Microsoft’s fall launch of new Surface models now has an official date: October 12th. This date coincides with the launch of the Ignite IT Pro conference and the next day, the Meta Connect event.
On September 21, Microsoft released a dedicated page for this event. This page simply says “Watch it live to see what’s next” with a watercolor version of the Windows wallpaper. The event will start at 16:00 (French time).
At the event, Microsoft is expected to announce a number of updated Surface-branded products. These products should not be related to the themes of the Metaverse, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, however, in the opinion of Microsoft reviewers at this stage. Various sites are predicting that Microsoft will unveil the new Surface 5 laptop, the large-screen Surface Studio 3 all-in-one desktop, and the Surface Pro 9 family of 2-in-1 convertibles. Microsoft may also release a Surface branded gaming laptop at the event, which theoretically won’t seems far-fetched given the importance Microsoft places on Xbox gaming services. (But at this point, most company watchers don’t seem to attach much importance to this rumor.)
Microsoft bets on Arm
It looks like a big theme for the Surface launch this fall will be that Microsoft is betting more and more on Arm for some of its products. As first reported by Windows Central, the Surface Pro 9 could include Intel and Arm-based models, which would be a not-so-subtle positioning statement about how Microsoft thinks its Windows-on-Arm is ready.
Speaking of Arm, Microsoft could also use its October 12th event to announce the availability of “Project Volterra”, which it first talked about at the May Build conference. Project Volterra is an Arm-based desktop that Microsoft is touting as a developer workstation, particularly suited to AI as it integrates Qualcomm’s Neural Processing Unit (NPU).
Introducing Project Volterra earlier this year, Microsoft officials touted what they call “a cross-development model for creating AI experiences spanning the cloud and the edge,” which they called the “hybrid cycle.” This capability will be demonstrated by the ONNX runtime and Azure Machine Learning, as well as an AI prototype toolkit that allows developers to target CPUs, GPUs, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and NPUs.
For about a year, Microsoft has stepped up work on Windows on Arm (WoA). For over five years, Microsoft has been trying to make WoA a commercially viable alternative to Windows on Intel, with little success. Ever since Apple started the Arm adventure with its own chip, Microsoft officials seem to have decided to double down on the company’s Arm PC efforts by porting more of its own software to Arm.
However, Microsoft is, at least for the moment, dependent on Qualcomm to bring more advanced Arm chips to the market for PCs. And that’s not expected to happen until late 2023 (or possibly later, given Arm’s recent lawsuit against Qualcomm.