Microsoft's big Tuesday reveal: New mobiles and slabs? Win 10 shock?
Possibly new fitness hardware as well
Microsoft has scheduled one of its biggest press conferences of the year on Tuesday in New York, and The Register will be there for the show. But leaks ahead of time suggest we'll be seeing a lot of new hardware and possibly a few software tricks as well.
Firstly, it's almost certain that Redmond will be unveiling at least two new Lumia handsets, and possibly a third as well. Microsoft has already "accidentally" let slip that two new handsets are coming, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, along with base specs for the new phones.
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The 950 is a 5.2-inch screen handset, which the XL version stretches to 5.7 inches, for the punter that likes a bit more in their hand. Both carry a 20 megapixel camera – imaging is something Lumia has made its key selling point, after all – and both will be running Windows 10 for Phone, which is currently out in developer preview.
There are also some rumors that Microsoft will show off a third Lumia that's more phablet sized. If so, we may also see a stylus bundled in, given that Redmond seems rather enamored with pen technology of late.
New phones are all well and good, but it's likely that Microsoft will use tomorrow to launch Windows 10 for phones across its entire current range – or at least for those handsets that are capable of handling the new operating system.
Microsoft's mobile OS isn't what you'd call popular – adoption rates are in the low single figures for most markets – but the tighter integration with the desktop version of Windows will give Redmond's ailing phone business a kick on the backside, executives hope.
Redmond has made a big deal about how Windows 10 applications will be able to work across desktop, tablet, and smartphones, as well as tying in a lot of backend services. If the new OS looks good, and enough older handsets can upgrade, then Microsoft could gain the edge on Blackberry in the fight for third place in the mobile market.
Also expected on Tuesday is the latest upgrade to the Surface fondleslab. Microsoft is currently on version three of its portable computer platform and a fourth iteration is likely – there are new Intel processors to use and Type-C USB cabling is fast becoming the baseline for the latest computer hardware.
Microsoft currently has two types of Surface – a 10.2-inch model and a 12 incher – and there has been speculation that tomorrow's event could see the unveiling of an even larger model, maybe as large as 14 inches.
But that's pretty unlikely, in this hack's opinion. Adding a third model introduces too much complexity, and it's by no means clear that people want to be lugging around something of that size and pay more than a high-end laptop price for the privilege.
Instead, it's more likely that we'll see a series of hardware upgrades for the existing line. So faster processors, better USB, maybe an improved camera and/or battery, and an improved stylus. Redmond really wants a chunk of the graphic design market with the Surface, even developing a custom version of Photoshop for it, and an improved stylus would help with that.
The other possibility on the hardware front is a new version of Microsoft's Band, its fitness tracker cum not-so-smartwatch hardware platform. The Band has been selling in reasonable numbers (particularly among Microsoft staff), but the original hardware is now rather long in the tooth and could do with an upgrade.
"I'd expect to see a new Surface PC as well as a flagship phone, probably sporting Continuum function," said Michael Silver, distinguished analyst at Gartner told The Reg.
"Not withstanding the message it sent to the market in June, Microsoft is still investing in Windows Phone. I can't say it's important to consumers and only to a small portion of organizations, but it still could find a niche."
There are also a number of other things that could come up on Tuesday, either in the launch conference itself or in briefing sessions afterwards.
Microsoft has been making a fair amount of noise about its Xbox platform of late, and we may be seeing some changes to the platform. New hardware is unlikely, but there may be some software tricks up Redmond's sleeve.
That Xbox will run Windows 10 is no secret, but the extent to which Microsoft is going to integrate the operating system into the gaming console isn't totally clear yet. The company has already talked about shared streaming of games across devices, but there could be a significant smartphone tie-in as well.
New console hardware, in either the console or the games controller, has also been rumored, But that's less likely; it's a bit early in the product development cycle to be mucking about with the guts of the main console, and the control pad is pretty good as it stands. ®