Microsoft’s One Outlook is now available to preview for Office Insiders

The new (beta version) of the One Outlook experience is available to paying Microsoft 365 or Office 365 Business and Education customers enrolled on the Office Insiders Beta Channel.

One Outlook is a new “unified email experience”, which will bring together the various versions and experiences from across their platforms into a single unified and consistent experience. This means it will eventually replace the existing Win32 and UWP apps on Windows, Outlook Web Access, and the Apple macOS versions. Microsoft will also be using it to host their Outlook for Web on browsers.

Microsoft’s longer-term goal is to also to replace the built-in Windows 11 Mail & Calendar apps with this version of the client – but this is likely to be someway off, but Windows Insiders are hoping to be able to start testing it in coming week meaning it might make its way into an early 2023 build of Windows 11.

One Outlook takes most of its inspiration and design from the Outlook web version, matching it closely in terms of design, features, and functionality – though there are still more things to come.

“Today, we are taking our next step by sharing a preview of the new Outlook for Windows, designed to bring consistency across our Windows and web codebases to help you be more productive and stay in control of your inbox.”

Microsoft Office Insider Team

Main Differences and Features

The new Outlook is built well and runs super quick (old outlook was a bit heavy on resources). The UX has some really clean lines though out the design too – it looks modern and fresh, and the design overall is a much more minimalistic and feels less cluttered.

New One Outlook Beta Experience

This One Outlook also adds a few new things not found in the Win32 version including: –

  • New look and feel aligned to the Outlook on the Web experience which adds a single view for calendar, email, and to-do items
  • Message reminders which use “AI” to automatically remind users about missed messages that need attention – these reminders appear at the top of the inbox until the user dismisses them,
  • Microsoft Loop components (which was previously confined to just Teams chat)
  • @mention for files – providing the ability to more easily share files using the “@thenameofthefile” convention to more quickly attach files and documents saved in the cloud to email messages without having to browse for the files.
  • New Outlook RSVP feature designed for hybrid work. This allows users to RSVP but also clarify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online.

Let’s quickly cover Microsoft Loop…

So I love ‘loop compoents’. Why? Loop will IMO, soon transform (again) modern co-authoring and Collaboration. With Loop, rather than collaborating on a whole documents, you can edit/author in real time components like lists, tables, paragraphs etc.   With this now in Outlook, it should hopefully start to end the endless reply-to-all storms since loop compoents can be edited and changed in real time. I covered loop in a previous blog.

There are some important things missing for Enterprise

Firstly, of course, this is a preview, which means it is not the final version. This is only currently available on the Insiders Beta Channel and as such there are some features (some small and some big) key features missing. The key ones missing for me (which I think will reduce the number of users willing or able to test it) are:

  • Multi-account support
  • Offline / Cached Mode support.
  • Search Folders,
  • Quick Steps
  • Support for Personal accounts & third-party services (like Gmail) – but that’s coming

In addition, this beta release lacks some of the legacy Outlook extensions that many power users need in enterprise environments including older add-ins and COM object support. I suspect some of this is on purpose to get a better feel of what add-ins and extension organisations actually need and use.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Downs

  • The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
  • Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
  • Loop Components – these are awesome
  • @filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs up
👍 The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
👍Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
👍Support for Microsoft Loop Components – these are awesome
👍@filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs Down
👎Menu layout freaks you out a little – and no file menu – this will put people off
👎No Offline use (yet), which in a hybrid world – almost makes it unusable for now

How to get it and test it

To get and test drive the new Outlook experience, your need to be enrolled in the Office Insider Beta builds, ensure you have a minimum Office beta build of 15225.20000 and then enable the “Try the New Outlook” toggle button.

Switching to the new One Outlook preview

Remember, as with anything new or different, user feedback is critical and as Office Insiders Microsoft are expecting feedback (good and bad from its testers). As such it is important (if you are an Office Insider) to provide constructive and useful feedback about things you like that you think are missing or that you love.


If you are a tester, want to shape it’s future (and you can) – go test it and feedback to Microsoft on your experience.

Viva Goals promises to bring ‘purpose and alignment’ to the employee experience

Microsoft Viva Goals has just been annouced and has entered a closed private preview. It will be included in the current Microsoft Viva suite subscription from Q3.

What will this bring?

Viva Goals is based heavily upon Microsoft’s 2021 aquisition Ally.io, who are a world leader in the realm of objectives and key results (OKR) platform which will find its way into Viva and gradually across the rest of Microsoft 365 and Teams. Viva Goals promises to help aligns teams to an organisation’s strategic priorities and will bring them together around an organisations’ company mission and purpose and values.

According to Microsoft’s latest work trend index report, more than half of all managers say they feel leadership is ‘out of touch’ with employee expectations around work life, hybrid work, and workload commitments. This new Viva Goals module is designed to address this by bringing purpose and alignment into Viva alongside the other core purposes the focus on culture and communications, wellbeing and engagement, growth and development, as well as knowledge and expertise.

Viva Goals (image (c) Microsoft

“Viva Goals brings business goals into the flow of everyday work, making it easier to stay up to date with connected data and automated reminders as well as to share OKRs and their progress across the organization with customized dashboards and quick links. It integrates with Microsoft Teams, Azure DevOps, etc.—and has more integrations to come with Microsoft Viva, Power BI, and other Microsoft 365 apps and services”.

Vetri Vellore |Corporate VP |Microsoft Viva Goals

Vellore states that (according to the work trend index report) 77% of employees say it’s important or very important for their employer to provide a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and 69% say its important or very important to be rewarded for impact instead of hours worked.

Want to see Viva Goals in action

Viva Goals is Private Preview, but to learn more about the wider Microsoft Viva suite, visit the Microsoft Viva website and check out the video below.

Viva Goals in action (YouTube)

Microsoft announces new Managed ‘Security Experts Services’ to ramp up fight against cybercrime

Microsoft’s security business is growing faster than any of their other mainstream products and services, and today they announced they will be adding three new services designed to help organisations spot and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Here’s the TL;DR version.

  • Microsoft are bolstering their security services offerings to go along with its technology products and partners.
  • Security is the fastest-growing broad product category for Microsoft.
  • Microsoft are increasing annual research and development spend in cybersecurity from $1 billion to $4 billion (more than any other security vendor anywhere).

The new services will see Microsoft’s own cyber security experts providing hands-on, proactive threat hunting for organisations unable to fully build out their own SOC due to the global security skills shortage and cost.

Keep reading to learn more…

This new announced investment comes as we see increasing reports from industry analysts on the continued increase in cyber security budgets globally as organisation continue to invest in protecting against the ever-increasing threat of ransomware attacks, identity theft and network hacks. 

Attacks are getting smarter and more targeted

Cybercrime attacks are continuing to rise and get increasing sophisticated, costing the world’s businesses $6 trillion USD last year, with that number expected to rise to $10.6 trillion in 2025.

According to Microsoft, “most human-operated ransomware attacks share some common traits, as attackers take advantage of an organization’s reliance on legacy software configurations or poor “credential hygiene” to gain entry into systems, and once in to find privilege escalation points to move through systems and carry out attacks.“.

Whilst identity hygiene is improving many organisations still do not get the basics right with poor identity protection, lax controls, no (or patchy) MFA and a disjointed and fragmented approach to security rather than a Zero Trust ‘defence in depth mindset’

Guarding single points of entry is not enough anymore, and a system or systems of managed extended detection and response (MXDR) is helping to help companies take a step back and look to guarding overall systems rather than focusing on locking down network ports or domains etc. “, Microsoft said in their latest security blog.

What is Microsoft Security Experts?

Microsoft Security Experts is a newly announced set of human, AI and software led services they will offer to organisations which will provide managed security services without them needing to build everything in house.

Microsoft Security Expert Services

Whilst just the start, the three new security managed services include Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, and Security Services for Enterprise.

  • Microsoft Defender Experts for Hunting.
    • This involves Microsoft Security engineers hunting and altering organisations of issues they proactive hunt in clients’ devices, Office 365 productivity software installations, cloud apps and identity platforms programs.
    • This will put Microsoft into a more direct competition with pure-play security software companies such as CrowdStrike.
    • Cost is circa $3 pupm.
  • Microsoft Defender Experts for XDR.
    • This is a more people intense service that will see Microsoft Security Experts helping organisations act on threats. Microsoft say that this type of work is typically done by a variety of different organisations today, including the big four accounting firms.
    • Cost is $14 pupm.
  • Microsoft Security Services for Enterprise
    • This service includes an even broader set of people-driven services.
    • It aims to be more specific and customised to the needs of large enterprise organisations.
    • It’s set to help elevate the global security skills and people challenge which affecting almost every organisation.
    • Costs are bespoke to each organisation.

Microsoft and Security

Security is already a $15 billion annual business for Microsoft, and in 2021/22 it has increased faster than any other significant product or service that Microsoft sold – up 45% YoY.

Microsoft is of course no new kid on the block when it comes to cyber defence, and last year blocked over 9.6 billion malware threats and 35.7 billion malicious emails as well taking down several huge state nation attacks.

Microsoft believe that they are uniquely positioned to help their customers and partners do more to meet today’s security challenges. “We secure devices, identities, apps, and clouds—the fundamental fabric of our customers’ lives – with the full scale of our comprehensive multicloud, multiplatform solutions. At Microsoft, we understand today’s security challenges because we live this fight ourselves every single day“.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella had already announced last year that their annual cyber security research and development spending is increasing to a staggering $4 billion, up from an already huge $1 billion.

What about the role of the Microsoft Partner?

Details are still emerging about how partners that sell security consultancy, enablement, training and of course managed extended detections and response (XDR) will be able to leverage these and build on their services.

Microsoft has said in their Yammer partner community site that they will be making a whole new set of investments in partners to help advance (or build) their managed extended detection and response (XDR) services business.

Growth and demand for Managed Security Services

According to Gartner, demand is on a fast growth trajectory, and more than 50 percent of organizations will be using managed detection and response (MDR) services for threat monitoring, detection, and response functions that offer threat containment and mitigation capabilities by 2025.

Microsoft say that their Partners will play a critical role in addressing this incredible customer demand.

Smaller Organisations – Here’s why you should care about Microsoft Defender for Business

Defender for Business

Today (May 3rd 2022) Microsoft formally announced the general availability of the standalone version of Microsoft Defender for Business.

Why should I care?

Well firstly, it’s a myth that smaller organisations are not targeted and attacked. Security continues to be an increasing challenge for small and medium businesses with a more than 300% increase in ransomware attacks alone in the past year alone, leading to increase cost in time and money, whilst pulling you away from doing what matters most – running your business and making money.

300% Increase in ransomware attacks 2021

As an example, the solicitor I was personally using last year for a house purchase was victim of a cyber-attack in September last year and it took them almost 3 months to get back on their feet which cost them loads of business – including mine!

In addition, according to a report commission by Microsoft – over 90% SMB organisations admit to buying “bad” endpoint security (which means it is below par, nor is it integrated into their wider security portfolio).

What is Defender for Business

Microsoft Defender for Business brings enterprise-grade security to smaller and medium sizes businesses (SMBs), including world-class endpoint detection and response capabilities.

Microsoft Defender for Business

Microsoft Defender also continually scores the highest across all industry endpoint protection products. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security/threat-protection/intelligence/top-scoring-industry-antivirus-tests

Why Defender for Business

Microsoft position this as “the solution for the new Hybrid Workforce”. As employees increasingly work across a mix of different devices and locations, Defender for Business delivers end-to-end security and moves beyond traditional end-point anti-virus, with their cloud connected, AI-powered service that is backed by trillions of daily signals, bringing enterprise grade, real time detection of known or trending threats including zero-day attacks and ransomware.

Microsoft Defender for business is part of the wider Microsoft 365 Defender family – a unified pre- and post-breach enterprise defence suite which natively coordinates detection, prevention, investigation, and response across endpoints, identities, email, and applications to provide integrated protection against sophisticated attacks.

Key Benefits

  1. Reduce your vulnerability with Defender’s risk-based management approach
  2. Help eliminate risks by reducing the surface area of attack
  3. Protect against cyberthreats like ransomware and malware
  4. Detect and investigate advanced persistent attacks
  5. Automatically investigate alerts and helps respond to complex threats

Here’s how it works

If you think of your business as like you might think about your own house, we can use this simple by effective analogy:

  1. Threat and Vulnerability Management is like a proactive police/crime assessment – looking at your doors and windows for potential weaknesses. It’s a risk prevention approach to vulnerability management that reduces threats before they grow into serious problems.
  2. Attack surface reduction works by making sure the windows are locked, and only the right people have keys to the front door. This helps minimise risk by reducing the attack surfaces open across your devices.
  3. Next Generation Protection acts as the lock for your front door. It helps to stop the things you don’t want to enter, from file-based and fileless malware, to spyware.
  4. Endpoint Detection and Response is like a security camera system, helping you see and record an intruder in the building. Defender’s advanced tools then sets off the alarms, allowing you to respond directly to the problem, device, or file.
  5. Auto Investigation and Remediation is like your smart alarm system, calling the authorities and taking the intruder away. Defender for Business automatically investigates alerts and helps remediate complex threats, acting as your personal security analyst, working 24/7 to protect your business.

In short, Microsoft Defender for Business looks across your environment, multiple activities, devices, and users and then aggregates your alerts into a single incident making it easier for you (or your IT Services partner) to manage and respond to threats before they impact your business.

How does it compare to Defender for Enterprise?

Defender for Business provides the same premium protection at endpoint level for SMBs as it does for Enterprise organisations – the only difference is the price point and simplified management. The table below, shows the main differences.

Microsoft Defender Product Comparison (c) Microsoft.

How do I get it?

All these features and more are available as part of Microsoft 365 business premium plan or can be purchased (if you are not a Microsoft 365 subscriber) as a standalone application.

Microsoft Defender for Business Options

Speak to your Microsoft Partner or CSP license provider in the first instance. They can probably also help you quickly get started and set it up..

Defender for Business is already included as part of Microsoft 365 Business Premium – Microsoft’s comprehensive security and productivity solution for businesses with up to 300 employees (or as part of a blended licensing approach). Microsoft Business Premium costs just £16.50 per user per month.

You can (from today) also purchase Defender for Business as a standalone solution for just £2.75 per user, per month and what’s more support for On-Premises and Cloud Hosted Servers for SMB is also coming later this year.

Microsoft FY22 Q3: Big increases across Azure, Microsoft 365, Security Windows, Surface & Xbox

Microsoft’s Q3 2022 financial results we annouced last night, and once again they have annouced double-digit growth. Here’s the headlines.

  • Revenue $49.4 Billion (up 18%)
  • Net Income $16.7 Billion
  • Profit increase of 8% year on year

Much of this quarter’s growth is related to the cloud, with server and cloud services revenue up 29%  and Microsoft Cloud up 32% to $23.4 billion. Here’s a summary of the results.

Microsoft 2022 Q3 results

More Personal Computing

Up 11% to $14.5Billion was Microsoft’s “more personal computing” division which includes Windows and Xbox.

Up 11% also was “Windows OEM revenue growth,”.  Satya Nadella said that “Companies are adopting Windows 11 at a faster pace than any previous release.”

Xbox had its best sales in 11 years (up 14%), easily beating the relatively limited PS5 in terms of supply.

Cloud, Office 365, Business Processes

Office 365 revenue was up 17% in commercial and 12% in consumer with them now boasting 58.4 million consumer subscribers, up 2 million from last quarter and 8 million from this time last year.

Intelligent Cloud (Azure) revenue increased 46% in the quarter, and Microsoft said that the number of Azure deals worth at least $100million in the quarter more than doubled

LinkedIn continues to see huge growth, up 34% this quarter, which follows growth of 37%, 42% and 46% respectively in the previous three quarters.

Security was up 45% and was a huge call out, with revenue growth from security products and services across of Microsoft’s three segments.

Devices / Surface

Microsoft’s Surface devices also has a good quarter, up 13% increase in revenue despite the ongoing chip shortage. 2022 is Surface’s 10th anniversary, and I expect some big announcements this year to mark the date later this year.

Aquisition and Other Stuff

Microsoft announced a plan during this quarter to acquire video-game publisher Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the largest transaction in Microsoft’s 47-year history.

Microsoft also closed its Nuance Communications acquisition and laid out a strategy for expanding in health care, an industry Nuance focuses on.

Full report and annoucement

You can read the full report and analysis here.

https://news.microsoft.com/2022/04/26/microsoft-cloud-strength-fuels-third-quarter-results-2/

Microsoft has created an awesome mashup of the latest Surface and Windows 11 innovations

In recent years, Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple Book and is know known for putting together some pretty awesome product launch and general marketing videos for their Surface Lineup and Windows 11.

Whilst we usually only see these things at annual press events and new product launches such as Laptop Studio or Surface Duo, Panos Panay has recently taken to social media and posted a really awesome mashup reveal of the latest innovations across Windows 11 and the Microsoft Surface Products.

Many of my followers will know that I am a huge fan of Surface and also an MVP for #Windows11, but I must admit, this short video even gave me goosebumps since it really does capture the best of what makes Surface devices truly remarkable and innovative (setting the standard for other OEMs). The video also shows some of the latest enhancements within Windows 11 that were annouced formerly in their Future of Work event on the 5th April, where Panos showed off enhancements to things like Fluent icons, the Start Menu, and Windows Hello.

Check it out below!

Microsoft Authenticator adds ability to generate Secure Passwords for you.

To mark the one year anniversary since Microsoft launched their Autofill feature on Authenticator, they have just updated the service with the ability to auto generate strong, unique passwords for you.

Microsoft Autofill (like a password manager) allows you to (for personal and corporate use) unites all of your passwords and stores them security in Azure AD via your Microsoft Account (or Azure AD account) for use across Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome (via an extension) as well as across your smart phone. Furthermore, the Microsoft Authenticator app can be used for managing all your passwords and this new feature helps you be even more secure online by generating secure and unique passwords that you don’t even need to worry about remembering (which is traditionally what leads to weak passwords).

Microsoft Authenticator App

To access this new feature, you need to be running the latest version of Authenticator on iOS or Android.

Authenticator will prompt you to use the feature when ever you create a new password for a website or cloud service or when you change the password of an existing one.

The app has slightly different behaviour across iOS and Android at the moment.

  • Android – tap the Passwords section, then click the (+) button, and choose Generate Password. You can save any passwords with the save icon and even name or copy them.
  • iOS – clickthe ellipses button at the top right of the app, and choose password generator.

What do you think. Do you use Microsoft Authenticator for password management today? What do you think of this new feature.

Surface Laptop SE – hands on video-review

Surface Laptop SE

Microsoft is known for setting the standard and innovating the laptop market with Surface and with Surface Laptop SE they have done it again – this time at the lowest end of the market with the extremely cheap but well built Surface that starts from just £229.

What is Surface Laptop SE?

Microsoft target market for Surface Laptop SE is schools that buy laptops in bulk to give to students in classrooms and/or to take home. This is laptop for children from primary age up to mid-secondary school age, which explains why this has been built with lower end specifications and the more lightweight and plastic design.

Surface Laptop SE is not sold commercially or direct to consumers and runs Windows 11 SE, which relies on remote provisioning, deploying, and admin for installing and maintaining applications.

Note: Windows 11 SE is not like Windows 10 in S Mode. Windows 11 SE run apps from both in and from outside the Microsoft Store. The main difference is that the OS is trimmed down and has been specifically optimised for lower specification devices. Windows SE is Microsoft's solution to help empower teachers and learners with productive, sturdy and reliable laptops at scale. 

For a device that costs between £229 and £300 you might think “really!!!!”, but I’d say that Microsoft has done it again and created an awesome piece of budget hardware which should set a new standard for low-end devices built specifically for Pre-School, Primary and lower Secondary School students.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop SE is available to education through Surafce resellers and also via Microsoft directly and pricing starts from just £229 for the 4GB RAM/64GB model, which comes with a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 processor. The model I tested, was the slightly higher specification model which retails at around £299 and has 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage and a quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 CPU.

First Impressions: Look and Feel

This looks like a Surface! From a design perspective, the Surface Laptop SE has some similarities from its sibling, the Surface Laptop Go, but has a much more attractive price for the education market. To get to a price of just £229, Microsoft have had to compromise in a number of areas such as swapping the sleek “Surface” metal for a more child-friendly plastic for the overall chassis design. Do not let that put you off though – it is still a sleek and elegant design that looks modern, clean and far more premium than it should for a device at this price.

Unveiling – Surface Laptop SE

The top lid features a simple but bold Surface logo, while the underside of the device is clean with just seven screws that hold it together allowing for easy accessibility for repairs – yes – this is a repairable device! Alongside this, there are four rubber feet with the two rear ones being slightly taller than the front to allow a natural and angled keyboard typing experience.

Port and connectivity wise, the Laptop SE has a USB Type-A, USB Type-C (which supports power, data and video display), a headphone jack, a separate barrel type charger in favour for a the standard Surafce Connector – which I found a little odd, but presumably is much cheaper to replace.

Laptop SE is extremely light – weighing just over a kilo at 1.11kg (about 2.4 pounds) which is the weight of a bag of sugar! You can see my “unboxing experience” below.

First Impressions: Useability

So first things and weird to get my head round is that the Surafce Laptop SE does not have a touch screen, nor does it support pen and ink! This is not surprising given the price point but had to put that out there – it is a Surface after all!

Typing Experience

It’s normally easy to tell a cheap/budget laptop from the quality of the casing, keyboard and trackpad but not on Surface Laptop SE. The experience on Laptop SE is every bit premium and features exceptional quality and usability. Unlike many other budget laptops, Microsoft have reinforced the keyboard, which provides a sturdy and premium typing experience which is IMO the same as the experience on any Surafce Laptop Go .

Display

As a budget device, Microsoft have replaced the usual LCD multi-touch screen found it other Surface devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 11.6-inch non-touch TFT screen with a resolution of 1366×768 and an aspect ration of 135 pixels per inch.

When using the Surface Laptop SE, the display is bright, colours look good and the matt screen works well (especially given that in a school environment it’s usually bright and light). Viewing angles are good too and it’s easy to see the screen even if you are looking square on. Finally, screen bezels are a bit thick, but given this is designs for school use, it means you dont grab the screen when closing the lid or changing the angle.

Surface Laptop SE is equipped with just a 1-megapixel 720p (30 FPS) front-facing camera, which is of course a lower budget option compared to the flagship devices. Despite the lower resolution, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the camera worked (even in low and bright light), and in a Teams test call with myself, the image quality was very good and sharp. The onboard microphone is also really good (well it was in limited test environment) and did a great job of picking up all the relevant voice tones.

Battery Life

Given this is a device for schools, it needs to last the school day at least right and even more if the schools are providing these on a 1:1 basis for students which is happening more and more.

Battery life is good, Microsoft claims 16 hours, which they never seem to get right in real life, but I used my test device for a whole day from 8:30am until the battery died at around 4:30pm – a solid 8.5hrs of constant use with it plugged into a second screen, running on wireless and with all my common apps open including Teams which I used for around 6 Teams Meetings.

Performance and Workload

Surface Laptop SE is totally silent in operation. It doesn’t get hot, it does not have a fan, so it produces no ambient noise – at all.

My Test Scenario
1. Battery fully charged (no plugged int mains)
2. Wireless On
3. External Monitor Connected via USB-C in Extended Mode
4. Brightness and Power all set to “auto”
5. Workloads tested: 6 x Teams Calls (with video), PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, Edge

As you’d imagine by the insanely low price point, Surface Laptop SE is no power horse, though it performed surprisingly well given what I threw at it.

For the main all my core apps like Office Apps and Teams ran well. The device comes with Minecraft Education Edition installed too, so took this for a spin over lunch and it too ran without an issue or lag (I just need to learn how to play it). Surface Laptop SE seemed quite happy chugging along with the majority of my day-to-day productivity apps together. Apps running via the browser were naturally more responsive which is one of the great things with modern apps like Office 365 in the browser.

Multiple App launching

The only place where it seems to “struggle” a bit, was initial device boot up, resume from sleep (which takes a second or two) and general “first time” app launching where you really notice the performance lag of the “out-dated” chipsets in this device – the N4120 Celeron processor is some 3 years old. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault as it’s the best they can do (and they have done well) with what Intel offers at this low price point.

That said – performance it is not awful, and after a few hours of use, it feels normal to be honest – this is due in part to the way in which Microsoft optimised Windows 11 SE to take the best advantage of the low-power Celeron N4120 processor, including streamlining the Windows 11 OS to use less system resources.

I cover Windows 11 SE in a separate post.

Conclusion and Closing Comments

Given the age range and sector this device is aimed at – it is more than adequate and a great bit of “value” Surface tech.

Surface Laptop SE Final Thoughts

Surface Laptop SE highlights what makes Surface, a Surface and it sets the standard for low cost, good quality laptops for primary and secondary education. Microsoft’s attention to detail, focus on core features, and quality design where it matters are all what Surface does best and Surface Laptop SE is no exception.

You won’t be buying one of these for the office, but even though this is designed for school children. It feels good to use and doesn’t feel like a budget friendly device at all. Most students (even teachers to be honest), don’t “need” a high-end Surface Laptop or Pro and if this means schools can equip students and teachers with technology to facilitate digital curriculum then Surface Laptop SE can go a long way to help school achieve this.

This of course, brings us to the obvious question about why Microsoft doesn’t sell this directly to consumers as well (with Windows 11 Pro)? I think they should – I’d certainly buy one for my 7 y/o. I think with a slightly better CPU, it would make a great home laptop at a crazy cheap price.

To end this review, if you work at a Primary or Secondary School, are looking at ways to increase your device to student ratio or provide a laptop for every child, Surface Laptop SE should be looked at.


Ready my similar posts…

New Azure “Games development VM” aims to get creators building more games on Azure

Microsoft is on a mission to entice more game developers to use Azure as their platform of choice, by unveiling their Azure Game Development Virtual Machine. This was annouced in their Game Dev Blog post, on March 23rd where they spelled out the huge list of benefits for game developers in migrating their dev environments to Azure cloud-based game production environment.

Azure Game Development VMs

The purpose of the platform is to provide a cost effective and service rich environment for developers who want to test and build games in a production-ready cloud environment.

These dedicated game development virtual machines will come pre-built and packed ready to go with tools including Unreal Engine, Visual Studio, Perforce, Incredibuild, DirectX dev kits, and many others and Microsoft say that developers can also use the virtual machines to quickly create custom workstations, build servers that meet their needs.

ID @ Azure Program

Microsoft also  re-introduced the ID@Azure program, which was made generally available following the blog and official announcement. First annouced in December 2021, the free program which is focussed on those independent developers, and offers a range of cost-free tools that include things like training modules, a free Azure PlayFab Standard Plan for 2 years, and Up to $5,000 in Azure credits. Additionally, developers also get official support from Microsoft’s cloud and gaming support experts.

It’s worth noting, if course that Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service also run, naturally on Azure.

New Office 365 updates to improve hybrid work experiences.

Microsoft announced a number of key new features to the core apps across Office 365 aimed to further improve the working from home and working hybrid scenarios, easier and more productive.

Whiteboard

The much loved Whiteboard app is getting a chunk of new features too, which includes 50 new templates, new collaboration cursors, and will finally support Whiteboard collaboration in Teams Meetings with external people (yay).

Teams

Teams is no stranger to regular updates; these new updates are centred around the hybrid Meeting Room Experience.

  • A new companion device experience will prompt you to turn on your video when you enter a room, and will hide your video from the front-of-room screen as well as from the gallery view of other people also joining from companion devices within in the room
  • A new front row meeting layout, will bring remote meeting members into a spevial “front row” at the bottom of the screen. This will also include additional meeting info including  chat, raised hands, and live reactions. Front row is now available in preview.

Outlook

Outlook will soon receive a new feature to meetings RSVPs, allowing you to indicate whether you’ll be attending the meeting in person or remotely to help meeting organisers plan and coordinate meetings effectively.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint is getting a big update (available in the Office Insider build today) designed to make remote and pre recorded sessions better.

PowerPoint cameo is an experience that brings your camera(s) directly into your PowerPoint presentation, and recording studio, which lets you easily record your  presentation and deliver it later “on demand” with your embedded video. With cameo, you can seamlessly create and produce your presentations, decide how and where you want your video to appear on your slides with cameo, and then record yourself speaking to any slide with recording studio.

Viva

Finally, the Viva Insight app within Teams will soon receive a new Inspiration library feature that will give “thought leadership” tips, advice and best practices from sources including Microsoft and the Harvard Business Review.

Microsoft re-writes their partner program with a distinct focus on driving and building Cloud Services

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Yesterday evening (16th March 2022), Microsoft announced that are evolving the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partner programme to “delivering what partners need to innovate, grow their businesses and deliver on the promise of digital transformation for customers across organizations and industries”.

Amongst other things, this will say goodbye to the current silver and gold competencies and strengthen focus on partners attaining Advanced Specialisations

This follows controversial changes to the Cloud Solution Provider program (CSP) with their New Commerce Experience platform which introduced a premium on pay monthly Microsoft 365 subscriptions also aimed, in part, to driving longer term partner-to-customer relations.

“The changes reflect Microsoft’s investments in the cloud as a strategic growth area and the need to align partners with the evolving requirements and buying patterns of customers”, according to Rodney Clark | Corporate vice president of Channel Sales.

The new “Cloud Partner Program”

From October 2022, the 15-year-old Microsoft Partner Network, will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program which will be focussed on six key areas:

  • Azure Data and Artificial Intelligence
  • Azure Infrastructure
  • Azure digital and app innovation
  • Business Applications
  • Modern Work
  • Security

The three Azure-related solutions partner designations will also become prerequisites for the Azure Expert MSP from October 2022, creating a bunch of work and certs for existing MSPs to stay “compliant”.

Gold and Silver Partners are no more.

Under the new Cloud Partner Program, Microsoft said that they will be retiring the current Silver and Gold competencies currently to help differentiate and stand them beyond a baseline partner “network membership” status. Instead, the focus will be around Advanced Specialisations, something Microsoft has been banging the drum about for a while – with many partners questioning where these were heading….. now we know

The new two-level program will continue to be open to Microsoft’s current partners — resellers, systems integrators, managed services providers, device partners and independent software vendors, but they are changing the way they categorise them and segment the partners.

New Partner Categories

Microsoft are also changing the way their partners are identified and recognised partner capability with two different “qualifying levels”:

The solutions partner level is a designation that is based on the partner meeting specific requirements across a new partner capability score which is measured across each of the 6 solution areas.

This partner capability score rank partners’ technical skills and “cloud” performance based on KPIs which include their certifications, new customers added, successful deployments and overall growth. The score will be a telemetry-based calculation based on reporting though their Partner Center portal, and partners must earn at least 70 points out of 100 to earn the designation. Partners will be able to access the portal to see their current progress toward that goal.

Specialisations and expert programs (similar to the Advanced Specialisations and Azure Expert programs today), will allow solution partners to differentiate and to demonstrate deep technical expertise and experience in specific technical scenarios under each solution area.

Changes will take effect slowly

Over the next 6 months, Microsoft will start transitioning to the new partner program model which will also change its name from “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.

Microsoft stressed that there will be no immediate changes to partners’ business or program statuses, including anniversary dates.

Partners have until September 30th to decide whether to join transition to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program or renew their legacy Microsoft Partner Network benefit status for one last year if they need more time to prepare and transition.

Microsoft have added the new telemetry and reporting alignment for the new solution areas and specialisations to help partners start tracking, measuring, and planning their readiness.

Partner Centre “Solution Partner” competency tracking

Other Changes and Investments

Microsoft stressed in the announcement yesterday that in addition to renewing the benefits that partners already use and rely on, they are making them more customised.

Vital benefits, like Internal User Rights are not going away (something they attempted to remove several years ago which was overturned when partners went into up-roar) but they will now be called “product benefits”. These will continue to include on-premises licenses, cloud service subscriptions and Azure credit and said, “In fact, we’re increasing investment in our program by more than 25%.

Whilst we are still navigating through the various docs and changes, in short, it means partner investment for internal use and demo/dev environment will increase significantly and these will grow/extend based on things like the number of specialisations held against solution areas.


Closing thoughts

Like any change, people may be quick to judge and critic, but as 11 Competency Microsoft Gold Partner, these changes are good in my opinion and reflect the future direction of digital transformation and the way in which organisations like us want and need to work with partners.

“These changes are good in my opinion”

We have time to adapt (I suspect the program will be tweaked further too, as partners provide feedback). Microsoft is a different beast to traditional hardware partners like Cisco and Dell for example, but for me, Microsoft already give their partners a great amount of commitment, investment, and love. Partner benefits such commercial incentives, training, Internal Use Rights and (as a top-tier managed partner) strategic account and technical development, for us (at Cisilion) make the Microsoft Partner Program one of the best in terms of true partnership.

That said, Microsoft is a complicated beast, with lots of pockets of preferential partners, old operating models, outdated and silo’d systems and fragmented partner resources (Yammer, Partner Centre etc.). We are lucky being a managed partner since our partner manager works closely with us and helps us navigate through these challenges.

The new competency and specialisation driven programs, in my view are more relevant than the current ones and make sense. The increase in internal use rights (especially around Azure) are welcomed also.

The ink is still drying on the announcement, and we are still digesting the plethora of information, this is a good move for partners (IMO) and one we are excited to embrace. My views of course may change as we get to grips with the changes, impact, and the investment we, as partners need to make to transition to the changes.

Microsoft Security recognised as a Leader in 8 Forrester Wave™ categories

Microsoft has been recognised over the last 12 months as leaders in 8 Forrester Wave catagories.

Did you know, Microsoft analyse over 24 trillion security signals every 24 hours offering a uniquely comprehensive view of the current state of security.

This is backed by over 8,500 security experts from across 77 countries that provide a critical perspective on the security landscape and helps protect against industry and state nation attacks.

Microsoft say that “When you have comprehensive security, you have the freedom to grow your enterprise to match your vision. Comprehensive security is not only coverage, but also best-in-breed protection, built-in intelligence, and simplified management”.

1. Unified Endpoint Management

Microsoft Endpoint Manager brings together Microsoft Intune for cloud endpoint management and Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager for endpoints on-premises, empowers organisations to protect their apps and devices across platforms for a resilient, productive workforce.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

2. Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

Extended detection and response (XDR) is an early-stage market, and current vendor capabilities reflect that. XDR products have variegated feature sets based on their maturity, native portfolio, and vision for the SoC which is thought will likely replace (longer term) SEIM.

Microsoft Defender combines SIEM and XDR to increase efficiency and effectiveness while securing your digital estate. It allows IT to get insights across their entire organisation with their cloud-native SIEM, Microsoft Sentinel. Customer can leverage integrated, automated XDR to protect end users with Microsoft 365 Defender, and secure their multi cloud infrastructure with Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

3. Identity as a Service

The shift to hybrid or fully remote workforces has also accelerated user access that bypasses enterprise networks. To manage these changes, organisations are looking to IDaaS providers to serve as their primary identity provider (IDP).

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

4. Security Analytics Platforms

In the past, vendors offered traditional SIEM systems as on-premises hardware or software deployments. In 2020, Azure Sentinel became the industry’s first cloud-native SIEM on a major public cloud.

Most of the vendors included in Forrester’s evaluation of the security analytics platform market deliver their products via SaaS or cloud-hosted models. This change has enabled vendors to more quickly roll out new capabilities to their customers and decrease the management overhead for these systems.

Image (c) Forrester Research Q4 2020

5. Enterprise Email Security

Microsoft were positioned as a leader for Enterprise Email Security, Q2 2021 receiving among the highest scores in the strategy category. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 also received the highest possible score in the incident response, threat intelligence, and endpoint and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions integration criteria, as well as in the product strategy, customer success, and performance and operations criteria.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

6. Endpoint Security Software as a Service

Microsoft 365 Defender received one of the highest scores in the strategy category. Forrester notes that “the focus on endpoint security has increased as cyber risks shift from the network to the endpoints, prompted by increasing amounts of homeworkers and the bulk movement of data from enterprise network-connected data centers to edge devices.”

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is seamlessly built into Microsoft 365 Defender, and their XDR offering brings capabilities for identities, endpoints, cloud apps, email, and documents.

Microsoft 365 Defender delivers intelligent, automated, and integrated security in a unified security operations (SecOps) experience, with detailed threat analytics and insights, unified threat hunting, and rapid detection and automation across domains – detecting and stopping attacks anywhere in the kill chain and eliminating persistent threats.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

7. Unstructured Data Security Platforms

Microsoft has significantly increased their investment in building risk management and compliance solutions, inclusive of information protection and data loss prevention (DLP). They delivered new solutions, such as Microsoft Information Protection, Endpoint DLP, and product features, including trainable classifiers, the “know your data” dashboard, and enhanced sensitive information types, to name a few. Additionally, Microsoft continues to invest in extending the Microsoft Information Protection ecosystem with continued innovation via their SDK. Over 200 partners now extend this protection capabilities to various industry or vendor specific use cases.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

8.Cloud Security Gateways

Microsoft Defender for Cloud (formally Cloud App Security) received the highest possible score in the strategy category.

Defender for Cloud is focused on helping organisations gain visibility of all their cloud apps, discover shadow IT, protect sensitive information anywhere in the cloud, enable protection against cyber threats, assess compliance, and manage security posture across clouds.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

Read the digital defence report

To find out more read the Microsoft Digital Defence Report.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/security/business/be-fearless

Microsoft is showcasing the ‘Future of Hybrid Work’ Powered by Windows

Microsoft has annouced a Windows centred event on April 5 which will be led by Windows Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay and is focused on how “Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work”

Registration is open now

The official web registration page for the event is already live with the virtual event scheduled for 4PM UK time (8:00 AM US Pacific Time).

Whilst not much is known about the content of the event, it will likley be aimed at commercial customers and will highlight many of the new ans upcoming features (currently being tested and developed with Windows Insiders) designed to improve and enhance the Windows 11 experience and tablet experience.

It won’t just be about Windows 11

The event will likley not only be about Windows 11. Since this is about the future of work, expect to hear about further hybrid work enhancements use this event to across other aspects of Microsoft 365 and (as in previous events) may be some surprise new product announcements. There will also likley be updates to device management tools and further enhancements to Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop services.

The Microsoft’s webpage for the event also states that there will be break-out sessions which will deep dive into demos around upcoming enhancements to Windows tools for productivity and collaboration, management, and security.

Watch it live on April 5th

I will be watching live (hopefully), and will share any key news and updates after the event. Leading Windows sites and of course the Windows blog will also be updates and the event unfolds.

This link will download calendar file so you can quickly add it to your calendar.

What was new to Teams and Webex in Feb 2022

Logo showing what is new to Teams and Webex in Feb 2022

Following on from a packed January of new features, the slew of updates and enhancements  to Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex isn’t slowing down. Here’s my pick of the new features for Feb 2022 across the two big collaboration, meetings and calling platforms.

Microsoft Teams

Like most of the platforms, focus in Feb would adding some love to existing features and enhancing others. Main ones include enhancing the hybrid meeting experience, big updates to Teams Room devices on Android and bringing intelligence and convenience settings to physical meetings with the new “knock knock features”.

General Updates and New Features

Mute Notifications in Meetings

Subtle but vital, it’s now possible to mute notifications during meetings, so you can better focus. In addition to this, you can also now see the user’s “local time” allowing you to be more considerate of your colleague’s/customers/partners availability. Finally, the last general feature to hit the general release is the ability to pin chat messages, change chat density, and also respond to group approvals requests within Teams Approvals.

Meeting Experiences

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New mobile meeting experiences on iOS

In line with what was already supported on Android, it’s now also possible to join a Teams meeting with a single tap on both your Apple iOS device and Microsoft Teams Rooms using the companion feature. With this feature on, audio on your device will be automatically turned off to ensure echo does not happen. The “landing” experience on your iOS device will be optimised for engagement activities to make it easier to raise a hand or react, chat, see all participants, and access Microsoft Whiteboard. In addition to simply joining a meeting, Microsoft have also made it easy to access meeting and device controls, which includes the ability to cast a PowerPoint, control room cameras and more.

Microsoft have also made it possible to pin to the meeting stage or hide your own video in meetings. This allows you to see your own video in the increased size on your screen or to hide your own video (for you) during a meetings. This is designed to reduce distractions during calls and meetings while still having your video available for other participants to see. This is done by clicking on the ellipsis (…) in your video feed and selecting Pin for me or Hide for me.

Pin or Hide Video.png

Word Cloud Poll – adds support for open-text question polls in Teams meetings.
When using polls in meetings, this new option is great for more open engagement with attendees, since it allows you to collect attendees’ open-ended responses before, during, or after a meeting, with the results being automatically aggregated and displayed as a word cloud.

Poll.png
“Word Cloud” Poll

Teams Walkie Talkie on Phones

Microsoft added the addition of Walkie Talkie function already available on mobile, to Teams phones devices which allows users to use instant push to talk to speak to colleagues or other departments. Walkie Talkie on Teams phone devices can only be used to communicate with colleagues that are part of the same Teams channel so think of it like a silo’d communications group. Walkie Talkie can be added to the App Set up Policy and assigned to Teams Phones devices from the Teams admin center.

New to Teams Devices

Teams Rooms, can now be configure to automatically release reserved conference rooms that are not being used. In addition there is also a new featured known as a “check-in knock-knock” notification on the Teams Room front room display, which will alert over-running meeting dwellers that their meeting is over and people are waiting to come into the room.

Microsoft also more added support for content sharing on Teams Rooms for Android, as well as increasing the number of video feeds displayed. HDMI ingest sharing, also makes it way to more Android Room devices as does far-end camera control for remote meeting attendees. Android Teams Room devices also now support adaptive dual screen display whereby the videos of remote participants span both screens (in meeting rooms with dual screens) when content is not being shared.

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Teams Rooms on Android
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HDMI Ingest on Android Rooms

Cisco Webex

Updated to Webex are also coming thick and fast and Feb 2022 is all focussed on innovations that make hybrid work even better. In Feb’s updates, these including voice optimisations for all voices, a new Webex App integration within HubSpot (which joins app integrations from Zoom and Teams), new Socio capabilities that aim to unify the physical and virtual event experiences. There’s also welcomed changes to Cisco’s flagship Room Panorama devices.

New “All voices” audio optimisation

Aimed to “give all meeting attendees an equal voice”, Webex has added “optimise for all voices” to their intelligent audio capability. This enhancement will allow users to be able to hear anyone in the meeting, no matter where they are in the room at the same volume level. For example, if there are a few people sitting away from the microphone, their voices will still be heard loud and clear by all remote meeting participants.

Realtime translation and transcription expanded with 13 new languages

Webex now makes it easier to create a more inclusive, collaborative and accessible experience in meetings and webinars with attendees from around the world, as well as those with hearing disabilities, with real-time translation. This month Webex have added 13 new spoken languages taking the total to over 100 caption languages in the Webex app.

Webex Live Captions and Translation

Redesigned Sildo “poll” experience

Cisco released a redesigned Slido experience in meetings to make it easier to create engaging real-time polls, quizzes, and also to host Q&As. Silo was integrated into Webex last year following an acquisition and provides a simple to use, adaptive and extensive experience.

Cisco Slido Polls in Webex

Webex Room Panorama

Aimed to bridge the gap between hyrid meeting experiences, Cisco Webex can now bring a full immersive experience with panoramic view to cloud registered Webex Room Panorama devices. Webex now supports up to 9 point-to-point calls with exceptional live video feed of far end participants, including control of remote meeting rooms, on the two 82” screens which make up the Panorama. Shared content is displayed on the 65” top screen.

Cisco Webex Room Panorama

Room Panorama features directional, stereo audio, intelligent table microphone array, HD content sharing to provide even more flexibility, better replicate in-person experiences, and to bring the full panoramic experience to boardrooms and executive meetings rooms.


Surface Laptop Studio Hands-on Review

Surface Laptop Studeio Image

Microsoft describe their Laptop Studio as a “Portable Device with a Seamless Transition Between Laptop and Canvas…. Your Own Portable Studio with a Large Touchscreen & Top Performing Graphics“.

In this hands-on review, I put one of these devices through the paces for two weeks as my daily device, to see how this new form factor device, which blends the best of Surface Studio 2 and Surface Book performed.

Spec Tested: Surface Laptop Studio – 14.4″ Platinum | 11th Gen i7 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

My First Impressions

Being a long-term user/fan/enthusiast of Surface, then the first thing I was presented with when un-boxing the Surface Laptop Studio is how familiar, yet unique and different at the same time it is. Laptop Studio is a natural modern evolution of all the best things that makes a Surface a Surface and they have done a great job putting together their latest flagship devices. Its simply a thing of beauty with grunt and muscle to go along side the good looks.

At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it is simply a bigger, slightly chunkier Surface Laptop that has been given the Windows 11 “rounded edges” treatment. But it is not. Then there is the fact there are many similarities not only to Laptop 4 but also to Apple’s latest MacBook Pro range. From the rounded corners, layout of the keyboard and ports and the large trackpad, these are all similar to that found on Apple’s MacBook Pro (after all both have been borrowing design ideas and innovation from each other for years).

Surface Studio Laptop in ‘Laptop Mode’

Microsoft are known for setting the design standard through innovation when it comes to their products. If it wasn’t for Microsoft Surface the 2-in-1 or ink driven UI may never have been born after all!

Laptop Studio is no different so when you look a little closer you notice that’s much more than meets the eye.

Blending the best of Studio and Laptop

Whilst Laptop Studio can be used just like a a normal clam-shell laptop, you can fold down the screen to turn the laptop into a tablet (aka Studio mode) for drawing and sketching.

Surface Laptop Studio in “Studio Mode”

There’s also a half-way house, where by you can simply just pull forward the screen into “Stage Mode” to use it as an angled touch canvas for taking notes, annotating work, playing games and watching films or box sets.

Surface Laptop Studio in ‘Stage Mode’

This is all made possible thanks to what Microsoft is calling a “Dynamic Woven Hinge,” which feels sturdy and makes it easy to flip the screen into its various modes of use.

Who is Laptop Studio designed for?

In all the promotional videos around Laptop Studio, Microsoft showcases digital artists using the screen in its various positions to draw on it in flagship apps like Adobe Creative Studio. They also show it being used flat when docked to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard for a complete hybrid experience of digital note taking and conventional computing.

Laptop Studio is clearly an evolution of what Microsoft had developed with Surface Book. With Laptop Studio, Microsoft have made it easier to change between modes and there’s no need to separate the screen from the base unit, though I did often find some advantages in that since I could separate tablet component and move around leaving the base connected to a monitor and dock.

Surface Slim Pen 2

Ok, some personal advice. Do not buy, test or be given (you never know) a Surface Pro, Book, Studio or Laptop Studio without a Surface Pen. To me, the touch screen and ability to use digital ink is what stands Surface out from the crowd. Inking is it’s thing and with Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Slim Pen 2 – that experience just got even better.

Surface Slim Pen 2, is of course a must-have for graphic designers or just the more artistic users but for me (who’s been using Surface since the days of Surface RT) it’s still a must and I’d say that it’s a necessary extra for anyone buying a Surface.

Surface Pens have always been great with their 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and inter-changable nibs, but the best thing about Surface Slim Pen 2 that is now has haptic feedback which works in a growing number of apps – from drawing and inking in Whiteboard or OneNote you now get distinct vibrations which mimic the resistance felt when using different types of pencils, pens, markers and highlighters. The haptic feedback makes it feel much more like you are drawing on a real sheet of paper or canvas that a screen and their is remarkable improvement when comparing the canvass feel I was used too on my Surface Book 2.

Left: Original Surface Pen | Middle: Surface Slim Pen | Right: Surface Slim Pen 2

Like I said, Surface Pens are not just for artists. I see the pen as a vital tools for taking notes, marking up documents or making quick edits to Office docs. The pen can also double up as a more natural tool for reviewing, editing and presenting. As an example, in Microsoft Word, you can use the pen to delete sentences by simply crossing them out, in PowerPoint you can simply ink and draw on the slides and with Edge you can write and draw directly on web-pages or use the pen to annotate notes etc. You can also program the pen to launch apps on a click and of course you can use it as a trust PowerPoint clicker in presentations.

Surface Pens are also designed to work with well known third-party programs including the Adobe Creative Suite, Sketchup and many others.

Surface Pen Slim 2 storage and charging

Surface Slim Pens are magnetic and charge wirelessly. On the Laptop Studio the pen is designed to be stored under the front lip on the keyboard area where it magnetically sticks nicely sticks and charges.

Ports and Charging

The Laptop Studio is actually also pretty slim on ports, with just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C inputs, a headphone jack and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port for using the included charger. You can, however also charge the device via the USB-C port with a compatible power cable). The latest Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports are ideal for connecting to 4K monitors and for connecting to external files from hard drives.

Keyboards and Touchpad

The Keyboard on the Surface Laptop Studio is probably the best they have ever made, and Microsoft keyboards (even on the Laptop Go) are really good. The keyboard has great depth and travel and is responsive with the keys well spaced. As you’d expect it has the usual back-lighting which can be customised or tuned off and you get all the usual volume and media controls above the function keys.

The haptic touch pad brings another similarity from the MacBook Pro. Haptic touchpads, uses a touch-sensitive pad that vibrates to simulate a click instead of buttons that sit beneath the trackpad. I found the trackpad worked really well, with everything from clicking links and browser tabs in edge to pinching to zoom into webpages or office documents felt responsive and natural. Just like a traditional click-based trackpad, the haptic touchpad responded well to our inputs no matter where on the touchpad I clicked or pinched.

Microsoft provide the ability for you to adjust the intensity of the touchpad rumble. It isn’t a killer feature by any means, but it is a nice upgrade which I hope becomes standard on Surface devices moving forward.

Screen and Multi-Media

The display on the Surface Laptop Studio is simply a thing of beauty. As well as looking modern and sharp, the colours are vibrant, blacks black and detail is crisp and sharp whether you’re working in Office apps, inking or drawing or watching a film or box set on Netflix.

The screen is a 14.4-inch, 2400 x 1600 resolution, 120Hz display with the usual Surface 3:2 standard aspect ratio, which means you can comfortably watch 8K films or National Geographic documentaries on Disney Plus! The 120Hz does wonders for image quality and smoothness since the 120hz refresh rate is double that of most mainstream laptops and non-gaming monitors, which essentially means the display is twice as responsive.

It’s not just gaming and film watching though that benefits from a 120Hz display. I noticed that when scrolling through webpages or word documents or using a digital graphics apps like Microsoft Whiteboard, the display felt much more responsive and smoother that it does/did on my Surface Book 2 which is standard 60Hz display like most mainstream laptops.

Laptop Studio also has an impressively high quality set of quad Dolby Atmos speakers which is far from what you’d expect on a laptop! From watching StarWars films, to playing games and listening to Spotify, the audio was loud, crisp and clean with no distortion or tinny sounds/vibrations at full volume.

In usual day to day Microsoft Teams Calls, audio comes through clearly and colleagues gave no complaints about my own audio when using the built-in dual microphones.

Power & Performance

Microsoft position the Surface Laptop Studio as Microsoft’s most powerful Surface yet, and based on using the device for 2 weeks, I wont argue with that statement!

I’ve been using this device for pretty much everything this past two weeks and it has handled everything I threw at with ease with no slowing down or performance drag. The device I have been using is equipped with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370H processor and 32GB of RAM and was running the GA build of Windows 11.

In the two weeks I had the device – I used it every day and didn’t reboot it once. Most days I had at least 8-10 apps open including Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, PowerBI Desktop, Power Automate Desktop, Paint3D, Camtasia and Edge (with far too many tabs open). This was connected to my Surface Dock where it also powered a ultra-wide 4K screen and allowed me to switch seamlessly between the apps without any signs of struggling or slowdown. I also managed to do some graphics rich editing in Camtasia with the other apps running in the back-ground without any effort at all.

I managed to spend an evening (once the kids were in bed) using Laptop Studio as a mini gaming station by pairing my son’s Xbox controller via Bluetooth and using the device in its’ “stage mode”. It was a real pleasure to use and something I could easily get used too.

Battery Life

Given the amount of power in the Surface Laptop Studio, you’d think the battery was going to let it down. It doesn’t.

I spend a day in our London office last week and risked not taking a charger with me. I’m never one to believe the claims made by manufacturers around battery life, but in my “day out”, the Laptop Studio lasted me just over 8hrs 30 mins of usage which was spend mainly in Office apps and Teams video meetings (webcam on), on a wireless internet and with my Poly Voyager Focus 2 Bluetooth headphones connected.

This is felt was pretty impressive when you consider that kept the device in its default 120Hz mode and was connected to Wi-Fi all day too with my web-cam on for a good 2-3 hours.

In my experience, the Laptop Studio’s runtime is just a tad less than on the Surface Laptop 4 and was about the same as the Surface Book 2 (which is nearly 3 years old now). Surface Pro X (which runs ARM) has been my personal best so far consistently giving me over 9 hours of continual use.

Pricing

Ok – so Laptop Studio is hardly an entry level device but pricing depending on what you desire / need isn’t as bad as you might think, but some of the key models and pricing are illustrated below for business.

Model CodePrice (Ex VAT)
i5/16GB RAM/256GB SSDTNX-00004£1,126.90
i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000ABR-00004£1,425.42
i7/32GB RAM/1TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000AIC-00004£2,239.31
i7/32GB RAM/2TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX 3050AI5-00004£2,131.43
Sample Surface Laptop Studio Business Pricing [Feb 2022]

Alternatives – of course, the thinner sleeker Surface Laptop 4 or Surface Pro 8 makes for good alternatives for everyday users who don’t need loads of power but still need and good all-rounder device. Personally, I’d always go Pro over Laptop and I don’t think I could live within pen and ink!

Summary

In my opinion, Surface Laptop Studio is the best Surface device Microsoft has ever made.

Suppose I had better back that statement up right!?

Ok – well, it’s has the perfect combination of style, performance and battery whilst still being one of the best looking devices you’ll ever see or use. It’s sleek and flexible 2-in-1 design combined with (optional) Slim 2 Pen make it an especially great choice for graphics, drawing, inking and sketching and the haptic touch-pad and updated keyboard feels great for everyday use. Finally the super sharp 14.4-inch 120Hz display brings both detail, colour and sharpness to every app or use and really shows its self off when used for digital editing, gaming or watching 4K or 8K movies.

Like the Surface Book they are not the cheapest of the range but for that you have the Laptop 4, or Surface Pro, but here is my top 5 reasons to buy one (or get your manager to buy you one).

  • Their Best Ever – The 2-in-1 design makes this the best Surface Microsoft have every made and it is a no-brainer upgrade from the Surface Book
  • Powerful and Sleek – but will still get you through (just) a working day, but supports USB-C charging if you need it,
  • Simply gorgeous and really turns heads
  • Can handle anything and everything you through it without compromise.
  • A true digital canvass – it handles graphics, video editing and drawing apps with a breeze and the Slim Pen 2 turns it into a true digital canvass.