As Microsoft and Qualcomm work together to produce the next device in the Surface family, the 'Surface Courier' will debut as the first 'Windows on ARM' device. The Surface family will become: Surface Courier, Surface Pro, Surface Studio and Surface Hub.
The race to develop Windows on ARM is finally bearing fruit, as demonstrated by the prototype recently shown on stage in a joint presentation to developers by both Microsoft and Qualcomm at WinHEC. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor family and its ARM architecture will power the fanless and heavily-integrated circuitry of a mass of new devices running Windows on ARM.
The video of Windows 10 running on a Snapdragon ARM processor shows how close to reality this prototype is, and shows off its ability to run traditional desktop x86 Windows apps with no changes to the code for software like Photoshop, built for Intel chips, running on Snapdragon ARM chips.
The new Surface Courier will be the flagship device in the Windows on ARM generation, to be followed by other devices from big names manufacturers HP, Dell, Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, and Samsung.
This ARM processor will be so tightly integrated that we expect Qualcomm will designate it in the Snapdragon 900-series, compared to its current chip line-up known as the Snapdragon 800-series, such as the popular 821 and newer 835.
More than just a processor, the System on Chip integrates processor, graphics, wifi, bluetooth, memory, cellular, modem, security, power management, sensors, and other functions on to a single system-on-chip.
The Courier will differentiate itself from the popular Surface Pro 4 and upcoming Surface Pro 5, by debuting a revised form factor, sporting a 10.5" screen within an 11" enclosure.
Looking like a smaller Surface Pro, the Surface Courier will arrive with:
10.5" PixelSense touch screen within an 11" enclosure
Integrated stylus holder with magnetic charging
Optimised for Surface Pen
Optimised for Surface Dial
The Courier will be focussed on media consumption and media creation on the go, and is not expected to have a keyboard cover accessory.
Technical specifications of the device include:
10.5" PixelSense touch screen display
5mp Windows Hello compatible front-facing camera
8mp rear-facing camera and flash
Bluetooth 4.2 LE
SDXC card slot
Two USB-C Thunderbolt ports
Surface Connect dock slot for power and docking
Integrated port-hole style stylus bay with stylus charging for the Surface Pen
Qualcomm Snapdragon 900 System-on-Chip
Windows 10 ARM Edition with Creators Update
Rechargeable battery rated for 8 to 10 hours of moderate use.
There is speculation that the Surface Courier will be priced below the Surface Pro 4 and the soon-to-debut Surface Pro 5. With retail cost to be a significant selling point, sources suggest that the in-the-box inclusions will be limited to a Surface Pen, Surface Courier, a USB-C cable, and a USB-C charging puck, along with the usual warranty, instructions, and documentation. The Courier will have a Surface Connect port, making it compatible with existing docks and other Surface chargers - convenient if you have more than one device and want to dock it at home and at work.
The proliferation of USB-C as a power source means that the Courier will be rechargeable from any laptop or desktop with a USB-C port, in addition to the usual Surface Connect port charging option, and the included USB-C power puck. A handy leatherette sleeve also makes its way into the box.
Surface Courier will of course run Windows 10 ARM Edition, with the Creators Update included out of the box. The interface will be optimised for pen and finger input; while a mouse and keyboard could be connected via Bluetooth or via an attached dock for larger-screen scenarios.
The Courier is anticipated to ship with 30-day trial versions of apps such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Mental Canvas, and Sketchable, to enable buyers to use the Pen and touch inputs for media creation and annotation. Naturally, Windows Ink is supported.
Having access to the Windows Store enables software to be downloaded, and Universal Windows Package apps are preferred, with the ability to also run traditional x86 apps on the Snapdragon ARM processor, dramatically widening the range software available.
Living with the Surface Courier
More than a simple tablet, the Courier is envisioned to be both a media consumption device, as well as a media creation device, on its own, and in a docked mode. Portable when you need to move, and dockable when you need to be productive at a desk.
Students using the Surface Pen and Windows Ink to create and annotate documents
Artists jotting sketches, creating and editing media
Writers, poets, musicians, and the keyboard-averse writing, drawing, and composing handwritten notes, slides, and documents
Using the camera to capture and import models, images, videos, and frames
Using the microphone and bluetooth peripherals to import and record audio
Using a bluetooth headset for Skype voice calling, video calling, and collaboration
Creating and editing Office documents and saving them to the Courier or to OneDrive
Docking the Courier via USB-C or Surface Connect, to connect to a larger screen, keyboard, and mouse.
The Surface Family grows again As we predicted in December 2016 with our article on the Future of Portable Computing, the next step after the Surface Courier will be the Surface UltraMobile, known to some as the Surface Phone - but it's not a phone, it's a handheld computer... its the Surface UltraMobile.
The Surface Courier is a sleek, slim, fanless, highly integrated, chiselled slab of magnesium-bodied goodness, progressing the Surface family into new territory, and introducing customers to a smaller-format device.
Further down the line, we see the Surface UltraMobile (also known as the Surface Phone) becoming the new kid on the block in the expanding Surface device family, and the Courier as its big brother.
With the Courier, Microsoft is entering new territory and bringing the content-obsessed creative consumer along for the ride. Microsoft also has one foot firmly in the Enterprise space as well, anticipating adoption where pen-centric and finger-happy professionals can make their mark - with an on-screen keyboard for Facebook, ahem, LinkedIn.
Expect the Courier to arrive by mid-April to early May.
Until next time,
Xavier Zymantas XYZ Media Group