Microsoft's new Surface Studio all-in-one PC and the new Surface Dial controller may have stolen the show during the Oct. 26 Windows 10 event, but the company had plenty of other announcements for folks that aren't planning a major new hardware purchase in the coming months.
Next spring, Microsoft will release the Windows 10 Creators Update (code-named Redstone 2, Anniversary Update was Redstone 1). As the branding suggests, it will include a bevy of new features targeted at creative professionals, who typically flock to Apple products, and users who want to explore their artistic sides, particularly if it involves creating in three dimensions.
When it's released in the spring of 2017, the free update will include a new twist on an old image editing app, Paint 3D. Offering a new interface, basic 3D tools and the ability to "paint" directly on 3D models, the software is intended to serve as a gateway to the operating system's growing 3D feature set. This includes the ability to capture real-world objects using the camera on Windows 10 Mobile devices, a capability that will also be available on iOS and Android.
A new hub, called Remix 3D, is built into Paint 3D and will allow users to share and remix the community's creations. Remix 3D will also support models from Trimble's SketchUp and Minecraft.
While Surface Studio may be a stretch for many artists' budgets (prices start at $2,999), the upcoming OS update could help the company court creatives, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.
"The Studio is a high-end PC that's going to be out of reach for the vast majority of consumers, most of whom will be left with traditional PCs that don't have all the capabilities Microsoft showed off," noted Dawson. "But Microsoft's new Paint 3D app and other enhancements in the new version of Windows 10 are more mainstream attempts to establish Microsoft as a creativity brand."
The update will also enable augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences on run-of-the-mill Windows PCs. In terms of hardware support, Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo are readying an assortment of VR headsets that are set to ship next year with prices starting at $299.
"Mixed Reality with AR and VR are transformational use cases, and Microsoft has the current lead in this area with the moves it has made with Windows 10, HoloLens and the company's ability to open the use case to everyone with a Windows PC," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.
Bringing VR into the realm of affordability may further the company's momentum. "New $300 VR headsets are roughly half the cost of today's PC VR headsets, and if at the right quality, will accelerate the mixed-reality use case," added Moorhead.
Windows 10 Creators Update may also help usher 3D content into the workplace. Microsoft is adding the ability to embed 3D models into Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
"Office features work seamlessly with 3D models," Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president at Microsoft Office, wrote in a blog post. "For example, in PowerPoint, effortlessly apply transitions like Morph to create cinematic 3D animation that brings your presentations to life and celebrates your content."