The tech industry defines itself by answering the question of what’s next. Over the course of this year, I’ve grown increasingly convinced that the most immediate next wave of technological change won’t be the electric autonomous car or the full-frame mirrorless camera, but something a lot more quotidian. Our headphones are about to change dramatically, and Microsoft just put an accelerant into the furnace of change with its new Surface Headphones.
What I’m talking about isn’t an alteration in physical design, and the Surface headphones certainly don’t look very different from existing over-ear headphone models. Functionally, the Surface cans don’t stand out much, either: they’re wireless via Bluetooth 4.2, offer noise canceling, charge via USB-C (as they should), and last for up to 15 hours. Microsoft puts its Windows logo on them, and it adds the novelty of 13 different levels of noise canceling (adjustable by rotating a ring around the left ear cup), but the Surface headphones are not breaking new ground in technical terms, either. But they do have Cortana.