Software

Microsoft looks to dominate the market for digital tools for artists

Data visualization is the new language of business, and Microsoft wants to provide the tools that make it possible. Sorry about that, Apple.

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Microsoft News

On October 26, in New York City, Microsoft held an event to promote several new pieces of Windows 10 hardware and some specific software innovations. As you would expect, the production was very slick and the products on display were impressive and well received. However, there was a subtle theme running throughout the entire event that may have a greater impact on future PC sales than you might realize.

The Microsoft Windows 10 Event emphasized the importance of Windows 10 and the series of Surface PCs announced at the show as creative tools for artists and other nontraditional, keyboard-wielding users. This is a bit of a shift for Microsoft and highlights the company's belief that data visualization is the vital skillset of the future.

New tools

Last week we discussed Power BI, Microsoft's data visualization tool, and the belief that data visualization will play an important role in future enterprise communications. We also discussed how there was lack of skilled people who could actually create worthwhile data visualizations.

Well, the Surface Studio, announced at the Windows 10 Event, attempts to provide an all-in-one tool for whatever skilled people in data visualization do exist. It is a workstation class PC that can transform into a digital canvas where the pen becomes the preferred interface.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Studio: The smart person's guide

When you couple the Surface Studio with the Surface Dial, you get a viable alternative interface for a computer that practically eliminates the need for a keyboard and mouse. The Surface Dial is a peripheral that allows the user to scroll, zoom, and navigate a Surface Studio PC in a more intuitive, more artful way.

Also announced at the Windows 10 Event was a new feature set called the Windows 10 Creators Update, which will add tools to the operating system enabling the creation and sharing of 3D and mixed reality content. This is yet another example of Microsoft's intent to create a set of visualization and graphics tools that everyone can use and, if all goes to plan, learn from.

What it means

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Image: Microsoft News

Whether we like it or not, and whether it is a good thing or not, data is being collected on just about everything that happens—and it is being captured at an ever increasing rate. Governments, corporate enterprises, and even some autonomous machines in the Internet of Things are all collecting data about us and about how we interact with the world.

However, to glean any useful information out of all that data requires more than just the ability to compile a few tables. Someone with a particular set of skills is going to have to create a visualization of that data that communicates actionable information for decision makers. Microsoft is positioning itself to be the toolmaker for those important skilled individuals.

Bottom line

In years past, Microsoft was seemingly content to let its rival Apple have the mindshare when it came to artists and other creative people and their choice of computer tools, but those days are over. With this latest crop of Surface PCs and Windows 10 feature updates, Microsoft has issued a challenge to Apple and its previous domination in this area.

In just about every measurable way, Microsoft's line of Surface hardware products outperforms the competition. Windows 10 software tools for artists are vastly improved and are comparable to everything else on the market. It may be time to declare Microsoft as the best source for digital artists' tools. It is obvious Microsoft believes this is the case, but only time will tell if users agree. In what direction does your enterprise lean?

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Your thoughts

Has Microsoft become the best source for digital tools for artists, supplanting Apple products? Share your opinions with the TechRepublic community in the discussion thread below.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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