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Subscriptions nourish Microsoft while its hardware businesses go hungry

Mark Hachman | Jan. 30, 2017
Microsoft reignited Surface with the Studio. Can it do the same to the Surface Pro 4 and a Surface phone?

But in some small way, the most disturbing portion of the call was the absence of any Windows 10 numbers, which Microsoft had supplied for the last three quarters: 270 million Windows 10 devices, then 350 million, then 400 million. Was it a refusal to acknowledge the PC market’s tailspin, or something more? We simply don’t know.

Let’s have a little more magic

It’s not all gloom and doom in Microsoft’s hardware business. The stunning Surface Studio reinvigorated the Surface brand. Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio is doing the same thing for the Xbox. But it’s high time that Microsoft applied that same sense of adventure to its more mainstream products, too.

surface pro 4
What could Microsoft do to make the Surface Pro 4 as sexy as the Studio?

Microsoft’s early Surface release schedule opened up on the PC industry like a machine gun: the Surface Pro shipped in February 2013, followed by the Surface Pro 2 in October 2013, then the SP3 in June 2014. But then Microsoft slowed its release schedule: the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book launched in Oct. 2015, and it’s been over a year since then. While the Surface Studio turns heads, far more customers are likely to buy a device that fits in their backpack, not on a desk. The bottom line: We’re overdue for a new Surface tablet.

That’s no reason for Microsoft’s upper management to feel embarrassed that it’s in the hardware business. I’d much rather Microsoft took a page from its Xbox division, hold a press conference, and start revving up its fanbase again. We know that Microsoft expects to ship its next-generation Xbox, Project Scorpio, this fall. We know its basic specifications, we know that Microsoft’s committed to it, and we’re excited. 

We’d love to see that same excitement carry over into the rest of Microsoft’s hardware businesses. Is a new Surface Pro 5 en route? How about a leaked photo, video, or other sort of tease? What’s up with the Surface phone? Sure, it could all end up vaporware. But 2015 and 2016 were infused with the excitement that there was always something new from Microsoft around the corner. I think we’d all like to see that continue.

 

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