as•pi•ra•tion /ˌaspəˈrāSH(ə)n/ noun an inspired hope or ambition of achieving something.
It was a pretty cool week. We saw product introductions from Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft went first, their big product unveil was Surface Studio, a desktop version of the Surface line, that's nothing like any PC I have seen.
It has an amazingly thin, 28" LCD screen, and a "zero-gravity hinge" that goes from a desktop mode to to a drawing mode at the push of a single finger. Surface Studio, of course works with Microsoft's Surface Pen. There's also something new called Surface Dial. It's a small puck that rotates to do all sorts of fun things such as zoom in or rotate.
That would be interesting but that's not all. You can put a Dial directly on the screen. Doing so reveals different contextual menus depending on the app. You might not need this, but I think many will want it. (Microsoft also announced that Surface Dial will also work onscreen with existing Surface Pro devices, turning them into mini Surface Studios.)
In short. This is a PC you might want to get your hands on. Literally.
Apple followed up with new MacBooks Pro in both 13" and 15". They look pretty awesome in terms of specs, beautiful screens, and some improved aesthetics. Apple said farewell to a number of familiar ports opting for multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports — that are also compatible with USB-C.
Gone are SD readers, HDMI ports, and standard USB connections. And yes, that means it's going to be dongle city for awhile. Gone also is the escape key, at least in the two higher-end models. In it's place, Apple has introduced the Touch Bar.
Rather than put multitouch in the main Mac display, Apple is putting a secondary multitouch display just above the keyboard. It replaces function keys with items that are contextual to apps that support it. For example, scrolling through pictures in a Photos app. (Not sure why you'd want to look at little thumbnails rather than use that big screen, but perhaps I'm missing something).
I'm not sure how useful that Touch Bar is, especially for $300 more than the non-Touch Bar version at 13-inches. Will it make me more productive, or will it simply split my attention? I'll reserve judgement until I have a chance to try it.
The biggest difference between the two presentations is how I felt afterwards. I came away from Microsoft's event wanting a Surface Studio and Surface Dial. I'm not the target demographic. I don't do the creative work Surface Studio is optimized for. I do want to do those things. I want to create cool stuff, directly manipulate a screen that folds down or interact with it when it stands up.
I love that my Surface Pro can do a lot of those cool things and at a much lower price point. What I loved more is that when I watched Microsoft's display, I was inspired. There was something aspirational about their message. It seemed the only thing between me and a creative professional was a Surface, pen, and dial. It made me smile.
Apple's event was great. A Tim Cook update, a Jonathan Ive product "birth" video. Lots of specs, and some interesting demos from Apple execs and product leads. While the new MacBooks Pro are no doubt among the best, if not the best notebooks on the planet, I still find myself wanting more.
Touch ID is a welcome addition but I don't look at it and feel inspired. I don't feel like I can take the Touch Bar and aspire to something new. That's a major contrast to how I felt after seeing GarageBand and iMove for the first time. Those made me feel like I could be the next Legend or Spielberg if only I had those apps.
Overall, it's a dramatic shift from where Apple and Microsoft used to be. Microsoft is now appealing directly to creative professionals with hardware, and software innovations. Apple is introducing solid, workhorse devices that lack the magic of previous updates. Even the "birth" videos reflected a difference in how these machines are going to be sold. Microsoft's felt more Apple-y than Apple's this time around.
It wasn't long ago I'd watch an Apple keynote and dream of all the new things I'd be able to do. This week, though, I'm dreaming about the Surface Studio. How about you?