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How Google, Apple and Microsoft just saved the PC

Mike Elgan | Oct. 31, 2016
In a single week, three of the industry's biggest companies dragged users kicking and screaming into a better future

The screen is large -- 28 inches measured diagonally -- offers a pixel density of 192ppi and is surrounded by minimal bezel. Microsoft claims that, at under half an inch thick, the Studio screen is the thinnest 28-in. LCD ever made. The touch screen is supported by two arms, and the computer is mostly inside the base.

surface studio tighter crop 
Microsoft's Surface Studio is presented as a drafting table for creative types, but it's really a clear vision for the future of desktop computing.

A four-point "zero gravity" hinge enables the screen to transition from vertical to nearly horizontal -- the 20 degrees is as low as it goes, which Microsoft claims is ideal for certain types of creative work, such as drawing, drafting and designing. It's called "zero gravity" because it takes almost no force to re-orient the screen.

"Palm rejection" -- the ability of a touch screen to accept pen input without responding to the hand holding the pen resting on the screen -- is taken to extremes with Surface Studio. Microsoft says you can lean your forearms on the screen, and the screen will support the weight of your lazy upper torso.

In the ancient WIMP model, peripheral devices rest on the same desk surface as the monitor. So while the documents, images or objects appear up there on the screen, they're manipulated down there on the keyboard and over there with the mouse.

Next-generation PCs like Surface Studio bring everything to the screen.

But to me, the breakout star of the week was Microsoft's Surface Dial, a silver hockey puck that turns like a knob, but also provides haptic feedback.

You can use it as a peripheral device for a regular Windows 10 PC or laptop. But with the Surface Studio, you can place it directly on the screen and, depending on the app, the screen recognizes the device and surrounds it with interface options, such as color palettes.

Studio customers will initially get seven apps that support the Dial, including a CAD app, a couple of PDF apps, a music composition app and a smattering of illustration apps. One of the drawing apps turns 2D drawings into 3D.

Best of all, the Dial can be used even without custom integrations. Windows 10 itself supports the Dial for scrolling, zooming, selecting, undo, fast-forward, rewind, volume changes and other interface navigation jobs.

Surface Studio works with the existing Surface Pen product, and using a Dial with one hand and a Pen with the other brings new capabilities to illustrators and others.

Surface Dial runs on two AA batteries, which should last for a year. The Dial ships Nov. 10 for $99, but ships free with Surface Studio if you pre-order the PC before it ships.


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