New Win 10 phones, laptop unveiled
MICROSOFT unveiled its first Windows 10 smartphones on Tuesday as it launched a series of new gadgets - including its first laptop - in a bid to win a bigger share of the competitive mobile market.
The technology giant's two premium Lumia smartphones take aim at popular devices offered by Apple and Samsung and add a few original features, such as a security tool that unlocks the phone by scanning a user's eye.
Microsoft also unveiled its first laptop, the Surface Book - which also runs on the Windows 10 operating system - and whose 13.5-inch detachable screen can be used like a notepad (think supersized tablet) with a matching stylus.
The launch marks the latest step by chief executive Satya Nadella to build on the July release of Windows 10, which Microsoft said on Tuesday was now running on 110 million devices around the world.
Said Mr Nadella at the New York launch event: "What matters most is the mobility of your experience, more than the mobility of any specific device."
The latest smartphone pitch follows a bruising rethink of the technology following Microsoft's disastrous acquisition of Nokia last year for some US$7.2 billion (S$10.2 billion). Microsoft subsequently wrote down the Nokia assets by US$7.5 billion and eliminated more than 25,000 jobs.
Microsoft's new Lumia 950 features a 5.2-inch high-definition screen and a 20MP camera, while the Lumia 950 XL has a larger 5.7-inch screen.
The other main difference between the handsets is their processors. The Lumia 950 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chip while the 950 XL has a slightly faster Snapdragon 810 processor.
HardwareZone.com.sg said that specification-wise, these Lumia phones "are in no way inferior to other flagship Android phones or iPhones".
The Lumia 950 will be priced at US$549, while the Lumia 950 XL at US$649. A third, more modest phone with fewer functions, the 4.7-inch Lumia 550, will start at US$139. The Lumia phones will launch next month in the United States. Singapore pricing and availability are not known yet.
Both premium phones can be connected by a small portable display dock accessory to a personal computer, a large screen or another display device. A keyboard or mouse can be connected, expanding the capacity of a smartphone to operate like a personal computer.
Analysts said there is little chance for Microsoft to quickly shift the dynamics of the smartphone business, in which it holds only 3 per cent, according to IDC.
Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said the phones' innovative eye-screening security and ability to link to other computing capacities were intriguing ideas, with the latter of particular interest to enterprises.
But the challenge to win market share is tough, as it will require consumers who have already built relationships with other smartphone systems to switch, he said.
"These are stepping-stone devices," Mr Gillett said. "Microsoft is trying to demonstrate that it can put out competitive, interesting devices with some interesting or unique features. What they're really going to be groping for is something game-changing six or 12 months down the line."
He also praised Mr Nadella's emphasis on Windows 10 and the intent behind statements by the Microsoft chief that "devices come and go...you are the hub".
Microsoft's objective is to build a "sticky, ongoing relationship" with consumer data that transcends any device, Mr Gillett said.
Analysts said that the laptop investment was a bid to cede no further ground to rivals.
Bob O'Donnell at the research firm Technalysis said the laptop "definitely had the wow" factor and that the notebook could score points with tech "influencers", as well as with creative professionals and artists.
"It's the first real credible competition we've seen for Apple on that side," Mr O'Donnell said. Powered by sixth-generation Intel processors with up to 12 hours of battery life, the Surface Book starts at US$1,499. Microsoft said it is twice as fast as Apple's MacBook Pro. The laptop will be available from Oct 26 in the US but Singapore pricing and availability are not known yet.
Other gadgets unveiled included upgraded versions of the Surface Pro tablet, an improved wearable fitness tracker and a new HoloLens system that lets users manipulate objects made of light - but which will not be available until the first quarter of next year.
The new thinner, lighter and faster 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4 slate starts at $1,338 in Singapore and will go on sale here from Nov 19.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS