Microsoft takes on AirPods with $249 Surface Earbuds

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2019
Microsoft has launched its own competition to Apple's lauded AirPods, with the introduction of the Surface Earbuds claimed to be productive earwear with 24 hours of battery life and improved microphones.




Introduced alongside expected changes to the Surface lineup, the Surface Earbuds appear as large circles when worn, with each screwing into the ear canal to be secured. Microsoft claims this is a "simple design that balances against two points in the ear."

The large circle surfaces are also the points of interaction with the Earbuds, used for tapping and swiping. On an Android device, tapping the Earbuds can open Spotify up for the user, allowing them to listen to music without needing to get their device out at all, though it remains to be seen how this will work on an iPhone.

There is also considerable integration with Office, with the earbuds used to navigate slides in PowerPoint and to provide a transcript of the speaker's words.

Capable of "one-click pairing" to devices, Microsoft also claims they are highly useful for office dictation, using a pair of directional microphones on each earbud to allow it to work with voice commands.

The company claims the Earbuds are capable of "24 hours of battery life," albeit without advising if this is with the assistance of a charging case, as with the AirPods.

Microsoft will be shipping the Surface Earbuds in time for the holiday shopping period, starting at $249.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    sdw2001jbdragonlordjohnwhorfinviclauyycmagman1979lkruppStrangeDaysdoctwelvelolliverEsquireCats
  • Reply 2 of 38
    navigating slides is ridiculous but, presumably, the buttons can be programmed for more useful things.

    most conspicuously, microsoft are bold to price these at $249.  wow.
    watto_cobradamn_its_hot
  • Reply 3 of 38
    Microsoft passes on the name Zune Buds?
    sdw2001lordjohnwhorfinlkruppStrangeDaysdoctwelvelolliverwatto_cobraFileMakerFellerdamn_its_hot
  • Reply 4 of 38
    navigating slides is ridiculous but, presumably, the buttons can be programmed for more useful things.

    most conspicuously, microsoft are bold to price these at $249.  wow.
    And haters are crying AirPods are too expensive lol.

    I always take my AirPods out by grabbing its stems. This looks kind of awkward to put in and take out. And I suppose in the case you’ll push for them to pop?
    edited October 2019 watto_cobradamn_its_hot
  • Reply 5 of 38
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,677member
    Those look ridiculous and are overpriced.  Period.  
    jbdragonmagman1979PickUrPoisonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 38
    Nothing new here - it has always been embarassing being a Microsoft fan.
    revenantmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 38
    DeathDeath Posts: 7unconfirmed, member
    Is that a quarter shoved up in your ear son? No grandpa it's 249 dollars
    viclauyycmwhitemagman1979hydrogenthtStrangeDaysdoctwelverevenantlolliverEsquireCats
  • Reply 8 of 38
    Pop sockets for your ears... And people complained about the look of the AirPods? Seriously now. At least MS made these true wireless, unless the embarrassingly ugly, tethered and overpriced Google Pixel Buds -- those are an amazing ripoff only Google fanbois could fall for.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 38
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,834member
    It's kind of surprising to see Microsoft so heavily invested in the "Surface" brand across so many different products. The original Microsoft Surface was a coffee table sized PC monstrosity that had very limited appeal. I guess they had to pick something, and "Bob" apparently didn't make the short list, even though "Bob Buds" would sound kind of cool.

    I kind of agree with commenters who see Apple as the universal R&D and proving ground for new categories of products that other companies go on to blatantly copy without even a single tinge of embarrassment. The practice is so common that being the third, fourth, or hundred and twenty seventh company to copy an Apple product doesn't really matter. To be clear, Apple may not always be the first company to come up with a concept or a prototype, but they are quite often the first company to come up with a design that has mass appeal and goes on to become the archetype for the product or product category. Being the archetype means that most others who follow in Apple's wake are nearly compelled to copy Apple's proven design since deviating from it by much would render their own product at best unproven and at worst irrelevant. Once Apple shipped the iPhone everyone else in the phone handset business HAD to ship a phone that largely mimicked the iPhone if they wanted to stay relevant. They had no choice regardless of intellectual property rights and copyrights. 

    Sure, companies could try to produce something even better than what Apple is able to produce, or get something nearly as good to market sooner. I don't know why this does not happen very often. Maybe they don't even try, or maybe they simply don't have the collective skills and people needed to pull it off, so following Apple's lead is good enough for them. I suspect it's rooted in their narrow focus on getting a quick return on their investments, low risk tolerance, and lack of focus. In reality, when it comes to moving concepts to viable products, Apple probably fails far more often than it succeeds. However, they probably learn a lot from their internal and in-the-lab, i.e., R&D, failures and only move product candidates forward that survive the Steve Jobs "you have to say no far more often than you say yes" mindset. This is an expensive process, which again provides more insight into why other companies are often looking to follow Apple's example and only latch onto proven winners.       
    viclauyycwatto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 38
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    viclauyycCarnageCloudTalkinbigtdsmocseg
  • Reply 11 of 38
    I have Beats Pro for a week now and the sounds are ridiculously awesome. I work out everyday and the darn thing sticks in my ears whatever i do, haven’t tried swimming with it though, hahaha 
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 38
    foljsfoljs Posts: 382member
    So, no noise cancelling?

    If Apple indeed comes out next month (as expected by some analyst) with Airpods 3, improved from Airpods 2 AND with noise cancelling (like Sony already has), these are next to useless...

    But even if Apple doesn't add noise cancelling to Airpods 3, these MS earbuds are still just as much (or more) expensive that the current Airpods 2, and offer nothing especially compelling -- perhaps battery life.

    edited October 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 38
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 355member
    I don't quite see why Microsoft is putting out these products. Most of the users in the PC world laugh at Surface prices as absurd using the same argument as they do against Apple products. They are selling them, but it is not to consumers as you can't wean them from $400 craptops.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 38
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,228member
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    WRONG...

    Truly wireless ear buds, aka ones that didn't have a stupid cable that connected between the two of them, did not exist before AirPods. Those were the first truly WIRELESS ear buds, and they sound amazing to boot.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 38
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,771member
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    WRONG...

    Truly wireless ear buds, aka ones that didn't have a stupid cable that connected between the two of them, did not exist before AirPods. Those were the first truly WIRELESS ear buds, and they sound amazing to boot.
    Not true, and a simple google search would tell you that.
    edited October 2019 CarnagephilboogieCloudTalkinbigtdsfastasleepmocseg
  • Reply 16 of 38
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,048member
    To be clear, Apple may not always be the first company to come up with a concept or a prototype,

    I think Apple may be the first in a lot more instances than given credit for, in that they've done a lot of prototypes that have never seen the light of day. So first to market, not all that often.


    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.

    Hater FUD, using "scare quotes" to imply Apple or fans of Apple claim Apple invented something. That never happened. But haters trot that trope out routinely, as do they with the 'it's all marketing' FUD.

    All the marketing in the world doesn't do a fucking bit of good if the product is bad. Word eventually gets out. The AirPods not only survived critics bashing, but they've flourished. They far outnumber any competition's products. My only complaint is that they're still expensive expensive enough that I balk at owning more than one pair. I'd like to have three, but that's pricey. And I wish individual replacements were cheaper, but that won't happen.

    The AirPods took a lot of bashing for their appearance – EarPods with the cord cut somehow made them weird?? But these MS SurfaceBuds look HUGE, and resemble '60s kitsch women's earrings. I look forward to seeing pics of people wearing them. 

    Not crazy about the execution (they're HUGE) but I like the screw-in concept. One complaint of a lot of buds is the lack of bass. This can be because of weak output or the desire for excessive bass, but often is just a matter of poor fitting buds do to design or improperly placing them in ears. Are these all plastic like AirPods or do they have rubber/silicone tips. I hope AI does a hands on and/or review.


    lkruppStrangeDaysphilboogiePickUrPoisonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 38
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,480member
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    No. While wireless earbuds existed before AirPods they looked bad, sounded bad, and had problems connecting. Once Apple showed how to do it the others suddenly took notice that AirPods were selling very well and the CEOs called a meeting to say, “Boys and girls, we gotta get on this train before it runs away from us. Get something on the market, make it cheaper and then pay some flunky on C|net to declare ours are better than AirPods. Now hop to it! And while you’re working on it I’ll tell the marketing department to crank up the FUD about iPhones not having 3.5mm earphone jacks. Yeah, thats’ the ticket."

    edited October 2019 auxiowatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 38
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,597member
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    As another noted, like most things, Apple didn’t do them first but did do them best, leading the way for the industry. Plus Apple did vastly improve the experience over plain BT, by making them work with all your devices without pairing to each and every one. (My shower head BT speaker is so annoying, I have to unpair the prev device before it can even successfully pair with another device). 

    APs were also much less expensive than the similar wireless buds of the day which were $199+. 
    edited October 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 38
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,335member
    crowley said:
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    WRONG...

    Truly wireless ear buds, aka ones that didn't have a stupid cable that connected between the two of them, did not exist before AirPods. Those were the first truly WIRELESS ear buds, and they sound amazing to boot.
    Not true, and a simple google search would tell you that.
    And did you ever use any of these?  I tried a few and the pairing process was cumbersome + the sound quality wasn't very good due to Bluetooth limitations.  Apple's R&D is very much a factor here because they'll iterate on an idea until it's done right.  Just inventing something new isn't enough, you need to actually care about the details which make for a great experience.  Contrary to what the head-up-their-technical-details crowd believes, it's not just marketing which makes a product a success.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 38
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,907member
    auxio said:
    crowley said:
    MacPro said:
    Apple, the tech world's R&D department.
    More like the tech world's marketing department. Wireless buds existed before Apple "invented" them but no one was buying them.
    WRONG...

    Truly wireless ear buds, aka ones that didn't have a stupid cable that connected between the two of them, did not exist before AirPods. Those were the first truly WIRELESS ear buds, and they sound amazing to boot.
    Not true, and a simple google search would tell you that.
    And did you ever use any of these?  I tried a few and the pairing process was cumbersome + the sound quality wasn't very good due to Bluetooth limitations.  Apple's R&D is very much a factor here because they'll iterate on an idea until it's done right.  Just inventing something new isn't enough, you need to actually care about the details which make for a great experience.  Contrary to what the head-up-their-technical-details crowd believes, it's not just marketing which makes a product a success.
    That wasn't Crowley's point.

    Also, it is way off the mark to say the industry is following Apple in this case.

    ALL of the issues the AirPods solve are common issues to truly wireless earbuds. There is nothing other companies weren't aware of or planning to tackle. In fact some issues remain, like them being virtually disposable devices.

    Apple releasing the AirPods didn't suddenly key the industry in on how to tackle those issues. What Apple basically did was develop a custom chip to remedy certain aspects.

    Other companies have done the same and others are waiting for industrywide players to fulfill their roadmaps to have the parts on the market to the required specifications and, importantly, price. Apple doesn't have to do that, of course.

    We are now seeing a mix of products reaching the market employing both approaches. As Bluetooth 5.1 hits the mainstream, we will see even more.

    Things like pairing, syncing, weight, autonomy, latency, bandwidth, interference, noise cancellation, fit, colour, format support, user interaction, power consumption, wind reduction, bone voice ID etc are not things only Apple was aware of.

    The entire industry has been working on those aspects but all the pieces have to fall into place before most companies can bring a great product to market.

    With the exception of the battery problem and having to replace the pair when its depleted (an issue that lingers industrywide AFAIK), the AirPods seem great. I don't know for sure because my wife and I can't use the form factor because our ears aren't the right shape for them (any ear phone with that form factor).

    The same applies for audio quality. I'm sure it's great for the form factor.

    But saying Apple was the industries R&D department is off the mark. There are common problems that need(ed) to be overcome in this area and many of them have now been resolved. Apple had a headstart and it looks like it doesn't now (unless the AirPods 3 actually do appear this month - there were rumours).

    I think price is OK. If they can offer a wider range of fit and sort the battery issue, my wife could be interested.
    muthuk_vanalingammocseg
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