Channel technologies

Microsoft Surface Studio vs. Apple iMac? Sort of

Surface Dial

Thousands of PC companies competed for the desktop in the 1980s. Fast forward to the present day, and the high-end creative desktop wars may boil down to two of the world's strongest consumer brands: Microsoft vs. Apple.

Somewhere, Bill Gates and the ghost of Steve Jobs are smiling -- or trading barbs once again -- or both.

Indeed, Microsoft today confirmed rumors that it has been designing a high-end Apple iMac killer. The name: Surface Studio, a 28-inch all-in-one PC that starts at $2,999. The new PC is available for pre-order now. Limited shipments will start this quarter, with broader availability in early 2017, the company said. You can get all the Surface Studio technical specs here.

High-end Hunger

Clearly, Microsoft isn't out to crush the entire Apple Macintosh market. Instead, the company is taking aim at only Apple's most lucrative iMac segment -- the high-end world where creative artists dwell.

Today's Microsoft announcements, hosted in New York, also featured:

  • Surface Dial -- a new Windows 10 peripheral that delivers a "more intuitive way to scroll, zoom and navigate."
  • Surface Book with Performance Base, a new offering that starts at $2,399.
  • Windows 10 Creators Update, which includes a heavy emphasis on 3D creativity. To get a feel for where Microsoft is going, check out the new community.

Surface Studio for Channel Partners?

Like many Surface announcements in recent years, today's launch focused on end-customers rather than the partner ecosystem. Sure, Best Buy is reselling Surface Studio. But it's unclear if, how or when Microsoft will tap into partner ecosystems that crave creative computing platforms.

Traditional Surface devices -- the mobile ones -- also are backed by subscription services. The offering, called Surface as a Service, charges end-customers a predictable monthly fee for the mobile devices. And channel partners, in turn, can potentially wrap a range of managed services around the mobile devices.

Will Surface Studio gain its own subscription service? We're checking. Even if Microsoft doesn't make a clear move in this area, it's a safe bet channel-savvy financing firms are watching for Hardware as a Service and Hardware as a Rental opportunities here. Keep an eye on names like GreatAmerica.

For its part, Microsoft is innovating in the hardware market. I doubt those moves will somehow transform the PC industry into a growth market again. But if Microsoft can take share from its own desktop PC partners -- and Apple -- then the net-net could be higher hardware revenues in Redmond...

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.