Microsoft Surface Studio, a disruption courting the Mac creative market and beyond

If you haven’t yet heard of it, take a minute to look at Microsoft’s just announced Surface Studio. Here’s a link to the product page. Spend a few minutes, scroll down, look at all the images. Key to the Surface Studio is the stand which allows the touch screen to lay down at a 20 degree angle, perfect for drawing.

At first blush, the Surface Studio is targeted at creatives, the original heart and soul of the Mac market. But there’s more.

From the product page:

Surface Studio is great for unwinding after long workdays. Settle in with a movie or binge watch your favorite shows on the roomy screen. Share pictures from your last vacation with friends and family. Play your favorite games with a paired Xbox Wireless Controller.

This smacks of ecosystem, something that Microsoft owned for a long time, then ceded to Apple and Google. This is Microsoft clawing back into the game.

Now take a minute to read this review from “Gabe” (alter ego of illustrator Mike Krahulik) at web-comic Penny Arcade. Gabe is living with a Surface Studio and, obvious as you make your way through his review, he absolutely loves it, it’s the computer of his dreams.

Pay special attention to the Surface Dial, a big silver cylinder that looks like a good-sized volume knob, laid on its back.

Have you ever turned the volume knob on a ridiculously high end piece of audio equipment and felt that smooth resistance that makes you weak in the knees? Now imagine that knob is just sitting on your desk and you can make it control all kinds of stuff.

While I am drawing, a counterclockwise turn is undo while turning the other way is redo. The Dial has built in haptics so each step backwards or forwards is accompanied by a “click” I can feel in the device. It can also be pushed like a button or pushed and held to bring up a customizeable radial menu. This menu is customizable so I can easily make that same motion zoom in and out or control the volume of my music. While you are working you can hold it in whatever position is comfortable. You can keep it on the screen or on the desk, it has a slightly tacky bottom so it stays and feels good wherever you put it.

This type of interface is not new, but the Surface Dial (normally $100) ships free as part of the Surface Studio pre-order.

Next up, from Macworld’s take by Susie Ochs, Spec for spec, the iMac is a bargain over the Surface Studio.

The best Surface Studio you can order is $4,199. It’s got the Intel Core i7 processor, a whopping 32GB of RAM, a 2TB hybrid drive (again, the same thing as a Fusion drive on a Mac), and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.


A fully maxed out 27-inch iMac would cost $4,099 if you ordered it today, with the same Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and 4GB of graphics memory as you’d get it in the top-of-the-line Surface Studio. The iMac would have 1TB of faster solid-state storage, compared to the 2TB hybrid drive in the Surface Studio, and the Microsoft machine has an Nvidia GPU to the iMac’s AMD.

No touchscreen on the iMac, though, and that’s at the heart of the matter. Worth noting that we will likely see an upgraded iMac very soon, if not today. Which should tilt the price performance curve towards the Mac.

Finally, there’s this from longtime developer Brent Simmons:

What if the Surface Studio takes over as the computer for people who make things? And what if we could bring over some of our investment (such as learning Swift) with us?

I never thought to even consider that as a possible future.

Tomorrow’s going to be a weird day, as new Macs will inevitably be compared to the Surface Studio, on the Surface Studio’s terms.

Dogs and cats. The apocalypse. Zombie date night. It‘s all happening.

Looking forward to see what Apple has up its sleeves.