We've been to enough press events over the years to know that expectations should be kept in check. In the PC industry, in particular, underwhelming presenters and failed product demos have become par for the course, so it came as a surprise to see Microsoft hitting it out of the park, repeatedly, at yesterday's Windows 10 devices event.
As a technology enthusiast, it was genuinely exciting to see a company appear so confident in its own resurgence. And you know, this is Microsoft, that boring old firm who in the eyes of the cool gang has long since been surpassed by fresh new ideas from the likes of Apple and Google.
It's a little weird thinking of Microsoft as an underdog - over 100,000 employees and an annual revenue of nearly $100 billion suggests otherwise - but you can't ignore the fact that the company has suffered its fair share of high-profile setbacks in recent years. Windows 8 never really got going, Lumia smartphones continue to struggle to sell in any meaningful volume, and though the Xbox One appears to be back on track, Microsoft has repeatedly demonstrated an uncanny ability to botch a product launch, irrespective of the quality of the device or service. Zune comes to mind and... wait, what was it called? Oh yeah, Kin.
But something has changed. Under Satya Nadella's leadership, Microsoft appears to have rediscovered its mojo as a software and devices firm, and when it took to the stage in New York to showcase what's new in terms of Windows, Surface, Lumia, Xbox and Band, it did so with such panache and verve that you could barely wait to see what would be unveiled next.
It all started with a mind-boggling demonstration of HoloLens, which despite being an experimental device still some way from a consumer release is surely the most convincing depiction of the future of PC interaction. This however wasn't an event of upcoming potential but rather a sure-fire representation of where Microsoft is at today. The beautiful Surface Pro 4 is the leader in a category it helped create, and though Apple's iPad Pro and Google's Pixel C serve as stern competition, they remain a step behind what is arguably Microsoft's most interesting division.
So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to find that the show's big reveal also came from the Surface team, whose Surface Book arrived on stage as, quite simply, the ultimate laptop. And it really is a thing of beauty. We've become so accustomed to high-end PCs being shameless replicas of MacBook design that it was astonishing to see Microsoft deliver something unique, different, and arguably more extraordinary. That hinge. The detachable display. And a discrete GeForce GPU in the base working in tandem with a Skylake CPU sat behind the display? This is the 2-in-1 we've always wanted.
And that wasn't all. The event went on for well over an hour but Panos Panay's fast and witty delivery made it feel like a blur. Jaw-dropping Surface devices were joined by two Lumia smartphones - the 950 and 950 XL - that look at least as good as anything else on the market at their respective price points, and if we absolutely had to pick a wearable, we'd be inclined to lean toward the new Band. It's one of few wearables that knows what it wants to be, and it too is a lustworthy bit of kit.
We're sure Microsoft's array of OEM partners weren't enamoured, and from a consumer point of view there aren't many bargains to be found, but these are aspirational products and Microsoft has raised the bar for PC innovation and injected a feeling of desire that for so long has been reserved exclusively for Apple.
Satya Nadella once stated that "We (Microsoft) want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows." That won't happen overnight, but I will say this: I want a Surface Pro 4. I want a Lumia 950 XL. And I wouldn't mind a Band, too.