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Microsoft details how Surface firmware evolved over more than ten years

The Surface family with all the latest devices

Every Microsoft computer ships with its dedicated firmware—special software that manages how different hardware components interact with each other to deliver a seamless user experience. Power management, thermals, security, connectivity, and other features are all managed by Surface firmware. In a new blog post, Microsoft revealed how its firmware evolved over the last 10+ years.

In 2012, when Microsoft unveiled the original Surface and Surface Pro, the company had the simple task of managing firmware for just two devices. Each computer had its custom firmware tailored to its specific needs. However, Microsoft later expanded the lineup with more devices, form factors, and device categories, each with its features and quirks. Addressing issues and implementing new features became a tedious task.

The Surface team decided to tackle the challenge with a new approach of using a shared firmware architecture with a common core for all Surface devices and device-specific extensions. That allowed the creation, for example, of a single fix that would apply to multiple models across the lineup. Quick and efficient, this method standardized firmware updates when it was implemented nine years ago.

Surface Pro 8 Laptop Studio Go 3 Pro X and Duo 2 devices placed in a white background

However, new problems appeared as Microsoft was expanding its Surface portfolio. Hardware scalability and better flexibility, plus the need for a more efficient way to deliver reliable updates, required Microsoft to come up with a new approach.

As a result, developers implemented "a robust firmware architecture," which is now in use in almost every Surface device. It features improved interoperability across platforms and chip makers, robust automation, code reusability, and a consistent user experience across different form factors, such as tablets, laptops, docks, etc.

Despite the improvements, Microsoft says its Surface firmware journey is far from over, and the company is constantly looking for new ways to improve its device ecosystem and firmware platform. Those include things like better sensor integration, RUST-based security measures, and various convenient features.

Surface firmware updates we often cover here at Neowin may not look as exciting as Windows feature updates. Still, behind those updates, a team of engineers is working tirelessly to deliver a great user experience.

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