Microsoft’s Surface and AI Event: Everything Announced From Copilot to Surface Laptop Studio 2

Microsoft’s Surface and AI Event: Everything Announced From Copilot to Surface Laptop Studio 2

Keeping the new product pipeline going, Microsoft is following Apple, Amazon, and others in announcing a series of new Surface hardware products and new software/AI initiatives.

At today’s event, the attention was split between new Surface hardware, highlighted by the Surface Laptop Studio 2, a tablet/laptop hybrid that, like the first gen, pivots its screen over the keyboard, rather than folding back on a 360-degree hinge (like a Lenovo Yoga).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opened the show, talking about his enthusiasm for AI, in particular, Microsoft’s Copilot AI features in the Office suite of tools, and the ways human/computer collaboration could unlock new capabilities. The key to this, according to Nadella, is a combination of new natural user interfaces working alongside new reasoning engines.

The end product behind that idea, Nadella says, is Copilot, a singular AI experience that will work across devices, apps, and operating systems, taking the brand name away from just Office 365 and spreading it across Windows, the Edge browser, and Bing search engine. That rollout is expected to come with a Windows 11 update coming September 26.

Photo: Dan Ackerman

Copilot for Windows 11

Now that Copilot will be built right into Windows, it’ll have access to information across apps, personal data, email, web searches, etc. In an on-stage demo, Microsoft showed Copilot scanning a long email and pulling out relevant information about restaurants within walking distance of an event venue. Another demo showed Copilot solving, and explaining, a math equation just by circling it on-screen with a stylus.

Copilot also composed and sent text messages based on flight information on your (hypothetical) phone, suggesting the best times and places to see a Broadway show. Again, these were canned demos, but they show the idea that Copilot wants to be an AI assistant that feels more like a personal assistant than a simple chatbot.

Photo: Dan Ackerman

Bing, Microoft’s search engine, is also adding the Dall-E 3 generative AI tool to its image creation feature, allowing you to create and modify new images based on text prompts. The image quality, at least in these demos, is much better than the previous gen, and Microsoft says the images will be digitally watermarked as AI-generated, to make sure no one mistakes them for human-created art.

Microsoft 365 Chat

Copilot for Microsoft started as an AI assistant for Office 365. Its new version, across almost all of Microsoft’s enterprise tools, is highlighted by a new chatbot, simply called Microsoft 365 Chat.

Microsoft pitches it as an assistant that has read all your emails, texts, files, meeting requests, shared documents, and more, giving you summaries, highlighting priorities, and giving you a compact overview of where your work cycles are best spent.

AI can already write blog posts and articles, with mixed results. The 365 Chat version claims to improve on that by allowing you to link directly to Office docs, from Word files to Excel spreadsheets, in your Copilot query, giving you a better-informed AI-generated blog post.

The most clever potential use is a feature called “sound like me,” allowing it to write emails (in Outlook, naturally), that mimic your personal style, making AI-generated emails feel less AI-ish.

Photo: Dan Ackerman

Surface Laptop Go 3

Of course, this event was also about hardware, specifically the Surface line of Microsoft PCs. While not the biggest household name in laptops, these have been some of my favourite Windows devices for years, with quality hardware, pleasing designs, and often decent prices.

The first Surface product demoed at the event was the Surface Laptop Go 3, the third generation of Microsoft’s budget clamshell. Previous models have scored with a premium-feeling design but were held back by limited performance.

The new model keeps the same 12.4-inch screen and comes in at just under two pounds and promises up to 15 hours of battery life. At $1,429, I don’t expect any performance breakthroughs, however.

Photo: Dan Ackerman

Surface Laptop Studio 2

Microsoft calls this the most powerful Surface system yet, and it keeps the slightly awkward fold-down screen that pulls the display over the keyboard to form a not-quite-flat tablet shape.

The power comes from 13th-gen Intel CPUs, along with options for Nvidia RTX 4050 and 4060 GPUs, plus a separate Intel NPU, the first on a Windows device, which helps power the AI experiences built into Windows.

The Laptop Studio 2 has a 14.4-inch display, a haptic touchpad (which means it doesn’t physically click down), and works with Microsoft’s slim stylus pen.

Left out, at least this time around, was the classic Surface Pro, a standalone slate-style tablet that works with a clip-on keyboard cover and the Surface Studio, an all-in-one desktop that was a cult favourite but has not seen an update in several years.

Both the Surface Laptop Go 3 and Surface Laptop Studio 2 will be available on October 3rd, with preorders starting September 21. The Laptop Studio 2 starts at $3,519, but the Laptop Studio Go isn’t coming down under.

Image: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear

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