Microsoft is hosting a special invite-only event in New York City this week where we're likely to see what's next for its Surface devices and Windows 11.
This Microsoft September event takes place Thursday (September 21) at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT/3 p.m. BST; while it won't be live-streamed Tom's Guide will be there live to report on all the latest announcements as they happen.
We expect company chief Satya Nadella to make an appearance, and while the fact that Panos Panay is out at Microsoft means we won't see his familiar face fronting the Surface and Windows businesses, we likely will see new announcements about both.
So while you can't watch along from home, we do think Microsoft is going to have some new products to showcase. I expect we'll be introduced to a new Surface laptop or three, and I think we'll also get an update on where Windows 11 is at and how Microsoft plans to upgrade it in the coming year.
Ready to place some bets? Here's what I expect Microsoft will show off this week at its September 2023 event.
Surface Laptop Studio 2
There are already leaks and rumors about what Microsoft will show and tell us about at its event on Thursday. To my delight, one of the most believable bits is about a new Surface Laptop Studio with beefier components and more ports.
I find that exceedingly easy to believe because I think the Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft's coolest laptop in ages, and demands a sequel. In our original Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review I called it the laptop Windows 11 was meant to run on because it does such a compelling job of uniting all the strengths of a Windows device in one portable PC.
The Surface Laptop Studio is comfy to use for work yet powerful enough to play a decent array of games,. Also, the sliding hinge on its touchscreen makes the device remarkably usable as a tablet.
According to leaks reported on by sites like WinFuture, Microsoft is planning to unveil a new Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 with the same sliding screen design but with more ports, including a USB-A port and microSD card reader. The new machine is also tipped to feature the latest Intel 13th Gen Raptor Lake CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 laptop graphics cards.
Surface Laptop Go 3
The Surface Laptop Go 2 is the smallest and lightest full laptop in Microsoft's current Surface lineup, measuring just a bit thicker and a few ounces lighter than Apple's MacBook Air M2. It's also fairly cheap, costing between $599 and $999 when it debuted in the summer of 2022 and now discounted to even less.
But those are about the only nice things you can say about the Surface Laptop Go 2. When it launched, we wrote about how the Surface Laptop Go 2 isn't as good a value as it looks. That's because it shipped with disappointing components like a sub-1080p touchscreen, outdated 11th Gen Intel CPUs, a low-res 720p webcam and just 4GB of RAM on the entry-level model.
That was bad for even a $600 laptop, and when the Surface Laptop Go 2 debuted we recommended you look for something better among our list of the best budget laptops.
But now rumors are swirling that Microsoft might bring a successor to show off this week. According to WinFuture such a Surface Laptop Go 3 will have the same disappointing 12.4-inch (1,536 x 1,024 pixels) touchscreen as its predecessors, but it could run on a faster CPU (even if it is an outdated 12th Gen Intel Alder Lake chip). The base version is reportedly going to come with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage, which is the bare minimum you should expect from a Windows laptop these days.
Surface Go 4
It's easy to get the Surface Laptop Go and the Surface Go confused, but they're actually two different Microsoft computers. The Surface Go is the smaller, cheaper tablet version of the Surface Laptop Go, and Microsoft hasn't released one since 2021.
That model was the Surface Go 3, and when it launched in October 2021 we were pretty disappointed because it had the same tired design and weak performance as its predecessor, yet was actually worse than than Surface Go 2 in terms of battery life.
So while these pint-sized 10.5-inch tablets can be good if for some reason you want a cheap Windows 11 slate to give to a kid, in general the Surface Go line has failed to justify its existence as anything other than a cheaper also-ran next to Microsoft's more expensive, more powerful Surface Pro tablets.
But now we're reading reports that Microsoft just might try again this week by debuting a new Surface Go 4. Windows Central has claimed that Microsoft is planning to ship a Surface Go 4 this year with an updated (but still weak) Intel N200 chip. If true, that would still be pretty underwhelming news.
What would be more exciting would be to hear that Microsoft is including the detachable Type Cover keyboard for free with every new Go sold, instead of forcing customers to pay an additional $129 for the privilege of being able to type on their new Windows tablet.
Windows 11 and other Microsoft services get more AI
In addition to new Surface hardware we're expecting to get a few spiels from Microsoft execs about the new features coming to Windows 11 and other Microsoft services — most notably hits like Excel, Outlook and Word. Expect the word "AI" to get used a lot, as we expect Microsoft to continue down the trail it started blazing early this year by launching Bing with ChatGPT.
We already know the company is experimenting with new ways to use chatbots trained on large language learning models (LLM) and its own data in apps like Word and services like Windows 11, branding these nascent services with buzzwords like Microsoft 365 Copilot and Windows 11 Copilot. Windows 11 Copilot (which basically installs an AI assistant on the taskbar that you can ask for help) is already being tested by some early adopters in the Windows Preview Program, and I expect we'll see it promoted and given a final release window during this week's Microsoft event.
I think we'll also see a few surprising new ways Microsoft is pushing AI in its services, but maybe I'm biased after reporting earlier this week on Intel's new Meteor Lake chips debuting in December.
They'll be the first CPUs Intel's ever fabricated as chiplets, which means they're built of discrete slices of silicon united into one chip, with separate slices for the CPU, GPU and VPU—a new processing unit designed to specialize in the sort of computationally-demanding tasks we typically chalk up to "AI," like scanning an image and parsing text in it or blurring the background of your video feed in real time.
Meteor Lake chips will start showing up in Windows laptops at the end of this year, and when they do, I expect we'll see AI in Windows get a subtle but significant upgrade.
Microsoft has its work cut out for it this week.
The company needs to get people excited about its Surface computers again, and this is likely the one chance it will get this year, as Thursday looks to be the only big Microsoft press event of 2023. While Windows 11 and AI are sure to be big talking points for the company, it has to do something about its lackluster laptop lineup if it wants to be relevant in the market.
I say that because while recent Surface products like the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Laptop 5 are good enough, that's not acceptable when we're talking about Microsoft. This is the company Windows built, and it's borderline embarrassing that I rarely recommend Surface laptops to anyone even though I'm a diehard Windows user and review laptops for a living.
The fact is, Surface laptops are far from the best Windows laptops you can buy right now. This week Microsoft has a chance to change that, but with the sudden departure of longtime Surface leader Panos Panay on Monday, I'm feeling a lot less confident about the company's hardware plans for 2023.