Microsoft’s Surface Book isn’t just a laptop, it’s a new beginning

Its new Lumia phones, updated Band and Hololens signal Microsoft’s return to the game, says Tein Hee Seow

Once in a while, someone pulls a rabbit out of the hat and stuns the world with a new vision. Right now, that someone is Microsoft.

It’s one of these moments when you thought a company is out of that magical “one more thing”. A term closely associated with Apple’s iconic keynotes that ended with a surprise. Microsoft took a page out of Apple’s playbook with the Surface Book, a convertible laptop that’s touted to be twice as powerful as Apple’s MacBook Pro.

12 hours of battery life. Powered by a brand new Intel Core i5 (or i7 if you’re going for broke) processor. An amazingly thin 7.7mm chassis. But most importantly, Microsoft’s rabbit is that detachable display that converts into a tablet, joined to the keyboard by an articulating hinge.

Say what you want, that a convertible laptop has been done to death. With the Surface Book, it’s more than just a case of, been there, done that. Powerful hardware aside, it also represents Microsoft’s return to form with the innovative design of the Surface Book.

With Windows 10, the company pulled itself out of the humdinger that is Windows 8. The Surface Pro tablets and its innovative Type Cover keyboards proved that it’s headed in the right direction. Now, both hardware and software have formed a union that is the Surface Book.

There’s more to the Surface Book than it looks. It also represents the culmination of the plan that Microsoft has put forth since it acquired Nokia and re-focused their efforts on Windows Phone. A decision that admittedly came under fire for what it’s actually trying to achieve as its end goal. Fragmented as Windows Phone was from Microsoft’s flagship Windows operating system, the company promised that given time, the mobile operating system will be integrated with the Windows ecosystem.

The new Lumia 550 and 950 phones are exactly that, with the help of the Microsoft Display Dock which transforms the smartphone experience onto a full desktop user interface on a larger display. It’s the fulfillment of Microsoft’s Continuum feature, delivering a Windows 10 desktop experience from its mobile operating system. Limitations do apply, but imagine this - now you can work on a Windows 10 phone, plug it into a TV via the Display Dock, and continue where you left off on a Surface Book.

Everything we’ve heard during Microsoft’s biggest event in 2015 has one central message - universal experience. The experience is now streamlined. No more frustrating hair pulling experiences when you can’t carry on with what you were doing on one app from the phone to the PC. Big names such as Facebook are now committed to building a brand new universal app from the ground up, one that applies to the Windows 10 universe.

Microsoft also presented a long-term vision in the form of its updated Microsoft Band and the Hololens virtual reality headset. The former is already on track, integrating what you do on the Windows ecosystem, sending timely reminders and notifications, tracking your health and offering nuggets of information to keep your life in sync.

Hololens, however, is still an unknown, but one that has a lot of potential. This is especially so when you consider the possibilities it possess with the Xbox One. Which, by the way, is also revamped to streamline the experience to Windows 10, and even covers its legacy base with backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games.

For years, it felt like Microsoft’s separate business units, ranging from Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone, have been kept in isolated silos. Never really intersecting, always playing a game of mismatching. The company seemingly lost its direction and questions surrounding big acquisitions such as Nokia have gone unanswered.

There was a lot of confusion over what Microsoft was attempting to achieve, and its vision of a coherent and universal approach to marry the mobile and desktop platforms seems like a dead on arrival effort. Yesterday, the company was almost forgotten, constantly faulted for the dysfunctionality of its hardware and software products. Today, it’s shown a clear vision of what it wants to be.

Microsoft went against all odds and is back in the game once more.