While Microsoft only announced more modest under-the-hood upgrades to its Surface refresh at its October 2 event, the company may be working behind the scenes to plan for a bigger upgrade. According to Surface chief Panos Panay, Microsoft is considering a modular Surface Studio, which would allow users to upgrade certain components inside the all-in-one desktop. An upgradeable desktop would make it more affordable to get better performance down the road by swapping in a newer processor, graphics card, or more memory without having to purchase an entirely new system.
When asked by The Verge if Microsoft is considering a modular Surface Studio, Panay said, “Probably, you look at it and you see what’s the evolution and how do we make it better for our customers. Yeah, there’s still so much more to do, and while I won’t tell you what it is you can put stories together.”
Going modular on a future Surface Studio wouldn’t be an entirely new approach for Microsoft. A week ago, the company unveiled a modular Surface Hub for enterprise customers at its Ignite 2018 partners conference. The Surface Hub 2S comes with a swappable cartridge design that allows certain features to be serviced over time, and a similar strategy could be used on the Studio.
In addition to a modular design, the Surface Hub is also giving Microsoft other ideas to port to its consumer systems, including a webcam. “Look at the camera on Surface Hub 2, note it’s a USB-C-based camera, and the idea that we can bring a high fidelity camera to an experience, you can probably guess that’s going to happen,” Panay said. “Is it completing an experience or bringing the next level of an experience to something that you wanted, even if it’s not Surface? I’ve been looking at all of that. While I won’t announce a new product, I think that’s important. I really think the completing of experience is our design from Microsoft that’s hardware and software.”
While some PC manufacturers have opted to build the webcam into the hardware designs of some of their all-in-one and monitor designs, an external USB-C webcam could allow consumers to more easily upgrade the camera as resolutions change in the future. An external camera that could be stowed away when not in use could also help alleviate privacy concerns as well.
While the Surface experience began with two tablets — the Surface RT and the Surface Pro — Microsoft has quickly expanded the lineup to include more PCs and more accessories in recent years. Microsoft also recently entered the headphone market with the Surface Headphones. The product will compete with household brands and established names like Apple’s Beats, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Sony, and others.