Microsoft Surface Studio: A concept five (or more) years in the making

Microsoft's newest Surface, its all-in-one, is a concept the company had been envisioning and hoping to make real for years.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Even before Microsoft took the wraps off Surface Studio this week, I was wondering about its origins.

New device categories -- which Microsoft considers its all-in-one device that can morph into a large-screen drafting tablet -- don't just emerge from thin air.


Anyone remember the original Surface tables that Microsoft showed off back in 2008 or so? Those tables never really took off, but I do remember seeing an implementation where a dial-like interface could be used to share more information on the device about the contents of a cocktail, for example.

The Surface Dial peripheral, which Microsoft is making part of the Surface line up, also got me thinking about the idea of placing objects of all kinds on touch-screen devices so those devices could interact with various objects. I recall Microsoft founder Bill Gates showing off many years ago at Comdex (I believe) the idea of being able to place a phone on a touch-screen table and have photos and other information on that phone interact with applications on the table. Update: Actually, Gates demonstrated this at CES 2008. Here's the video clip.)

At Microsoft's "Home of the Future" and "Office of the Future" showcases on its Redmond campus, Microsoft officials showed off large touch-screen desks as a potential productivity-futures concept.


And last year, in one of its regular Envisioning videos, meant to offer a futuristic glimpse of concepts which may eventually find their way into products, Microsoft showed a large touch-screen desk/tablet in a shared-work environment. The image to the right is from that video.

The Surface Studio was codenamed "Cardinal," as I noted previously. And in the constellation/zodiac sign realm, the word "cardinal" (as in cardinal signs) originates from the Latin word for "hinge." The hinge at the heart of the new Surface Studio, as was the hinge in the Surface Book, is a crucial component that differentiates the device from other all-in-ones and clamshell laptops (respectively).

The Surface Studio and Surface Dial weren't the only brand-new hardware that Microsoft rolled out this week. There's also a new Surface-branded ergonomic keyboard, which officials didn't show off or discuss at this week's Windows and hardware event in New York City. The keyboard is $130 and available later in November, according to the Surface.com site. (In keeping with the constellation theme, that keyboard is codenamed "Cosmos," according to The Verge's Tom Warren. The Dial is codenamed "Campo," and the refreshed Surface Book i7 announced this week, "Orion.")

Microsoft published guidance for developers itching to begin writing apps that will make use of the features in the coming Windows 10 Creators Update (a k a "Redstone 2") and the new Surface Dial.

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