Microsoft Surface Studio's big question: Can it poach creatives from Apple?

Microsoft's Surface Studio reviews are solid and the software giant hopes to land creatives and engineers with its approach to the PC. Surface Studio will find an audience, but it may be aspiring creatives -- execs who want to look the part.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft's Surface Studio is one recent re-imagining of the PC.

Image: Microsoft

The Surface Studio reviews are in and generally they're good. What's unclear is whether Microsoft's big bang PC will be able to attract its target audiences--creatives, engineers and executives who want a conversation starter.

Microsoft executives were clear that they wanted the creative audience and even named its next Windows 10 update the Windows 10 Creator Update. For instance, Hayete Gallot, general manager, Microsoft Windows and Devices Group, said in an interview that the Surface Studio plan is to attract "creatives and engineers and then spread. Creativity is also productivity."

There's only one problem: Apple pretty much owns the creative pros and it's going to be hard to break their inertia--even though many of those creatives are complaining about the MacBook Pro.

CNET ran the Surface Studio by a few artists in its review. The short version is that these creatives liked the pen, screen and responsiveness. During my test run the pen and idea of a drafting table was enticing. In a nutshell, these creatives would be into the Surface Studio if they weren't invested into Apple's ecosystem already. Hardware is just one part of the equation, but there's workflow and apps to ponder.

Also: Microsoft Surface Studio: A concept five (or more) years in the making | I'm buying a new MacBook Pro, but the Surface Studio took my breath away | Surface Studio and MacBook Pro forge diverging paths to PC productivity | Microsoft aims high with new Surface hardware

Microsoft Event: New Surface Book, Studio sneak peek

Another issue: You have to make the time to be creative while keeping the trains running. Folks simply aren't going to be able to go all whiteboard all the time.

So who will really covet the Surface Studio? I think the Surface Studio may resonate with those of us who fantasize about creating, but are mired in ops. The real customer for Surface Studio may be the Excel-oriented person who wants to look right brained.

Surface Studio starts at $2,999 and ships in early 2017. The argument for that price is that if you combined a PC and a large digital workspace the cost is warranted.

A few quick observations:

  • The fit and finish were strong, but all the ports in the back of the base could become clunky over time.
  • Surface's Dial is an interesting device and could allow for differentiation, but we'll need apps and productivity gains to make tool a must have.
  • I'd argue most of us love to draw on a PC like a drafting table. But how many of us will reach into our wallets for the Surface Studio?
  • At $2,999 and up, it's unclear whether enterprises will buy into the Surface Studio. The PC meets drafting table may be seen as a perk for engineers, developers and creatives, but we'll see.

Microsoft's Surface Studio appeal to creatives fits in with its productivity strategy that revolves around the cloud and Office 365. It's just a bit of a stretch to see the Surface Studio being a bring your own device play (it's too big to lug into the office). Instead, Microsoft is betting that creatives will go for Surface Studio over Apple options and convince their companies to buy it.

Bottom line: Surface Studio will do well and break some ground, but I don't think Microsoft will win creatives. That's okay since spreadsheet and Office jockeys who want to create once in a while will be a larger audience.

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