It's hard to believe that the very first personal computer designed by Microsoft was released as recently as 2012.
Known simply as Microsoft Surface, the 10.6in tablet came with a modified version of Windows 8 and support for keyboard covers. A higher-spec Pro model arrived soon after, and the Surface line was officially born.
Many viewed its launch as a direct response to Apple, whose iPad was extremely well received upon release two years earlier. Being responsible for both the hardware and software of its devices put Microsoft in a unique position among PC manufacturers.
You could say the original Surface was the first device to popularise the debate around whether a tablet can replace your laptop, an idea which Apple didn't introduce until the iPad Pro in 2015.
At its core, 2019's Surface Pro 7 retains all the hallmarks of the original model. Both are tablets running a full version of Windows, but require a keyboard cover to take full advantage of its functionality.
However, Microsoft has deviated significantly from this initial purpose, with the Surface moniker now simply tying together all the products the company makes.
All Surface products have a clear purpose
It's important to note that Microsoft has had a clear strategy behind the gradual introduction of more Surface products. The original Surface line has morphed into Surface Go in recent years, but all products continue to be supported by the company.
Here are the current Surface computers available to buy:
- Surface (now Surface Go) - The Surface Go has become the cheapest and most portable of all Surface computers, designed for everyday usage and maximum flexibility.
- Surface Pro - A more expensive version of the Surface Go, this is Microsoft's premium 2-in-1 and comes complete with high-end specs. The Surface Pro X bumped up the screen size and added a mobile chipset for an alternative take on Surface Pro.
- Surface Book - The original was the first Surface device to be marketed as a laptop rather than a tablet, and subsequent generations have focused on making this a premium device with as few compromises as possible.
- Surface Laptop - A more lightweight and portable version of the Surface Book, it was undoubtedly pitched as a MacBook Air rival following its 2017 release. A familiar clamshell design that can be taken anywhere.
- Surface Studio - An all-in-one PC primarily aimed at creators and digital artists, with a price tag to match
- Surface Hub - An interactive whiteboard, complete with touchscreen extensive pen support. Aimed at businesses and used for videoconferencing and collaboration purposes.
The Surface line has expanded to support nearly every potential use case, although the majority of its products still focus on being portable.
A new era of Surface products
There have been significant moments dotted throughout the history of Microsoft Surface, including the switch to Windows 10 and first laptop in the form of 2015's Surface Book.
However, at Microsoft's October 2019 event it announced two new products quite unlike anything we'd seen from the company before. The Surface Neo and Surface Duo are dual-screen devices that aim to change the way you use a computer.
The Neo will run Windows 10X, a modified version of the operating system we're so familiar with, but the Duo will come with Android. Both are expected to arrive in the coming months, more than a full calendar year after initial unveiling.
Such a form factor would have been unthinkable when the original Surface was released, and comes in response to the growing number of foldable phones on the market.
Microsoft's willingness to continue to adapt its Surface line to support as many people as possible has proven it is here to stay. It will be fascinating to see what the company has in store over the next eight years.
Want to buy a Surface product right now? Check out our round-up of the best Surface deals.