#MicrosoftEvent: Details From Microsoft's Announcements in China About Hardware & Software

 

Today in Shanghai, China Microsoft hosted their third big launch event of the month following their early May education event in New York City and then Build 2017 in Seattle.

There has been a lot of hardware, software, services, and developer related news across all three events and today Microsoft put a big bow on the month worth of news and held their first global product launch from mainland China.

Microsoft's Terry Myerson and Panos Panay were the senior executives on stage in Shanghai with Terry covering the software and services side of things and then Panos doing what he does best - talking about Surface hardware.

Here is a rundown of the various announcements from today:

Windows 10 China Government Edition

This version of Windows 10 will be based on the Enterprise edition of the operating system and is being developed through a partnership between Microsoft and CETC and this version of Windows 10 will be used by Chinese government and state-owned organizations.

The initial pilot of this version of Windows 10 will be done by three government customers and includes China Customs, the City of Shanghai, and Westone Information Technology.

"The China Government Edition will use these manageability features to remove features that are not needed by Chinese government employees like OneDrive, to manage all telemetry and updates, and to enable the government to use its own encryption algorithms within its computer systems."

Lenovo will also preinstall Windows 10 China Government Edition on new devices for sale across China.

HoloLens in China

Microsoft confirmed that HoloLens will begin shipping to developers across China on 24 May 2017. This follows the announcement back in December at WinHec that the device had been submitted for government approval in China.

Pre-orders for HoloLens opened up a couple of weeks ago.

Project Scorpio in China

Another new piece of hardware will be coming to China later this year and that is Microsoft's high performing follow on to the Xbox One - code named Project Scorpio.

No details on a release date or price was shared although we might hear that information next month at the annual E3 event during the Microsoft press briefing that will unveil Project Scorpio fully to the world.

According to Microsoft this is the first next generation console that will be made available to customers in China.

Also included in the gaming related announcements was Forza Racing Championship, where gamers compete against each other for prizes and bragging rights, will come to Shanghai this summer. Microsoft states that Forza is a very popular franchise in China since it launched there.

The final gaming related announcement was that Microsoft was partnering with NetEase to bring Minecraft to China. They are planning on two more betas in July as they move towards release later this year.

Microsoft Office

There are two new Office related announcements tied to the events in Shanghai today and one is directly related to the updated Surface Pen mentioned below under the new Surface Hardware news.

Fast, fluid and expressive ink—The new Surface Pen’s industry-leading technology shines when you write and draw in Office apps. With the new Surface Pen, your ink reacts to your unique touch with increased pressure sensitivity of 4,096 pressure points (from 1,024), as well as new tilt functionality that adjusts the thickness and texture of your ink granularly, based on the angle of your pen. Your ink also flows even more beautifully and effortlessly when you use the new Surface Pen in Office apps, with almost zero latency between your writing and the pen. Simply pick up your Surface Pen and start writing more expressively!

Then there is the new collaborative whiteboard feature:

A new collaborative whiteboard experience—We showed future inking innovation coming first to the Microsoft Whiteboard app on Windows 10, such as collaborative inking, geometry recognition, table conversion and automatic table shading. Whiteboard is currently available in private preview on Surface Hub, and our vision is to bring it to more Windows 10 devices later this year (including the Surface Studio and Surface Pro, as demoed today) with exclusive capabilities for Office 365 subscribers.

Surface Hardware in China

This obviously was the star of the event in Shanghai and Panos Panay did not disappoint because whether he is talking about brand new Surface hardware or products that have been previously announced - his passion oozes through the entire presentation.

So let's discuss Surface Studio and Surface Laptop which have both been previously announced in October 2016 and May 2017 respectively. The big news today was that each of these devices are now available for pre-order in China and will each be available/shipping on 15 June.

Next up is the new Surface Pro which Panay described as the most versatile laptop that exists which is a serious departure from how the company described the first four generations of the popular 2-in-1 convertible device. What we have been used to hearing in the keynotes, product launches, and commercials was that the Surface Pro series of hardware was the tablet that could replace your laptop.  That approach is now retired in favor of the most versatile laptop and as several reports indicate, Microsoft has made this change because only 30% of users actually put the Surface Pen to use in any mode on those earlier versions of Surface. This also means the pen is also not going to be included in the Surface Pro box when the device begins shipping on 15 June. By the way, pre-orders began today and that lines up all of these shipping dates to 15 June including Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, and Surface Studio to China customers.

According to Panay, the new Surface Pro - they dropped the numerical aspect of the product name with this release - has over 800 new custom parts and the thinner/lighter device uses 99% of the available space in the body. It really appears to be a solid upgrade to the line but many will consider it incremental compared to its Surface Pro 4 predecessor however, the internals have been updated to much of the latest tech. The Core m3 and i5 based devices will be fanless while the i7 will have a fan but Microsoft states it is quieter than previous versions running the i7.

The new Surface pro also includes a re-designed hinge that extends to 165 degrees and allow the device to be laid almost flat in what they are calling Studio Mode and the product demo video even shows Surface Dial being used directly on the screen in this configuration. That means the new Surface Pro now has three modes - Tablet, Laptop, and Studio.

While there are some subtle visual changes on the outside of the device - the real performance improvements are on the inside - so here are the general specs for the new device:

-- Operating System: Windows 10 Pro
-- Dimensions: 11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 in (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.5 mm)
-- Weight: m3: 1.69 lbs (766 g); i5 & i7: 1.73 lbs (786 g)
-- Storage: Solid state drive (SSD) options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
-- Display: Screen: 12.3" PixelSense Display; Resolution: 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI); Aspect Ratio: 3:2;Touch: 10 point multi-touch
-- Battery Life: Up to 13.5 hours video playback
-- Processor: Intel 7th Gen Core m3, i5, i7
-- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 (m3); Intel HD Graphics 620 (i5); Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 (i7)
-- Security: TPM chip for enterprise security Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello face sign-in
-- Memory: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB RAM
-- Wireless: Wi-Fi: 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible; Bluetooth Wireless 4.0 technology
-- Ports: Full-size USB 3.0; microSD card reader; Surface Connect; Headset jack; Mini DisplayPort; Cover port
-- Camera, video, and audio: Windows Hello face sign-in camera (front-facing); 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video; 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video; Stereo microphones; Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium

You will notice there is no USB-C port in Surface Pro but Microsoft explains the time is not right to add this port to the device however, they will provide USB-A to USB-C dongle later this year that customers can use to connect their USB-C to USB-C peripherals.

There are six possible configurations/price points for the new Surface Pro:

-- 128GB / Intel Core m3 / 4GB RAM - $799.00
-- 128GB / Intel Core i5 / 4GB RAM - $999.00
-- 256GB / Intel Core i5 / 8GB RAM - $1,299.00
-- 256GB / Intel Core i7 / 8GB RAM - $1,599.00
-- 512GB / Intel Core i7 / 16GB RAM - $2.199.00
-- 1TB / Intel Core i7 / 16GB RAM - $2,699.00

What catches my eye in that price list is the $500 jump to a 1TB SSD for the Intel Core i7 version and then the $600 bump to double storage and RAM on the lower end Core i7 version.

Alongside the new hardware Microsoft also unveiled updates to the Signature Type Covers which will all have the Alcantara fabric on them with the protective layer to repel dirt and oils which is just like the upcoming Surface Laptop plus the Surface Pen itself has undergone one of its biggest upgrades.

The new Type Covers are available in Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Platinum and are listed at $159.99 each. The new Surface Pen, which now has 4,096 pressure points and the capability to understand the tilt of your pen as you draw and ink, does not have a retail price listed at the Microsoft Store website nor are they available for pre-order like the new Type Covers. They will come in Burgundy, Black, Platinum, and Cobalt Blue and are compatible with all previous versions of Surface except for the original Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.

Microsoft Shanghai Event Resources:

-- Announcing Windows 10 China Government Edition and the new Surface Pro
-- Office 365 May news—exciting new value coming with the new Surface Pro
-- Meet the new Surface Pro
-- Compare Surface Devices
-- Surface Pro Product Listing at Microsoft Store
-- Surface Pro Signature Type Cover Product Page at Microsoft Store
-- Surface Pen Product Page at Microsoft Store

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