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Microsoft unveils AirPods rival and teases dual-screen Surface Neo

Microsoft is set to show off new products at its annual Surface event, including a refreshed Surface Pro, a foldable device and a smart speaker.

Microsoft took direct aim at Apple during its annual Surface event in New York on Wednesday.

The company unveiled its new Surface Earbuds, wireless earbuds that are clearly intended as a rival offering to Apple’s AirPods. Earbuds will work with Microsoft Office products and boast a full day of battery life, according to the company.

The product will be available later this year for $249, or slightly more than the $199 Apple charges for AirPods with a wireless charging case.

In an unusual move, Microsoft also teased a new dual-screen device called the Surface Neo that won’t be available until next holiday season, more than a year from now. The device combines two 9-inch screens and folds inward. You can flip it, reverse it and surf Netflix. It’s also possible to expand a single app across the two screens or use two apps at the same time.

The Surface Neo may remind some longtime Microsoft watchers of the Courier, a two-screen tablet concept that pre-dated the iPad. Former CEO Steve Ballmer famously killed that device.

At the event, Microsoft also introduced the Surface Pro 7, an updated tablet with USB-C and deeper integration with Microsoft Office, and the Surface Pro X, a laptop and tablet hybrid with a new processor, 4K video and an edge-to-edge display.

Microsoft said the Surface Pro X is the first and only Windows PC to have an integrated AI engine, which will correct a video call and bring the eye gaze up so if you’re talking to someone on a call, they appear to be making eye contact.

The tablets start at $749 and $999, respectively.

In addition to the tablets, Microsoft is expanding its hardware lineup with the Surface Laptop 3, a new laptop that instantly turns on when you open it and comes in an aluminum finish that’s the color of “sandstone.”

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, said the new laptop is “three times more powerful” than Apple’s MacBook Air. A 13-inch model will start at $999 and a 15-inch model will start at $1,199. Both will be available starting on October 22.

After years of high-profile hardware missteps, Microsoft has thrived in large part by focusing not on consumers, but enterprise customers. Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has made a successful years-long bet on cloud computing, positioning it as one of the two dominant players in this fast-growing market along with Amazon.

But Wednesday’s press event is yet another remind that Microsoft isn’t giving up on hardware either, both for consumers — with Earbuds — and business customers.

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