Mi­crosoft un­veils Win 10 smart­phones, new lap­top


Mi­crosoft un­veiled its first Win­dows 10 smart­phones Tues­day as it launched a se­ries of new gad­gets in a bid to win a big­ger share of the com­pet­i­tive mo­bile mar­ket.

The tech­nol­ogy gi­ant’s two pre­mium Lu­mia smart­phones take aim at pop­u­lar de­vices of­fered by Ap­ple and Sam­sung and add a few orig­i­nal fea­tures, such as a se­cu­rity tool that un­locks the phone by scan­ning a user’s eye.

Mi­crosoft also un­veiled its first lap­top, the Sur­face Book — which also runs the Win­dows 10 op­er­at­ing sys­tem — and whose 13.5-inch de­tach­able screen can be used like a notepad with a match­ing sty­lus.

The launch marks the latest step by chief ex­ec­u­tive Satya Nadella to build on the July re­lease of Win­dows 10, which Mi­crosoft said Tues­day was now run­ning on 110 mil­lion de­vices around the world.

“We now be­gin a new chap­ter of Win­dows 10 with new de­vices built for Win­dows 10,” Nadella said at the New York launch event.

“What mat­ters most is the mo­bil­ity of your ex­pe­ri­ence more than the mo­bil­ity of any spe­cific de­vice.”

The latest smart­phone pitch fol­lows a bruis­ing re­think of the tech­nol­ogy fol­low­ing Mi­crosoft’s dis­as­trous 2014 ac­qui­si­tion of Nokia for some US$7.2 bil­lion. Mi­crosoft sub­se­quently wrote down the Nokia as­sets by US$7.5 bil­lion and elim­i­nated more than 25,000 jobs.

Mi­crosoft’s Lu­mia 950 fea­tures a 5.2-inch high-def­i­ni­tion screen and a 20-megapixel cam­era, while the Lu­mia 950 XL has a larger 5.7-inch screen.

The Lu­mia 950 will price at US$549, while the Lu­mia 950 XL at US$649. A third, more mod­est phone with fewer func­tions, the Lu­mia 550, will start at US$139. The Lu­mia phones will be launched in Novem­ber.

Both phones can be con­nected by a small por­ta­ble dis­play dock ac­ces­sory into a per­sonal com­puter, a large screen or another dis­play de­vice. A key­board or mouse can be con­nected, ex­pand­ing the ca­pac­ity of a smart­phone to op­er­ate like a per­sonal com­puter.

“We want to bring Win­dows 10 to life in your pocket,” said Panos Panay, cor­po­rate vice pres­i­dent for Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face di­vi­sion.

‘Step­ping stone’

An­a­lysts said there is lit­tle chance for Mi­crosoft to quickly shift the dy­nam­ics of the smart­phone busi­ness, in which it holds only about three per­cent, ac­cord­ing to IDC.

For­rester Re­search an­a­lyst Frank Gil­lett said the phones’ in­no­va­tive eye- screen­ing se­cu­rity and abil­ity to link to other com­put­ing ca­pac­i­ties were in­trigu­ing ideas, with the lat­ter of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to en­ter­prises.

But the chal­lenge to win mar­ket share is tough be­cause it will re­quire con­sumers who al­ready have built re­la­tion­ships with other smart­phone sys­tems to switch, he said.

“These are step­ping stone de­vices,” Gil­lett said. “Mi­crosoft is try­ing to demon­strate that it can put out com­pet­i­tive in­ter­est­ing de­vices with some in­ter­est­ing or unique fea­tures.

“What they’re re­ally go­ing to be grop­ing for is some­thing gamechang­ing six or 12 months down the line.”

Gil­lett also praised Nadella’s em­pha­sis on Win­dows 10 and the in­tent be­hind state­ments by the Mi­crosoft chief that “de­vices come and go ... you are the hub.”

Mi­crosoft’s ob­jec­tive is to build a “sticky, on­go­ing re­la­tion­ship” with con­sumer data that tran­scends any de­vice, Gil­lett said.

An­a­lysts said the lap­top in­vest­ment was a bid to cede no fur­ther ground to ri­vals.

Bob O’Don­nell at the re­search firm Tech­nal­y­sis said the lap­top “def­i­nitely had the wow” fac­tor and that the notebook could score points with tech “in­flu­encers,” as well as with cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als and artists.

“It’s the first real cred­i­ble com­pe­ti­tion we’ve seen for Ap­ple on that side,” O’Don­nell said. Pow­ered by sixth- gen­er­a­tion In­tel pro­ces­sors with up to 12 hours of bat­tery life, the Sur­face Book starts at US$1,499.

Other gad­gets un­veiled in­cluded up­graded ver­sions of the Sur­face Pro tablet, of a wearable fit­ness tracker and a new HoloLens sys­tem that lets users ma­nip­u­late ob­jects made of light — but which will not be avail­able un­til the first quar­ter of 2016.


Mi­crosoft vice pres­i­dent for Sur­face Com­put­ing Panos Panay talks about the new Sur­face Pro 4 tablet dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion, in New York, Tues­day, Oct. 6. The Sur­face Pro 4 tablet is faster and thin­ner than be­fore, yet it comes with a slightly larger screen at 12.3 inches.

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