Of all the items Microsoft showed off during its devices event last Wednesday, the surprise Surface Dial was one of the most curious. Will it be as useful and as cool as it looked on stage? Or will it be something that makes sense for graphic artists, but pretty much no one else?
Microsoft its new peripheral will have broad aappeal. The company recently published a list of apps on the Surface Dial’s page on the Microsoft Store that are designed to work with it. There are certainly a ton of graphics-related apps and programs listed, but you can find a few apps for us stick-drawing types too.
Here’s the complete list:
- Mental Canvas
- Silicon Benders
- Smith Micro
- Windows (limited system interactions)
- Word, PPT, Excel (desktop versions)
- OneNote (UWP version)
- Windows Maps
- Groove Music
- PewPew Shooter
- Microsoft Photos
The puck-shaped Surface Dial is designed as a complement to other input devices, especially the Surface Pen. When placed on the display of the new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop, it brings up a radial menu that changes based on the app currently in use. It works with other Surface devices including the Surface Pro 3, Pro 4, and Surface Book, but only the Studio is capable of screen-to-puck interactions.
The story behind the story: The Surface Dial is only the latest development in Microsoft’s long-running experimentation with radial interfaces. The most obvious predecessor was the OneNote MX radial menu that first appeared in 2012. That interface was part of Microsoft’s Windows 8-era attempt to rethink interfaces for touch. More recently we got a look at an early concept of the Dial in Microsoft’s 2015 video Productivity Future Vision. At the time we dubbed that mystery device the “puck mouse.”
The “puck mouse” was a little more advanced than the humble Surface Dial, however, as it had a built-in display—and appeared to be waterproof. Notably, that 2015 concept video also made liberal use of radial menus.
The Surface Dial starts shipping on November 10 and is available for pre-order now for $99.