Microsoft unveiled a bunch of different Surface products this week. There’s a new matte black Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2, an updated Surface Studio 2, and all new Surface Headphones. While most of the hardware was typical Surface, the Headphones were a surprising shift for Microsoft. In an interview with The Verge, Surface chief Panos Panay reveals that Microsoft moving into headphones is all about a new idea of “completing the Surface experience.”
“Now that the company is designing these products as one company, the tech is evolving where we want it to be… there was an opportunity to complete this thing in a way that I’m passionate about and that the team is passionate about,” explains Panay. That “completion” on the headphones side is designed to meet Surface users that engross themselves in music, as many creators do, or even gamers who use headsets for hours. “Just like a Surface, there are a few little elements that we can bring to the table that are transformative for your experience in getting things done,” explains Panay. Those elements include the clever noise canceling dial, integrated Cortana and Skype functions, and the automatic mute features.
While Microsoft has taken this step into headphones and beyond its regular mouse and keyboard accessories, there are signs Surface will continue to push into new areas. During our interview, Panay hints that we might see a USB-C webcam from Microsoft. “Look at the camera on Surface Hub 2, note it’s a USB-C-based camera, and the idea that we can bring a high fidelity camera to an experience, you can probably guess that’s going to happen,” explains Panay. “Is it completing an experience or bringing the next level of an experience to something that you wanted, even if it’s not Surface? I’ve been looking at all of that. While I won’t announce a new product, I think that’s important. I really think the completing of experience is our design from Microsoft that’s hardware and software.”
Microsoft is increasingly looking at a tighter blend of hardware and software that’s typically the playbook of Apple. While the software giant has tried to mash these together by demonstrating things like OneNote with a Surface Pen, the Surface Hub 2 feels like the first real demonstration of Microsoft’s new approach to hardware and software. It also has a modular design so you can upgrade its components, and that same design feels like it should be on the 28-inch Surface Studio.
I asked Panos if we could see the same modular design of the Surface Hub 2, that lets you replace the processor cartridge, coming to Surface Studio. “Probably, you look at it and you see what’s the evolution and how do we make it better for our customers,” says Panay. “Yeah, there’s still so much more to do, and while I won’t tell you what it is you can put stories together.” It’s easy to connect the Surface dots, especially when Microsoft filed patents for a modular Surface Studio years ago.
Either way, it’s clear the future of Surface will be very similar to the Surface Hub 2 and Surface Headphones. Both these products marry hardware and software together in meaningful ways that are designed to make them truly fit into the unique gap in the market that Microsoft is trying to fill with Surface.