Microsoft may have taken the innovation mantle from Apple with the large display, all-in-one Surface Studio PC. Meanwhile, Apple has updated the MacBook Pro with changes that have divided public opinion.
Before we get started, let's be clear what we're talking about. Both Microsoft and Apple have positioned their new flagship PC products as not for the general public. The features and pricing are clearly targeted at the high-end of the market. But the launches have led to speculation that Microsoft is taking the innovation lead. At least in the creative fields that have been traditionally Apple dominated.
Second, the new Surface Studio and MacBook Pro appear to be powerful and interesting devices. The MacBook Pro just feels more of a side-step than a leap forward.
The Surface Studio is an impressive step from Microsoft. A sleek all-in-one touchscreen desktop PC with a curious new accessory. The Surface Dial is an innovation for the creative fields. While not all video or photo editors will jump out and buy the Surface Studio, it will have certainly raised interest. It offers a unique way to fine tune a colour or scrub a video or audio track. The Dial works on or off the touchscreen, allowing for even more flexibility. Again, this won't appeal to everyone but it's something genuinely new. See it in action in the video below.
The angle adjustable-display allows the PC to be used in a traditional manner or be shifted to an upwards facing 28-inch touch display in seconds. The rest of the specs from the Studio do not set it apart from other PCs. But few, if any, offer the day-to-day experience shown in the video above. View a more detailed list of the Surface Studio specifications here.
Apple announced the most significant change to the MacBook Pro since the Retina Display was introduced in 2012. The Touch Bar introduces a long, slim touch screen that replaces the function keys that traditionally sit above the numbers on a keyboard. Programs can allow custom functions to take up the new Touch Bar. However the new feature has been criticised as a mere alternative to keyboard shortcuts. It's arguably an innovation for novices, while experienced users will see little benefit.
The other significant change is the available ports on the new MacBook Pro. Somehow the 3.5mm audio port has survived, unlike on the iPhone. But every other port has been replaced with ThunderBolt 3 ports, otherwise known as USB Type-C ports. It no longer includes the SDXC card slot, USB 3, ThunderBolt 2 (Mini DisplayPort equivalent) and HDMI ports.
It’s arguable that the tech world is trying to move toward USB Type-C as fast as possible. Yet the fact remains it is not widespread today and may not be for years to come. For now Apple customers may be annoyed by the number of adaptors they’ll need, especially seeing a new cable will be required to connect an iPhone to the new MacBook Pro.
Pricing and availability
Here is where Apple has the edge.
The yet to be revealed Australian pricing from Microsoft is set to be particularly staggering. Meanwhile the new MacBook Pro is also more expensive than the previous model, but Apple's logistics and support networks are far superior.
The new MacBook Pro is available online right now, to one month, depending on the model. Going by the past, it’s more than likely that the entire range will become readily available by the New Year. Plus, its retail stores around the country will also have stock and great post-sales support services.
By contrast we don’t even have pricing, let alone a release date, for Microsoft’s new Surface devices. US pricing is $2,999 ($3,935) and that's before GST. US customers still won't even see their new PCs before the vague delivery period of “early 2017". Plus, for after-sales support, Microsoft only has one physical retail store in the country in Sydney.
However, considering what's on offer, those Microsoft customers may be willing to wait for a device that is unlike anything else on the market.