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article imageMicrosoft building new Surface devices, possibly including a PC

By James Walker     Jul 4, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft appears to be preparing a new range of Surface devices for launch in 2017. Evidence found inside a building on the company's Redmond campus indicates that a new Surface will arrive this year, followed by more products in the next 12 months.
Microsoft launched its current generation Surface devices, the Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book detachable notebook, in October 2015. It is expected to announce follow-up devices later this year, whether it be the Surface Pro 5 as a successor to one of the most popular productivity-oriented tablets or a smartphone.
Several hints at Microsoft Building 88 indicate the company is already preparing next year's range in tandem with the 2016 line-up. Indian app developer Shubhan Chemburkar managed to snap some photos of images on a wall at Microsoft's Redmond campus. While Chemburkar was there on a visit, he passed a wall covered with images of past and present Surface devices, creating a history of the division's launches.
At the end of the wall, the current Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are followed by a set of placeholder images labelled "Coming soon." One of them is dated 2016 and an additional three are prepared for 2017. Microsoft appears to be alluding to the internal existence of future products.
The wall seemingly confirms that at least one new Surface product will arrive this year. 2017 appears to be more interesting though as three different products appear to be planned. While one of them will likely be the Surface Pro 5 and the other a Surface Book 2, that still leaves the identity of one device unknown.
A report from DigiTimes last week shed some light onto the situation. Microsoft is said to be developing an all-in-one (AIO) PC to be marketed under the Surface brand. "Surface AIO" will be designed to complement the second-generation Surface Book, representing an alternative to the notebook for people who predominantly work in one location.
Surface AIO could be suited to businesses or the living room. The popularity of all-in-one PCs is falling but the small form factor and lack of cables means they remain attractive to some buyers. The device would presumably include Surface's headline features such as an active stylus for pen input, cutting-edge performance and Windows Hello support.
DigiTimes said the launch could have a "strong impact" on the global market for AIOs. Shipments are expected to decline this year though, decreasing to 12.6 million units from 14 million.
Microsoft hasn't confirmed the reports. While there's nothing on the wall in Building 88 that confirms an all-in-one is coming, the design of the placeholders is very abstract. It resembles a traditional Surface tablet at first glance but the two squares could alternatively be interpreted as a notebook or an all-in-one PC and keyboard.
What Microsoft will launch this summer remains to be seen. While a Surface Pro 5 is feasible, the company may choose to wait another 12 months to refresh its PC line-up. That would open the doors to the long-rumoured Surface Phone finally making an appearance in 2016, clearing the way for Surface Pro 5, Surface Book 2 and "Surface AIO" next year.
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