm chips, but the Snapdragon 8cx could change things.

Little details have leaked about Microsoft’s Surface ARM plans, and it’s not really clear what type of device we’ll see this processor in. Microsoft leaker Walking Cat has revealed that Microsoft could introduce a “Surface Pro with thinner bezel and LTE,” hinting that this might be the ARM-powered device that has been rumored. LTE is a natural byproduct of using Qualcomm’s chips, and you’d expect a different design to the traditional Surface Pro. If the rumors are accurate, then it would be surprising to see Microsoft use the “Surface Pro” moniker on an ARM-powered device.

Portable speaker and Teams for Life

There’s some speculation as to whether Microsoft also could introduce a new Surface-branded portable speaker at the event. It seems as if this device would be more business-focused and built around Microsoft’s Teams group-chat service based on some hints in a recent patent filing. As one of my readers speculated, maybe such a device also could be used with “Teams for Life,” an as-yet-unannounced (but expected) version of Teams that Microsoft could offer for families. I’d think if and when Teams for Life becomes available, it could be a cornerstone for Microsoft’s expected Microsoft 365 Consumer subscription bundle.

Windows Lite OS

The biggest question in the minds of many of us Microsoft watchers is what, if anything, Microsoft will say about its still unofficially acknowledged “Windows Lite” OS, which is expected to be a Chrome OS competitor. Microsoft has been building a dual-screen PC, codenamed “Centaurus,” which could be one of several different Microsoft and third-party devices to run Lite OS.

It is also speculated that this OS will the come pre-installed in  their all new dual screen laptops which is code named as Centaurus.

Surface Centaurus

The big surprise of the day will likely be Microsoft’s tease of the future of Windows. We’ve known for a while that Microsoft has been working on a dual-screen Surface device, codenamed “Centaurus,” and the October 2nd event could serve as the first unveiling of this new type of hardware. Microsoft has been building a new dual-screen device for more than two years, and it’s designed to be the hero device for a wave of new dual-screen tablet / laptop hybrids that OEMs are expected to launch throughout 2020.

Microsoft demonstrated this new device during an internal meeting earlier this year, showing that work on the prototype has gone beyond the early stages. A key part of this hardware will be Windows Lite, the codename for a new Windows variant that will power dual-screen devices. Also known as “Santorini” internally, Windows Lite is more of a Chrome OS-like version of Windows designed specifically for dual-screen and foldable devices.

Intel has been pushing OEMs to create dual-screen devices, and a lot of the hardware could look similar to Microsoft’s original Courier concept or even include foldable displays in the future. The Windows Lite interface will be similar to Windows as it exists today, but it will be more of a mix of what Microsoft does with its Surface Hub shell and the limited functionality of its Windows Phone Continuum user interface. The underlying parts of Windows Lite are built on Microsoft’s new Composable Shell (C-Shell) and Windows Core OS, a more modular version of the existing Windows Shell that powers many parts of Windows 10.

How much Microsoft reveals about its dual-screen Surface plans and even Windows Lite remains to be seen, but we’re expecting to see some type of teaser on Wednesday. These devices aren’t expected to be ready until next year, so we won’t likely see final hardware or even software, but just a brief glimpse of the future of Windows.

Surface Studio 3

The Surface Studio is a product line that Microsoft has never updated on a yearly cadence. As such, we’re not expecting any updates to the Surface Studio in October.

What do you think?

So that’s everything we’re expecting, and not expecting, to be announced at a hardware event later this year. It’s fair to say that big things are in store for the Surface product line, and Microsoft as a whole. What are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments.

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