Microsoft adds Surface Book 2 to its lineup

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In this Thursday, May 11, 2017, file photo, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, speaks at the Microsoft Build 2017 developers conference, in Seattle. Microsoft has begun rolling out an update to its Windows 10 ... operating system, hoping to spark enthusiasm for the company’s ambitions in virtual and augmented reality. The Windows 10 update became available Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Even as personal computer sales slow, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is adding yet another model to its growing line of Surface computers.

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The software giant on Tuesday announced a new 15-inch laptop geared toward creative professionals seeking a powerful device to work with images, video, music, software design and the resource-guzzling programs they use.

Microsoft's 15-inch Surface Book 2 is aimed squarely at Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7 processor, 256 gigabytes of storage and 16 gigabytes of memory, at a starting price of $2,499. Apple offers a 15-inch MacBook Pro with the same processor, and storage and memory amounts, for $100 less. The MacBook Pro, though, doesn't have touch capabilities or a detachable screen like the Surface Book 2.

The new 15-inch Surface Book 2, along with an updated 13.5-inch model that starts at $1,499, can be preordered Nov. 9 and will be available Nov. 16.

The computers are part of an expanding Surface lineup that includes the Surface Pro tablet-laptop hybrid refreshed in May, the lightweight Surface Laptop introduced the same month and the 28-inch touch-screen Surface Studio PC launched a year ago.

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Microsoft is expanding the Surface portfolio despite the brand seeing uneven results. In April, fiscal third-quarter revenue for the entire Surface line fell 26% to $831 million, something Microsoft finance chief at the time Amy Hood attributed to stiff price competition as well as a dearth of new Surface products. Microsoft narrowed those revenue declines to 2% in the fiscal fourth quarter.

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The overall PC market isn't making things any easier. Earlier this month, market-research firm Gartner Inc. reported global PC shipments slid 3.6% in the third quarter, the 12th consecutive declining quarter. The U.S. market saw a particularly steep 10% drop, in part because of a "very weak back-to-school sales season," the firm said.

Still, Microsoft sees these Surface devices as showcases -- premium computers intended to both highlight the capabilities of its Windows operating system and inspire high-end designs from the company's hardware partners. In an interview, Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president in charge of Windows, said the new 15-inch Surface Book 2 is a mobile workstation that can handle robust videogames as well as high-end computing work.

The software giant also began rolling out a new major update to its Windows 10 operating system on Tuesday, something it now does twice a year. The latest update includes a new photo application that uses artificial intelligence to suggest animated slideshows from a user's media collection, pulling together snaps of horses, for example, based on image recognition technology.

Microsoft is also adding new virtual-reality and augmented-reality features to Windows. The update includes Microsoft's Mixed Reality Viewer, software that lets users see 3-D objects on their computer screens.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said the first virtual-reality headsets that connect to Windows 10 PCs -- from Acer Inc., Dell Inc., HP Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. -- are available in stores and online. A VR headset from a fifth partner, Samsung Electronics Co., is available for preorder and will be in stores Nov. 6.

In May, Microsoft said 500 million devices were running Windows 10; it declined to update that figure.

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