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We're all creatives now-Windows 10 Creators Update

November 09, 2016

We're all creatives now-Windows 10 Creators Update

With the launch Windows 10 Creators update on October 26 (Video), what was alternative with Apple has now become mainstream. Up until now, according to mainstream Windows-world wisdom, Windows was for serious people. People who worked for a living. Administrators, bankers, lawyers, accountants, Windows admins, people who don't have time for the frivolity of creative types. Those people, people with too-casual dress-sense, only a passing familiarity with punctuality and airy-fairy ideas, well, they were Apple people. People that IT admins curse for their strange devices that don't obey the rules of Group Policy. Well, no more. I'm sorry Windows admins, but the Creatives are coming. Satya invited them.

Of course, all of the above is nonsense. Creatives (whoever they are) have been using Windows for years, and creative staples such as Adobe's Creative Cloud are very well supported and adopted in the Windows world. However, watching Microsoft's October event, you could be forgiven for thinking that somehow you'd slept Thursday away and woken up for the Apple keynote. With their focus on accessibility, immersive user experiences and beautiful hardware Microsoft has moved squarely into the realm of human-centered computing. This update is the culmination of Microsoft's changing messaging from straight-laced, business-centric language to inspiring, soaring rhetoric worthy of Jobs, with the product demos to back it.

Windows has always been an exceptionally capable operating system, but not always the most user-friendly. Users typically only scratch the surface of the capability available to them, as to do any more required technical skills well beyond the average person. With the Creators Update, expressing your creative skill will now require less technical skill.

Microsoft has clearly articulated that they believe 3D will be a significant way of interacting with our computers. With the Creators' Update Microsoft will introduce a complete 3D creation and experience toolchain. Whilst fairly basic at this point these tools appear functional. The new Paint 3D app giving users the ability to create 3D content and the inclusion of 3D in the Microsoft Office suite, along with launching low-cost VR devices, moves 3D from the realm of curiosity to mainstream, in a way the same way that clipart made graphics in end-user desktop publishing mainstream. To compare 3D with clipart may seem to trivialise this development, but nothing could be further from the truth. The clipart feature of Microsoft Office, now deceased, found its way into almost every category of Office document. Meeting minutes, flyers, training slides and more were embellished with cute and clichéd little bitmaps in the way text messages are now filled with emojis. Teachers, in particular, have mourned the passing of clipart, being the staple of class handouts and student presentations. If embedded 3D can reach anywhere near the ubiquity of clipart, then Microsoft will have achieved a major cultural shift in how we interact with computers and communicate with each other. Pictures may paint a thousand words, but 3D objects communicate so much more, using a medium that we innately understand.

Microsoft's foray into high-end hardware has taken another stride into Apple's traditional territory. The spec upgrade to the Surface Book is welcome and provides a direct competitor to Apple's MacBook Pro range. Of course, the new Surface Studio also takes aim at Apple's iMac. I've got to say, it’s a visually astonishing piece of kit. With its architect's easel-like form-factor the Surface Studio should provide a compelling primary workflow for Windows' touch interface, rather than an adjunct to the mouse. The new Surface Dial is an intriguing little device. Like Apple's new Touch Bar, it provides a more tactile (or is that "haptic"?) way to access certain functions within apps which are enabled for it. The demos and product videos show an immersive, almost whole-body experience, with users creating with a Surface Pen in one hand and controlling with a Surface Dial in the other.

As I said in my wrap-up of the Apple event, it will be fascinating to watch the evolution of this more physical computing. I spoke with a friend of mine who runs his own graphic design studio about these two innovations. He thought they were interesting, and some people might find them useful, but he wouldn't buy a new computer because of them. Moreover, he wouldn't be inclined to change his already very well established workflows if he had a computer enabled for them. I think there is something important here- ingrained workflows take a lot of time and conscious effort to change. New ways of doing things that may seem revolutionary in the beginning may be less useful in the real world, and the reverse is also often true. Along with the Touch Bar, Hololense, Kinect and commanding digital assistants by voice, the real story of the Surface Dial will be in its evolutionary journey rather than its keynote reveal. Personally, I can't wait to see where Microsoft takes it.

I'm not going to do yet another deep dive into specs, parts and benchmarks of Microsoft's new devices. The internet is loaded with them, such as the concise but complete piece from John Mundy at Trusted Reviews on the notebooks (link) and Andrew Williams on the desktops (link). I will note that Microsoft has chosen to stick with Intel's 2016 Skylake processors for the Surface range, as has Apple for the new MacBook Pro range. This is entirely sensible, as the next-gen models are only in limited availability. The interesting point here is that Apple has been pilloried across the Internet for using "old processors" in their new MacBook Pros, while Microsoft has been praised for using the very same processors. I think that this odd phenomenon can be traced to perception management by the two big tech houses. Apple has traditionally used highly emotive language to market their products, and with great success. The first iPad was described as "magical". The iPad Pro is hailed as a "Super. Computer (now in two sizes)". While there is nothing wrong with using inspirational or effusive language in promoting your vision or products, in doing so successfully for such a long time Apple has created an expectation (at least among the tech-writing community) that each new product should in some way bring around an unforeseen, unstoppable and salvific change to life on Earth. When it doesn't, commentators take on a tone of scathing disappointment. Likewise, as recently as a fortnight ago, many articles were hailing the inevitable demise of Microsoft. Now with a clearly articulated vision and some heavy-hitting pro hardware apparently Microsoft are back and will stomp Apple into the dust. Whilst this kind of reporting is clearly childish click-bait, Microsoft should be careful. In following Apple into the stratosphere with their rhetoric, they face the same risk that, if each and every new development isn't a magic wand created by especially gifted unicorns, they will follow Apple back into expectation purgatory as well.



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