Next year will be a busy one for Microsoft’s Surface division, if a new book about the organization is any indication.
The final chapter of tech journalist Brad Sams’ new book “Beneath a Surface” lays out a potential roadmap of hardware releases over the next couple years, gleaned from unnamed sources. The roadmap includes refreshes and new versions of household names like Surface Pro and Xbox, some brand new devices and an update to the mysterious “Andromeda” device that Windows Phone fans have been clamoring for.
Microsoft famously whiffed on its smartphone push, but the Surface division has made Microsoft a hardware heavyweight, rivaling Apple in the high end of the market. In Microsoft’s most recent quarter, Surface revenue jumped 14 percent over the previous year, to $1.18 billion.
“For Microsoft, the Surface brand has become an invaluable asset,” Sams writes. “For a company that makes, and will continue to make, the majority of its revenue with software and services, Surface has been a rare bright spot in the consumer and hardware spaces.”
Sams cautions that these dates are a ways out, so things could always change. Here’s the possible roadmap, per the new book:
- The newest version of the Surface Pro tablet, with a USB-C port, smaller bezels, rounded corners and several new color options could come in the fourth quarter of 2019.
- A new Surface Laptop, possibly running on an AMD processor rather than the usual Intel processor, may also surface toward the end of next year.
- Next spring, Sams reports, Microsoft may hold an event to unveil an “ambient computing” device that can sense and respond to user presence. Sams reports that “the product is designed to help deal with some of the common frustrations of using a smartphone,” but he says he doesn’t think it will be a phone.
- A pair of new lower-cost devices Xbox One S devices could come next year. Sams reports that one of the models may be all digital, without a disc drive.
- Looking ahead to 2020, Sams predicts Microsoft will unveil the next generation of the tablet-computer hybrid Surface Book. Later that year, Sams reports that Microsoft could release a reimagined version of the Surface Studio desktop computer, but it will be similar to the Surface Hub 2, which includes a “modular design” for easily upgrading the device rather than having to buy a new one every couple of years.
- And then there’s “Andromeda.” Reports of a foldable, dual-screen device, that could be the company’s next stab at the smartphone market. have trickled out for some time. Sams adds new insight, reporting that the device, which could come late next year, is bigger than previous reports indicated and may be closer to a PC than a smartphone.
When asked about Sams’ report on the Surface roadmap, a Microsoft spokesperson replied, “nothing to share.”
The book uses the turnaround of the Surface division as a microcosm of Microsoft’s resurgence in recent years. Like other parts of Microsoft, the hardware division was suffering as recently as a few years ago, reeling from a $900 million financial blow. But the decision to focus on productivity applications, and a series of hardware hits, starting with Surface Pro 3 in 2014, established Microsoft as a top 5 PC vendor in the U.S. by unit shipments, just behind Apple.
“The company has finally found its stride in hardware, it has a much better understanding of the mechanics needed to produce premium hardware, and it has achieved its goal of setting a higher bar for PCs,” Sams writes. “While the company has yet to achieve the same level of admiration that is afforded to Apple, there is no doubt that Microsoft is headed down that path.”