INTERVIEW: Microsoft’s head of devices and services Yusuf Mehdi talks to silicon about the new Surface Book 2, its devices division and creativity
Microsoft is “fully committed” to devices despite recent speculation to the contrary and believes the new Surface Book 2 further establishes the PC as the best platform for creativity, according to Yusuf Mehdi, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group.
Speaking to Silicon, Mehdi discussed how 3D, mixed reality and the creative abilities of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update would empower users and businesses in all industries.
“We live on phones but there is no better canvas for creativity than the PC,” he said. “We want to build the ultimate laptop whether it’s the most power, best design or versatility.”
Surface Book 2
The Surface range accommodates all three of these qualities, he explained, and said the Surface Book 2 was the most powerful device it had ever designed.
Available in 12-inch and 15-inch versions, Mehdi said the Surface Book 2 was twice as powerful than the most recent MacBook thanks to dual core and quad core processor technology and that its PixelSense display was superior to Apple’s Retina equivalent.
“All that power and speed doesn’t come without sacrificing to speed or battery life,” he continued, claiming a battery life of up to 17 hours.
Furthermore, given the Surface has touchscreen capabilities, the Surface Pen and Surface Dial, Microsoft is firmly targeting the creative sector that has for so long been dominated by Apple.
“None of these [featured] you get on the MacBook,” Mehdi declared.
“Creation has never been more important than it is today in our minds. We think that opportunity is before us. We’ve been on this journey in every successive release. We want Surface to continue to do this and we’re excited to work with our partners. Our ecosystem doesn’t get the amount of credit it should.”
Creativity and business
With Mixed Reality and 3D imagery, he thinks creativity can change the world of work. Holographic teleconferencing, medical technology and construction are but three areas that could be transformed by Mixed Reality.
As for designers, 3D will allow them to rapidly design and print their creations.
“It shortens the turnaround dramatically,” said Mehdi. “The case for 3D might even be more robust for businesses than for consumers.”
And with the ability to drop 3D images into Office 365 documents, he argued that every area of business could be transformed because of the sheer amount of information that can be conveyed.
“What do humans bring in a world of AI? It’s creativity, it’s judgement,” he said. “The AI can’t do that. It can’t look at numbers from a different angle and see a different trend – it does algorithms.
Mehdi used the difference between a bar chart today and a 3D chart in Excel to illustrate his point.
Future of devices
The past week has seen much speculation about the future of Microsoft’s devices business. The head of its operating system confirmed that there would be no more work on Windows 10 mobile features or devices, ending the possibility of a Surface phone, while there were even questions about the Surface line in general.
Mehdi was adamant about the company’s future prospects and its belief in the integration of hardware and software.
“We’re fully committed to the devices business at Microsoft and the Surface, Xbox and HoloLens lines,” he declared.
The 12-inch Surface Book 2 is available for pre-order on November 9 and will be released in the UK a week later, selling for $1499 (£1136). The 15-inch edition will only be in the US initially, costing $2399 (£1818).