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Third party developers can implement support for the device. Users can control color palette selections, animation timelines, zooming and other features using the Dial. It also offers haptic feedback to make it feel as if the dial is clicking. This is useful when users are focused on the Surface Pen while using the Dial in the background.
Although the Dial can be used independently from the monitor, its most useful applications are unleashed when the device is placed on the screen. The Dial is part of a package of accessories that include a keyboard, mouse and Surface Pen. As most computers are becoming more independent, dropping external accessories and ports, Microsoft counters this trend with a complete collection of gadgets.
Is the Surface Dial Necessary?
The Surface Dial is an optional accessory. Surface Studio users don’t have to purchase it, however, it will end up rendering certain key applications less useful.
To be blunt, a touchscreen computer shouldn’t require a physical dial control. Instead, a dial or any other virtual control could be presented on the touch screen. Users can interact with the touch screen to rotate the control, move levers, or do just about anything. The screen could also provide haptic feedback, as Apple offers on the iPhone and iPad Pro.
The Surface Dial can actually be rendered as a virtual control. Users can remove the physical device to display a virtual representation of the Dial. Again, why not just make it virtual?
The Surface Dial is just one more gadget to fiddle with. Users must either move their hand to the Dial as it rests on their desk, or pick it up and place it on the screen. It’s a lot of activity to do something as simple change settings or zoom in and out of a document. After the novelty wears off (and the batteries wear out), I think a lot of users will end up putting it away in a desk drawer.
Surface Dial vs. Apple’s TouchBar
Given that Microsoft and Apple debuted products on consecutive days, it only took the blogosphere a nanosecond to compare the two products, which aren’t the same. I immediately saw the headlines — Apple was bested by Microsoft. Wait a minute! These features aren’t the same. One is actually useful, and the other is a gimmick.
Apple’s TouchBar is quite different from Microsoft’s Surface Dial. For one, it is not an external accessory. You don’t need to worry about carrying the device, knocking it off the table or replacing the battery. The TouchBar is completely built-in. It’s also much more useful.
The TouchBar replaces the function keys on the keyboard. Users no longer have to learn what F1 or F2 represent. It’s all displayed on the TouchBar. Beyond apps, users can control macOS system settings directly from the customizable TouchBar. It can also read your fingerprint, providing advanced security for your device and online shopping. Sure, it doesn’t have the slick appeal of a separate device. Quite honestly, I like the direction computing is heading, where all of these devices are becoming virtual or embedded. You won’t find me toting an iPad Pro and Apple pencil, but I wouldn’t mind owning one of these new MacBook Pros.
The Surface Dial Is a Gimmick
If you’ve witnessed Microsoft’s flashy product event, you may be convinced that the Surface Dial is the best thing since sliced bread. Microsoft presenters rationalize the device as something natural and real-world. After all, when you write or draw with a pen on paper, aren’t you twisting a knob too? Of course not. There’s nothing natural about it. While that may not be a good thing, why make that claim? It comes off a bit “used car dealer-ish” or “infomercial-ish” to me. It slices, dices… If Apple has a reality distortion field, Microsoft has created the reality distortion death star powered by the nearby moon of Endor.