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Rumors: Microsoft Surface, Band updates could lead a fall splash of Windows hardware

Mark Hachman | July 7, 2016
Microsoft could be planning a hardware refresh and a bigger launch next year.

Melissa Riofrio

The Mobile Extender shows two USB-C ports on its right side, for data and power. A third USB-C port is intended primarily to charge the Elite x3 Windows phone. 

Updated Surface Pro 4: LTE?

Microsoft may have launched the Surface Pro 4 with Microsoft’s Skylake chip inside, but it still lacks dedicated LTE—a feature of virtually every other Surface device to date.

Given that Intel hasn’t even launched its next-generation Kaby Lake chips yet, that means that the most likely upgrade to the Surface lineup is better connectivity. A processor speed bump is possible, though we’d say that SSD storage would be more likely.

Microsoft Band 3

The “flagship” announcement of the next Microsoft hardware briefing could turn out to be the third revision of the Microsoft Band. Supplies of the Band 2 have reportedly dwindled, although the Microsoft Store wasn’t reporting any supply issues when PCWorld placed a mock order for the small, medium, and large versions of the Band 2 on Monday.

Microsoft Band 2 fitness

Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s Band 2 reportedly suffers from wear issues and battery bugs. But the real shortcoming is no overt ties to Windows 10.

As others have noted, the Band is Microsoft’s only major hardware device that isn’t powered by Windows 10—yet. Microsoft is busy working on Windows 10 IoT, the umbrella name of versions of Windows 10 for embedded devices, but the current Bands are powered by optimized microcode, rather than a dedicated Windows OS. Microsoft probably hopes to change that with the Band 3.

Besides that, little is known about what Microsoft plans for the Band 3. The Band 2 already straddles the linebetween a smartwatch and a robust fitness wearable, with a list of features that’s among the most robust in the industry. Possible improvements could include waterproofing to three or even five atmospheres (98 feet of pressure), better battery life—and, of course, better integration with Windows 10.

Microsoft isn’t a top-tier wearable vendor, according to a recent IDC report. In fact, even the fifth-ranked vendor—a tie between BBK and Samsung—only sold 600,000 units during the first quarter. That means that Microsoft’s Band sales must have been lower than that, making the Band probably less of a priority than its billion-dollar Surface business. 

Still, Microsoft appears to be selling out of its available Band 2 stock. “Supplies of Microsoft Band are currently limited, so we encourage customers to  visit microsoftstore.com for all device needs,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email.

Are we still talking about the Surface Phone?

Microsoft’s gone quiet on the subject of the Surface Phone, and for good reason. If Microsoft can’t find an X86-based chip to power the phone, then the idea of a Surface phone that could run legacy Win32 apps as well as the newer UWP apps seems to have died.

 

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