Microsoft’s October 12 Surface launch: What’s available?

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s expected fall launch of Surface now has an official date: October 12th. This is the same day that the company’s Ignite IT Pro conference kicks off and the day after Meta held its Metaverse-focused hardware event, Meta Connect.

Microsoft posted a placeholder page for the event at microsoft.com/event on September 21 (Credit to The Walking Cat for the link.) This page simply says “Watch live to see what’s next” with a watercolor version of the Windows background screen. The event begins at 10 a.m. ET.

It’s widely expected that the October 12 Microsoft event will be a launch pad for a range of refreshed Surface-branded products — but not anything Metaverse/AR/VR-related, as far as we Microsoft watchers hear at the time to have. Various websites are predicting that Microsoft will unveil a new Surface Laptop 5, its large-screen all-in-one desktop Surface Studio 3, and the Surface Pro 9 family of 2-in-1 convertibles. There was a report that Microsoft could launch a Surface-branded gaming laptop at the event, which in theory doesn’t seem too far-fetched given how much Microsoft is pushing Xbox gaming services. (But right now, most corporate watchers don’t seem to give this rumor much credence.)

It seems Microsoft is increasingly leaning towards Arm for some of its hardware when it launches Surface this fall. As Windows headquarters First reported, the Surface Pro 9 could feature both Intel and Arm-based models, which would be a not-so-subtle positioning statement on how ready Microsoft thinks its Windows-on-Arm OS is.

Speaking of Arm, Microsoft may also use its October 12 event to announce the availability of “Project Volterra” hardware, first revealed at its Build conference in May. Project Volterra is an Arm-based desktop PC that Microsoft is positioning as a developer’s workstation that’s particularly well-suited for AI computing because it has a built-in Qualcomm neural processing unit (NPU).

During the unveiling of Project Volterra earlier this year, Microsoft officials highlighted what they call a “cross-development pattern for building AI experiences that span the cloud and the edge,” which they’ve dubbed the “hybrid loop.” This capability is provided via the ONNX runtime and Azure Machine Learning along with a prototype AI toolchain that allows developers to target CPUs, GPUs, and Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and NPUs.

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Over the past year, Microsoft has intensified its work on Windows on Arm (WoA). For more than five years, Microsoft has been working to make WOA a commercially viable alternative to Windows on Intel, but has had little to show for its efforts. Ever since Apple went all-in on Arm with its own silicon, Microsoft officials appear to have decided to double down on the company’s Arm PC work by porting more of its own software natively to Arm.

However, Microsoft is – at least for the time being – dependent on Qualcomm bringing better ARM chips to the market for PCs. And that probably won’t happen until late 2023 (or maybe later, given Arm’s recent lawsuit against Qualcomm.

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