Hardware

Windows 10: New hardware is coming, but will they be the devices Microsoft really needs?

A new all-in-one Surface device is rumoured, but Microsoft needs to make a bigger splash than that.

Microsoft's Surface has been well received, but should the company be pushing harder into new forms of hardware?

Image: Microsoft

What kind of devices should be running Windows 10 by now?

Microsoft is rumoured to be holding an event next month to showcase some new Windows 10 hardware: Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet has the details, predicting the arrival of an all-in-one device that could come in 21,24 or 27-inch models — with a 4K screen that will look good in the living room. Microsoft's event may also include some minor refreshes for the company's existing Surface tablet PCs, too.

Here's the thing. If the event were taking place in 2011 that would be a pretty interesting line-up. But as Microsoft's new device stands - assuming there are no big surprises to come - it doesn't seem to particularly pick up on the modern trends in computing, which are far less wedded to the traditional idea of what a computer should look like.

Indeed, Microsoft seems to be pulling back from some of the more innovative areas of hardware development: its smartphone market share has now slumped to less than one percent (and there's no sign of the fabled Surface Phone). It also looks like there isn't going to be another version of the well-received Microsoft Band, and the company is reported to have shelved plans to make it run Windows 10.

While Microsoft has ambition to see Windows 10 across a variety of devices - from the Internet of Things and wearables through mobile to tablets and PCs and then onto Xbox and big screens, it still seems to be emphasising the PC over other computing platforms right now.

That's of course where it's always been strongest, but the PC is not where the growth is: the total number of PCs in use is likely to decline significantly in the next few years.

Smartphones and wearables are where the excitement is, and where the growth is likely to come from in future, along with other hard-to-categorise devices like Amazon's Echo which is now going on sale internationally.

You might argue that Microsoft shouldn't really be a hardware company and that it has already made a decent effort with HoloLens, Surface, Lumia and Xbox. But it's also possible to argue that it should be doing more: if Microsoft won't build the hardware to make the most of its software, especially in some of the newer categories, then it's going to be hard to push any other hardware makers (already struggling with thin margins) to take a risk on it either.

One enterprise-flavoured issue here is around convergence, the idea that instead of using a smartphone and a PC, you'll have a smartphone (or something like it) that can function as a PC when connected to a keyboard and big screen. There are various signs that convergence is being looked at - hard - by most of the big tech companies: Microsoft's version is Continuum. It's an intriguing idea and maybe in the next two or three years could be a genuine option for business, but only if the hardware is there to support it.

Microsoft's grand vision of having Windows 10 scale on devices from the tiny through to the giant does make a lot of sense: but it's time to see the hardware to match.

More on Windows

Windows 10: Microsoft forces you to choose between privacy and security, say campaigners

Next generation processors will require Microsoft Windows 10

How to set up Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi

The PC is broken: Time to fix the business model or quit (ZDNet)

Microsoft Band 2 review (CNET)

About Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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