First there was the original Surface, Microsoft’s entry into the tablet-laptop hybrid market. Everyone was convinced they’d just released their next Zune or Windows Phone, but this time MS had a smarter strategy in mind. They found a market that Apple wasn’t chasing — artists — and started appealing to them with commercials about people painting and shaping 3D models with the Surface’s pen.
Three years later the Surface line is holding its own in the market and becoming a popular creative tool for the average scribbler. And Microsoft actually made Apple blink — you can now buy an “Apple Pencil” to draw on iPads with. For paid professionals, however, Wacom has been the only name in digital art for quite some time. Their gigantic Cintiq workstations are in use by nearly every comics artist and every animation studio.
But as of today, Wacom may finally be facing its first true competitor. Microsoft threw down the gauntlet this morning and unveiled their new Surface Studio at the Windows 10 Event. It’s similar to a Cintiq, only with one difference: it’s a computer and a touchscreen workstation in one. Cintiq monitors require a separately purchased desktop computer, but the Surface Studio comes with one — and for the same price as some of the higher-end models ($3000). This is a strategy aimed directly at companies.
Will Pixar and Dreamworks be bringing their future movies to life on Microsoft machines, or will Wacom accept the challenge and fight back with their own improvements? Speaking as a Cintiq and a Surface owner, it’s going to get exciting for the consumer very soon.