In short: Microsoft has now announced a new set of noise-cancelling wireless headphones equipped with Cortana, the Surface Headphones. At present, the company has not confirmed much of the availability information other than stating the headphones are initially expected to only be available to buy in the US and the UK, and “in time for the holidays.” Likewise, Microsoft has yet to confirm pricing for its new Surface Headphones.
Background: As the name suggests, these headphones are primarily designed to work with the company’s Surface line of products, and were announced during the Surface event that took place today in New York where a number of Surface-related products and features were unveiled. However, these are in effect just Bluetooth headphones and so while they are likely to offer additional benefits when used with Microsoft-branded products, they will just as easily work with any Bluetooth-enabled device, including Android smartphones.
Impact: The launch of the Surface Headphones will see Microsoft moving firmly into the premium headphone market, in much the same way Apple, Google, and Samsung already have. While the pricing has not been officially confirmed yet, these do definitely seem to be positioned as a premium option due to the inclusion of an on board AI, the use of an over-the-ear design to facilitate noise-cancellation (this is an adjustable noise-cancellation as well with up to 13 levels to choose from), and 40mm drivers which are expected to offer a heightened sound quality. There are also some other notable and over-the-top features included, such as the ability for the headphones to automatically start and stop when they are removed from the head. As well as the inclusion of eight microphones, four of which are beamforming mics to assist with Cortana’s ability to hear the wearer. According to Microsoft, the ear cups also include dials which let the wearer adjust either the volume or the noise-cancellation. This is all in addition to the more standard features one might expect from a pair of headphones, including the ability to make and take hands-free calls, and of course, music playback. A brief overview of some of the main features, as well as a closer look at the general design of the Surface Headphones can be seen in the new promotional video below.