First Click: MacBook Pro or Surface Studio PC?

October 28th, 2016


Who wore it better, Apple or Microsoft? And by “it” I mean the future of computing as both companies faced off this week with opposing visions on how to use touch.

On Wednesday, Microsoft presented us with a mixed reality vision, replete with a new "Creators Update" for Windows 10, a new version of MS Paint with support for 3D objects, and VR headsets built upon the same holographic platform as HoloLens. It felt very future-y, albeit still years away from mass adoption. Closer to the here-and-now is the stunning new all-in-one Surface Studio PC that stands upright in traditional desktop computing mode, or tilts to a near horizontal plane like a drafting table for direct finger-on-app interaction. Microsoft even introduced an innovative new Surface Dial input device that rests on the Surface Studio’s 28-inch PixelSense display for literal onscreen control of apps and Microsoft’s own Surface Pen.

Yesterday, Apple presented us with its own rather staid vision with the introduction of what it calls "the future of the notebook:" the MacBook Pro. It’s slathered in versatile USB-C ports flanking the laptop’s new Touch Bar touchscreen display that replaces the traditional row of function keys on the keyboard. The Touch Bar dynamically changes to offer users the most appropriate tools and controls needed for the app currently in use. So, instead of turning the laptop’s display into a touchscreen as Microsoft did with its Surface Book, Apple continues clinging to the belief that for desktop computing, be it a MacBook or iMac, your hands are best kept on the keyboard, not extended out in front of you. That’s why Apple puts so much emphasis on gestures for its oversized trackpad design, which has grown even larger on the new MacBook Pro.

Microsoft lost out on mobile so it’s tasked with extending Windows to meet the future of computing, while developing apps for iOS and Android devices. Apple, on the other hand, invented the modern mobile phone and finger-centric operating system, meaning it must now create a bridge between its mobile and macOS devices that will presumably converge at some point in the future. Both companies, however, are dependent upon third-party app developers embracing their near-term visions in order to extend support for the Apple Touch Bar and Microsoft Surface Dial.

Of course, Microsoft, as the world’s largest software developer, is rightly hedging its bets by embracing Apple’s Touch Bar with Office for Mac. Just as Apple is hedging its bets with a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Pencil input and Smart Keyboard option.

Granted, most people looking for a new laptop right now won’t be considering the Surface Studio PC, just as anyone looking for an all-in-one desktop computer won’t be considering the MacBook Pro. So it’s not exactly an Apple’s to apples comparison. The question to you, dear reader, is which product does touch better?

Which device does touch better?
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