Microsoft unveils Surface Book, other new Windows 10 products

Microsoft moved deeper into the hardware business, introducing Surface Book, the first laptop the company has ever built.

The device was one of several the Seattle-area company unveiled Tuesday at a media event as part of an effort to jumpstart adoption of Microsoft’s hardware, from tablets to smartphones.

Microsoft invited a few hundred journalists, analysts and business partners to the briefing, held in an event space in the historic James A. Farley Post Office Building – located adjacent to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

In addition to the new Surface Book, Microsoft devices executive Panos Panay also unveiled the latest generation of the Surface tablet, the Surface Pro 4.

During a demonstration of the new devices, Panay took a shot at Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who once compared the idea behind the devices to merging a toaster and a refrigerator. A toaster icon was on the screen when Panay booted up one of the devices.

Microsoft’s Cupertino, Calif.-based rival was still the target when Panay detailed the performance of the new devices. The Surface Book is twice as fast as the Macbook Pro, he said, while the Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than the Macbook Air.

The Surface Book, which features a detachable screen, will cost $1,499. The Surface Pro 4 will start at $899. Both will be available beginning Oct. 26.

Of the Surface line, Panay said, Microsoft’s competitors “are chasing it. It’s pretty cool.”

The company also introduced the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the first new Microsoft smartphones since the company in July announced that it would reboot its struggling phone hardware business.

The new devices, with 5.2 inch and 5.7 inch screens, come with the typical high-end camera Nokia devices were known for. They also include a full version of Windows 10 that, when connected via an adapter to a monitor, can essentially function as a PC.

The Lumia 950 and 950 XL, available in November, will sell for $549 and $649, respectively. A new budget phone, the Lumia 550, will cost $139.

Panay said the rapid adoption of Windows 10 on PCs was a reason for developers and consumers to consider Windows phones.

Earlier in the event, Windows and Devices division chief Terry Myerson announced that 110 million PCs and tablets were running Windows 10. The new version of Microsoft’s operating system was released at the end of July. Now, the Windows 10 reach extends to phones.

“If you haven’t thought about these phones, wake up,” Panay said.

Microsoft this year took a $7.6 billion accounting charge, writing down essentially all of the value of the Nokia smartphone business it bought in 2014, and announced plans to lay off 7,800 people.

Windows-powered devices will account for just 2.5 percent of the smartphones sold this year, researcher Gartner estimates. That’s down from 2.8 percent in 2014. Google Android and Apple’s iOS together account for about 97 percent of estimated sales.

Microsoft has closed most of the factories it acquired in Nokia deal, ending work at plants from Finland to Hungary and China. And this month, Brazilian media reported that the company was selling its manufacturing facility in Manaus, Brazil.

Myerson said Microsoft is trying to replicate with its new productivity-focused phones the success the Surface line of tablets had in boosting the market for hybrid laptop-tablets.

The first device to take the stage was Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality headset, which will make its way to some developers early next year.

Microsoft employees demonstrated a game Microsoft’s been working on internally to show the potential for the device in gaming.

In the game, dubbed “Project X-ray,” a player battled holographic robots that appear to be coming through the walls of the room the HoloLens wearer is in.

Myerson said a version of the device for developers would be available in the first three months of 2016 for $3,000. The company will take applications from interested developers, he said.

Microsoft hasn’t set a date for retail availability for the device.

Myerson said the headset enabled experiences “not possible on any other device or any other platform.”