Everything we’re expecting at Microsoft’s Surface and AI event next week


Microsoft front of building in NYC

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Microsoft’s special September 21 event in NYC is less than a week away, and like at its previous fall launch events, we are expecting the company to release new Surface products and a whole lot of AI updates.

Also: Microsoft officially adds Bing AI chatbot to Google Chrome

At last year’s Microsoft fall event, the company unveiled the Surface Laptop 5, Surface Pro 9, Surface Studio 2+, and two Surface accessories to optimize the hybrid meeting experience. 

This year, expect much of the same from the AI leader, with several new Surface product unveilings, including two-in-one models, laptops, and accessories, alongside a healthy dose of AI-powered features and services. At a minimum, Microsoft will likely make previously announced AI features finally available to use.

How are we so sure? Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate VP & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, basically confirmed via an X post that more AI innovations will be shared during the September 21 event. 

Unlike Apple’s launch event this past week, Microsoft will not be live-streaming its launches for the general public to tune in to. Instead, expect rolling announcements all day (and week) long, with ZDNET among the press who will be in attendance and reporting from the floor.

Until then, here’s a breakdown of all the new hardware and software we’re expecting next week. 

What’s new with hardware?

The first generation Surface Laptop Studio launched in September 2021 and has yet to see a follow-up, making the release of the Surface Laptop Studio 2 at the upcoming event very likely. 

With the original Surface Laptop Studio, Microsoft took its conventional Surface Laptop form factor and combined it with the convertibility of the 2-in-1 Surface Books and the performance of its desktop Studio. ZDNET tested the model in 2021 and dubbed it a “true convertible laptop,” though it was not without its drawbacks.

Also: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review

To succeed the first Surface Laptop Studio, expect the new model, if it’s a thing, to feature more ports than the original’s dual Thunderbolt 4 USB-Cs, with a continued focus on working professionals and content creators. As for the price, somewhere in the $1,599 ballpark would be reasonable, especially with new 13th-gen Intel processors and an NVIDIA RTX 40 Series GPU under the hood, as suggested by Windows Central.

The Surface Laptop Go line is Microsoft’s entry-level model, functioning as a no-frills, lightweight, compact, and budget-friendly laptop. At nearly $1,000 less than the Studio Laptop, the most recent Surface Laptop Go 2 was deemed a practical option for many, delivering good performance and a clean design. 

Even though the Surface Laptop Go 2 can be considered relatively new, launching a summer ago, a year-later refresh can definitely be in the cards during the fall hardware event, especially if Microsoft wants to appeal to students, hybrid workers, and users who just want something that’s ultraportable.

Also: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review

With the Surface Laptop Go 3, improvements to battery life, webcam quality, and display performance would be greatly appreciated. As for things that will likely stay the same: a 3:2 aspect ratio that’s in line with the rest of the Surface laptop models and the latest version of Intel processing. We’ll know what else is new on September 21.

Like the Surface Laptop Go line, the Surface Go tablets are also considered entry-level with a lower price point and lightweight design. The most recent Surface Go 3 was released in September 2021, with rather iterative upgrades from its predecessor.

With the Surface Go 4, Microsoft will likely run a similar playbook, keeping the form factor of the Go 3 and focusing most of the bandwidth on internal updates.

Also: Microsoft Surface Go 3 review

One of the biggest complaints with the Surface Go 3 was its poor battery life and subpar performance because of its Intel Core i3-10100Y processor. To fix this, Microsoft may offer the Surface Go 4 in two variants: Intel-based and ARM-based, much like how it did with the latest Surface Pro 9. 

Thanks to the more cost-efficient ARM integration, which will work in tandem with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c-based SoC, the Surface Go 4 may be the first of its kind to feature 5G connectivity and better battery life overall.

The Surface Pro is arguably Microsoft’s flagship device, and this year will mark its 10th anniversary. Whether Microsoft decides to keep the numerical naming scheme or confuse the audience with a Surface Pro X branding (even though that already exists) remains in question.

What’s near-certain is that Microsoft has released a new Surface Pro model every year, with the Surface Pro 8 and 9 seeing 2021 and 2022 launches, respectively, setting the stage for the 10th-gen model during the upcoming event.

The Surface Pro 9 made for a solid Windows 2-in-1 last year, with ZDNET Reviews Editor June Wan calling it “The MacBook competitor Windows users have been waiting for.” 

Also: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review

However, the device didn’t push any boundaries in terms of design and functionality from its predecessors, so Microsoft has every opportunity to position the Surface Pro 10 as the next big step forward.

According to Windows Central, the biggest change with the upcoming model will be its two size options, adding a smaller 11-inch option to the existing 13-inch model. The 11-inch Surface Pro will reportedly have a similar form factor as the Surface Go, with the exception of slimmer bezels. The big question now is whether or not Microsoft unveils the new Pro model on Thursday.

In April, Microsoft announced that it would no longer make any Microsoft-branded Windows PC accessories. Rather, the company was shifting gears to creating accessories specifically for the Surface line.

Also: Microsoft’s latest Surface accessories are geared toward the hybrid era of work

At last year’s fall event, the company released its Microsoft Presenter+, a Bluetooth-powered clicker, and Microsoft Audio Dock, a docking station that also doubled as a speaker.

Expect a similar launch strategy during the fall event but with an added focus on for-Surface accessories.

What’s new with software?

Recently at Microsoft Build, the tech giant announced it would adopt the same open plugin standard as OpenAI. This was a major announcement because OpenAI, at the time, had 70+ third-party plugins that empowered various tasks and were being fully realized by Bing.

Some plugin highlights included the ability to book restaurants with OpenTable, trips with Expedia, buy groceries with InstaCart, and more. 

However, since that announcement, there has yet to be any updates on the availability of third-party plugins for Bing Chat. The upcoming fall event would be a great opportunity to announce third plugins for the Microsoft chatbot, especially when the company has teased to the idea of it before.

The biggest announcement at Microsoft Build was Bing Chat becoming ChatGPT’s default search experience. With this integration, ChatGPT would no longer be limited to information before 2021 and could access the web by using Bing’s search engine.

Also: 7 ways you didn’t know you can use Bing Chat and other AI chatbots

Since the announcement, Bing Chat’s ChatGPT integration has been limited to ChatGPT Plus subscribers. However, Microsoft did say it would “soon” be available to everyone for free through the use of a Bing plug-in. That expansion has yet to be released, but September 21 may be when it all becomes official.

As previously covered by ZDNET, there have been rumors of an AI revamping of Windows 11, with generative features being integrated across the platform’s staple applications such as Photos, Snipping Tool, and Paint. 

Also: Microsoft may soon give Windows 11 an AI revamp

The AI integrations, originally reported by Windows Central, will allow users to identify objects in an image and copy and paste them somewhere else in Photos, incorporate OCR (Optical Character Recognition) into the Snipping tool, and incorporate art generation into the Paint App.

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