Microsoft Announces Windows 10 'Creators Update,' Demos New Hardware

The next major Windows 10 update, previously known by its codename "Redstone 2," will launch next spring as the "Windows 10 Creators Update."

Microsoft gave the update news, among a string of other announcements, on Wednesday during an event for media, analysts and Windows Insiders in New York City. The company touted the upcoming free update's support for 3-D and virtual reality. It also took the wraps off new hardware -- namely the 28-inch Surface Studio and beefed-up Surface Books -- that take advantage of new Windows capabilities, as well as give Microsoft a foothold in the high-end, all-in-one desktop PC market.

The event also gave a view of Microsoft's vision for Windows as a platform for creating, not just consuming, information and content.

The Windows 10 Creators Update aims to bring 3-D and "mixed reality" to mainstream use. The updated OS will ease the path for anyone to create holograms while providing ties to Office -- for example, the ability for individuals to bring together different communications networks, including e-mail, Skype and SMS.

During his brief remarks at Wednesday's event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described these new features as integral to bringing Windows into the future. The first wave of computing gave users the ability to become more productive, he noted. Over the past 10 years, advances in software, end user computing devices and cloud services have introduced new ways for people to discover and consume information. Now Microsoft's goal with Windows is to enable new forms of content and information creation.

"I believe the next 10 years will be defined by technology that empowers profound creation," Nadella said. "At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We are the company that stands for the builders, the makers, the creators. That's who we are. Every choice we make is about finding that balance between consumption and creative expression. I am inspired by what I have seen in the Minecraft generation, who see themselves as not players of a game but creators of new worlds they dream up -- the new forms of creativity and the expression we can unleash. This is what motivates us about Windows 10."

Windows 10 Creators Update
The ability to create and transform images and content to 3-D will come in a tool most Windows users are quite familiar with: Paint. The new Windows Paint 3D will let users create or capture any image or photo and convert it into 3-D, and in turn share those 3-D images anywhere, including on social media. To enhance that capability, Microsoft announced it is teaming up with Trimble, which claims its 3-D modeling app Sketchup has millions of creators and content in its 3D Warehouse site.

While 3-D will be a core focus in the next Windows release, Microsoft also intends to extend it to Office apps. Megan Sanders, a general manager in Microsoft's emerging technologies incubation group, demonstrated the creation of a 3-D image in PowerPoint. Microsoft also said new inking capabilities coming to Windows will extend to Word, as described in a post on the Office Blog

A new MyPeople feature will let users pin their most important contacts to the taskbar. Saunders also demonstrated the ability to create an e-mail message sent to her husband, who could receive it via Skype or SMS (on Android or Windows phones). "Over the next year, you will see us integrate 3-D across our most popular Microsoft applications," she said.

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices group, said the new Windows 10 Creators Update will bring new capabilities and devices for a wide audience of users ranging from gamers, software developers, artists and engineers, as well as for everyday collaboration. "It is our mission to see that everyone can achieve their potential at work and play," he said.

In addition to new Xbox hardware, Microsoft is taking a key step toward bringing its HoloLens technology to the mainstream through its OEM partners. Myerson announced that Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo will offer headsets enabled with the Windows 10 Creators Update that can create holograms at starting prices of $299. Myerson said the headsets from those companies will have sensors that offer "six degrees of freedom," not requiring any setup when integrating between physical and virtual worlds.

The New Surface Studio All-in-One Desktop Canvas
Just as Microsoft pushed into the laptop market last year with the launch of the Surface Book, the company is now entering the all-in-one desktop market. The company took the wraps off the Surface Studio, a sleek system with a 28-inch collapsible 4.5k ultra HD screen that promises to produce 13.5 million pixels (63 percent more pixels than a high-end 4k TV).

Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Devices Panos Panay also took the wraps off the new Surface Hub, which the company said transforms the function of a workstation into a "powerful digital canvas." It produces 102 PPI, offers TrueColor DCO-P3 and initially comes in three configurations. The entry-level unit, equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, 1TB of storage, 8GB of RAM and a 2GB CPU, costs $3,000. The mid-range system has an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 2GB CPU and 1TB of storage, and will cost $3,500. And the most powerful system, equipped with an i7, 16GB of RAM, a 4GB GPU and 2TB of storage, will set you back $4,200.

A New Peripheral for Creators: The Dial
"We want to transform the way you create and think about creating," Panay said.

One way Microsoft hopes to do that is with its new Dial, a peripheral shaped somewhat like a hockey puck, which Panay believes will provide a new way to navigate and interact with content. The new Dial is priced at $99 and will be available early next year. It will also work with the Surface Pro 3 and 4, Surface Books and the new Surface Studio.

New Surface Books
Microsoft is also rolling out three new Surface Books based on the Intel 6th Generation Core CPUs. Panay said the new Surface Books will sport double the graphics processing power of the original and add 30 percent more battery life, bringing the total to 16 hours. The three new systems (specs are here), will be available next month, ranging in cost from $1,899 to $2,799.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst with Moor Insights and Technology, noted Microsoft decided not to roll out new systems with Intel's new 7th Generation Processor, code-named Kaby Lake, or the USB-C Thunderbolt interfaces.

"They didn't take as may risks as they did last year," Moorhead said. "They were conservative in my opinion." That said, he expects the new hardware will be a hit. "They are going to sell a ton of them."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.