Twisty Laptops, Bendy Phones: Microsoft Bets Big on Design

MC: We’re going to talk about all those options on today’s show.

LG: All right.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab, I’m Michael Calore, a senior editor at WIRED.

LG: And I’m Lauren Goode, a senior writer at WIRED. And this week I’m podcasting from Casey Newton’s Closet.

MC: Hello, Casey.

LG: It’s not actually his closet, it’s just his apartment. Thank you, Casey.

MC: We are also joined remotely by WIRED’s newest products and reviews writer, Brenda Stoylar. Welcome, Brenda.

Brenda Stoylar: Hello. Thank you for having me.

LG: Your inaugural Gadget Lab. It’s so exciting to have you on.

BS: Thank you. Yeah, I’m very excited to do this.

MC: We are deep into what we here at WIRED call hardware silly season. Last week, Apple announced a bunch of new stuff, in this week, Microsoft took its turn. In a splashy live stream on Wednesday, the company detailed some of its upcoming hardware drops. We saw new surface computers, a weird laptop with a flippy screen, an update to the Surface Duo, the dual screen, phone, foldable, mobile thing. OK, well, it’s definitely a phone, but we’ll get into the Duo later on in the show. First, we want to talk about all the new surface hardware. Now, Brenda and Lauren, you both got a chance to report on the new Microsoft stuff this week. So, let’s start with you, Brenda, of the many Surfaces you saw, which Surface was the most surprising?

BS: OK. So, I thought about this question for a while. Well, 24 hours, I guess at this point. And I know we’re going to be talking about the Surface Duo 2 later, but I just have to say, that’s the one thing that came to mind. I don’t know if I was in denial over it, because of how it went last time around. I know that there were rumors, I know that we saw it coming, but I remember when I walked into the demo area, that was the first thing I saw and I was just like, “OK, we’re doing this, it’s here and we’re all going to act like the first one didn’t happen. We’re just going to move forward.” And so, yeah, I think just seeing it in person, in my brain, I was like, “They tried, Microsoft tried.”

But then, the other thing I’m going to say, is the Service Laptop Studio, which I know Lauren, you’re also going to talk about, but I think it was just nice to see something completely different, a whole new category, so to speak, I guess, in their lineup, because everything else, we all knew that there was going to be some upgrades to existing models. So, it was refreshing to just see something new from the yearly changes.

LG: What exactly is new about the Surface Laptop Studio? Try to explain it to us. And I love this by the way, because Brenda, you saw this a few hours before I did on East Coast time. And then, I saw, later in the day on Pacific time. And you came back to the newsroom, the virtual newsroom, and you were trying to explain it via Slack. And we were all like, “What does this thing do?” And you were-

MC: Wait, so it has a what? Where’s the-

LG: Wait, where does the screen go? Yeah. So, tell us about this.

BS: OK. And I didn’t realize it was so difficult to explain until I had to explain it. And I felt, I might as well have been speaking another language, because I was like, “I see it in my brain, but I don’t know if the verbal explanation worked.” OK, so at first glance, it looks just like a regular laptop. You have your screen, you have your keys, your keyboard and your touch pad. And then, behind the display are two hinges. And what you do, is you can move the display towards you. So, essentially the hinge almost splits the display and it lets you move it towards you. So, you can place it in three different modes. So, you have laptop mode, touchpad keyboard, you have stage mode, which lets you place the display, move it forward towards you, so you can watch movies, makes it more comfortable, it’s at a slant.

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