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What to expect from Microsoft’s ‘special’ Surface and AI event

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What to expect from Microsoft’s ‘special’ Surface and AI event

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Microsoft is holding a “special event” in New York City later this week where it’s expected to debut three new Surface devices and AI-powered features for Windows, Office, Bing, Surface, and more.

The event is taking place just days after Panos Panay, Microsoft’s former head of Windows and Surface, resigned in a surprise announcement. We’ll now see how the new leaders of Windows and Surface push ahead with Microsoft’s big AI plans

Here, we’ll cover how and when you can follow the event live, along with the new product announcements we’re expecting to see from Microsoft.

When is Microsoft’s “special event” happening?

The press event will kick off at 7AM PT / 10AM ET on Thursday, September 21st, making it the first in-person Surface event since the pandemic. Former Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay won’t be presenting, but it’s likely we’ll see Yusuf Mehdi, head of consumer marketing, instead. Microsoft SEO Satya Nadella will also make an appearance. It will take place in New York City.

How can I tune in to Microsoft’s event?

Microsoft isn’t livestreaming its Surface and AI event. The Verge will be live blogging when the event starts at 7AM PT / 10 AM ET, covering all the announcements live as they happen. Microsoft will then post a recording of the event a few hours later at 10AM PT / 1PM ET on the company’s event site.

Three new Surface devices

Microsoft is rumored to be launching three new Surface devices at its special event. A Surface Laptop Studio 2 has already leaked, complete with Intel’s 13th Gen processors, Nvidia’s RTX 4060, a microSD card slot, and a USB-A port. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 looks like it has a similar design to the original, with a display that pulls forward to transform from laptop to tablet.

WinFuture reported last week that it will be the first Surface device to ship with 64GB of RAM. Microsoft appears to be mostly improving the internal specs, while adding a USB-A port for existing peripherals and a microSD card for storage expansion. Microsoft is rumored to start shipping the Surface Laptop Studio 2 on October 3rd.

Surface Laptop Studio 2 could be the star of the show.
Image: WinFuture.de

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 might be the star of the show on the Surface side, but the Surface Go 4 and Surface Laptop Go 3 are also expected to be announced. WinFuture reported last week that the Surface Go 4 will ship with an Intel N200 processor inside, after Microsoft reportedly postponed a version of the tablet with an Arm processor in favor of an Intel one instead.

Images of the Surface Go 4 haven’t leaked yet, but it’s expected to maintain a similar design to the prior Surface Go 3 model. Speaking of leaks, images of the Surface Laptop Go 3 have also appeared online. It looks very similar to the Surface Laptop Go 2, but the new model is rumored to ship with Intel’s 12th Gen CPUs and is also expected to ship in early October.

Windows AI features

Microsoft will start unveiling more AI-powered features for Windows during its special event. The software maker has been working on an update to Windows 11 (23H2) that includes Windows Copilot, an AI “personal assistant. This update is expected to ship by the end of September, with a range of improvements to Windows 11.

I’m expecting Microsoft to detail more than just Copilot, though. We’ve started seeing more AI-powered features appear in Windows apps, with test versions of the Snipping Tool and Photos app updated with useful features for copying text from screenshots and adding background blur to photos.

A new background blur feature in the Photos app on Windows 11.
Image: Microsoft

Paint is also rumored to be getting the AI treatment soon with text-to-image prompts to generate images automatically. Photos is also rumored to be getting a new feature to identify people or objects in photos and then cut / paste them elsewhere — much like a similar feature on iOS.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see Microsoft tease its plans for AI-powered features in Windows 12, which is expected next year, but many of the new Surface and Windows AI features will lay the groundwork for Microsoft’s AI focus on Windows. “AI is going to reinvent how you do everything on Windows, quite literally,” said Panay earlier this year, so we’re likely going to hear the beginning of Microsoft’s work toward that reinvention.

Surface AI features

AI “will have a potentially profound impact on how you use your computer and how it will essentially evolve in regards to its form,” said Steven Bathiche, the head of Microsoft’s applied sciences group, in an interview with The Verge last year.

The Surface team has been focused on AI for years now with features like Windows Studio Effects. These first started shipping on the Arm-powered Surface Pro X in 2020 with a feature that automatically adjusts your eyes during a video call to make it appear like you’re always making eye contact through the camera.

These AI features rely on a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU), a chip that offloads AI processing tasks and has only been available in Arm-powered Surface devices so far. Microsoft shipped the Surface Pro 9 Arm version with an NPU last year, and Windows Central reports that the Surface Laptop Studio 2 may even feature its own dedicated NPU.

AMD’s Ryzen 7000 mobile processors were the first x86 mobile chips to contain a dedicated AI engine that can support Microsoft’s Windows Studio Effects, including eye contact and background noise removal. Intel’s upcoming Meteor Lake chips are also expected to include similar AI capabilities. It’s not clear what NPU Microsoft is reportedly using inside the Surface Laptop Studio 2, but it could lay the groundwork for the additional AI experiences Microsoft is planning for Windows 11 and beyond.

Microsoft also turned to AI to help power its Surface smart camera recently, so there’s a chance we might see other accessories that leverage AI smarts for Surface.

Office and Bing AI features

Microsoft’s special event won’t be all about Surface and Windows, though. I’m expecting to hear a lot more about Microsoft’s Copilot plans for Microsoft 365 and Office apps. Microsoft put a steep price on Copilot in July, and it’s time we got a release date for when enterprise users will get access to this AI-powered future of Office documents.

Copilot in Office apps will allow businesses to instantly summarize documents, generate emails, and speed up Excel analysis. It’s Microsoft’s chance to try and brush off the competition of similar AI-powered features for Google Workspace, Zoom, and Slack.

Microsoft also started rolling out a preview of Bing Chat Enterprise earlier this year, which is essentially the same Bing Chat that’s available to consumers but with added commercial data protection. I’d expect we may hear when Bing Chat Enterprise is coming out of preview and some additional features for both the Bing Chat consumer and enterprise versions.

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