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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a hardware press event in New York City.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a hardware press event in New York City.

NEW YORK — Microsoft announced a slew of new devices at blockbuster press event on Tuesday, each aiming to deliver a unique user experience. There’s a laptop that turns into a tablet, a smartphone that can mimic a PC, and a wearable that lands somewhere between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch.

And this, CEO Satya Nadella said, is why Microsoft is in the hardware business.

The company still works with partners that deliver most of the computers and gadgets that run within the Windows ecosystem, but Microsoft itself is looking for chances to build the machines that deliver something new — aiming to perfect the Windows experience.

“The innovation you saw today drives home the point of why we build devices,” Nadella said in his prepared remarks at the event. “We build them to create and complete magical experiences. We think of ourselves in the experience business. We’re not just building hardware for hardware’s sake. To perfect the experience, we obsess about every choice that matters.”

Microsoft’s Panos Panay unveils the Surface Book in New York today. (GeekWire Photo, Jacob Demmitt)
Microsoft’s Panos Panay unveils the Surface Book in New York today. (GeekWire Photo, Jacob Demmitt)

Spectators have second-guessed the company’s devices business over the years, as Microsoft has struggled to get its foot in the door with smartphones and other gadgets. But Nadella made it clear on Tuesday that the company has no intention of shying away from the device-manufacturing game.

He once again shared his vision for the future of computing, talking about how it is going to be the “mobility of your experience, not the mobility of any single device” that matters most. Nadella said Microsoft plans to be the company that turns that vision into a reality, and it’s going to do it by building hardware and software together from the ground up to enable new use cases.

New smartphones unveiled by Microsoft at a press event on Tuesday.
New smartphones unveiled by Microsoft at a press event on Tuesday.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Mobile was a major focus of Thursday’s event, and it has been a tough category for Microsoft over the past several years. The company, known for dominating the PC operating system market, continues to look like a fish out of water on the smaller, portable screens that more and more are replacing traditional computers. The Windows Phone operating system, which was officially phased out by Windows 10 Mobile today, only claimed a 3 percent market share five years after it launched in 2010.

Microsoft went so far as to buy Nokia’s handset division in 2014, but that $7 billion acquisition did little to turn things around and has been essentially written off as a loss.

That has all been happening as the PC market is stagnating and competitors like Apple and Google continue to jockey for position in the next wave of computing.

Some thought Nadella may steer things away from the company’s old hardware strategy when he took over more than a year. He did remove the “devices” part from former CEO Steve Ballmer’s previous mission statement, but it’s clear he still sees a day when Microsoft isn’t just known for some of the most popular software around — but hardware, too.

And that, ultimately, was the message Microsoft delivered today with its big rollout of new devices.

Microsoft's New York Press event dedicated to Windows 10 hardware.
Microsoft’s New York Press event dedicated to Windows 10 hardware.
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