Microsoft's new Lumia 950 phone

Microsoft's biggest hardware event

Microsoft unveiled Tuesday a new family of phones and devices designed for the Windows 10 operating system at a New York City event.

The Lumia 950 and 950 XL feature an organic LED display that lights up with notifications without the user touching the screen, using close to zero battery life. They also have 32 GB of storage and updated 20-megapixel cameras with image stabilizers and 4K video capabilities.

The Lumia 950, at $549, includes a 5.2-inch display and a hexacore processor, while the larger Lumia 950 XL, at $649, has a 5.7-inch display with an octa-core chip. Both will be available in November, with a third phone, Lumia 550, starting at $139 in December.

The phones debuted alongside several other devices, including 2-in-1 tablet Surface Pro 4, a Surface Book laptop, wearable Microsoft Band, virtual reality device HoloLens and limited-edition Xbox One consoles.

Microsoft Lumina 950
Source: Microsoft

The new hardware, with faster processors and better battery life, will showcase the capabilities of Microsoft's new operating system, which is designed to transition more smoothly between devices and focuses on enterprise productivity. The Lumia phones, for example, can run two programs simultaneously, one displayed on a monitor and one in your palm, by plugging in a device called Display Dock.

"We believe Windows 10 could be a potential game changer," analyst Daniel Ives of FBR & Co. wrote in a research note. "In our opinion the company has done a commendable job narrowing the gap from a technology perspective ... to at least get Microsoft into the conversation among consumers. That said, this is going to be a long road for [Microsoft CEO Satya] Nadella as Microsoft plays major catch-up on this key market, with all hopes relying on Windows 10 to brighten the consumer growth prospects."

About 110 million devices now run the new OS, with the share of Windows 10-enabled devices at retail growing each month since the launch, Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and devices group at Microsoft, said at the event.

Shares of the technology giant were up around 0.5 percent midafternoon Tuesday.

Moving past the traditional PC

Microsoft has made its mark in years past in the enterprise and gaming spheres, but struggled to take down iOS and Android in the mobile phone market. Meanwhile, Apple and Google recently upped their bets on enterprise and gaming, on top of renewed phone offerings.

Amid soft demand for its legacy software products, Microsoft has seen revenue hit as it restructures to focus less on personal computers and more on cloud computing, according to its July earnings report. But Nadella said rather than moving away from personal computing, Microsoft's mission is to redefine it.

"We plan to invent new personal computers and new personal computing," Nadella said at Tuesday's event. "It's ... a device we're excited about, but it's a new paradigm."

Suface Pro 4 and Surface Book

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Crawford Del Prete, analyst at IDC, who specializes in enterprise technology, said most people don't realize how the Surface tablets pushed the market forward for similar devices.

"It's a category that is getting a lot of excitement and innovative designs," Del Prete said. "Microsoft is one of the companies that is responsible for that. There are a lot of skeptics but they created a billion-dollar business in a relatively short period of time."

Indeed, the Surface Pro 4 took direct aim at Apple's iPad Pro and Pencil. The Surface Pro's Pen has interchangeable tips, an eraser and a year of battery life.

"It's the best pen and touch experience you've ever witnessed on any product out there," Microsoft's device guru, Panos Panay, said Tuesday. "It's kind of funny there's a pen out there without an eraser."

Panay also jabbed at Apple's performance specs, saying the Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than MacBook Air.

Visitors use laptop computers as they try out Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 10 operating system during a product launch event in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, July 29, 2015.
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Other highlights of the convertible tablet, available for preorder Oct. 7 for $899, included 1 TB of storage, an upgraded display, a sturdier keyboard with a fingerprint reader and what Panay called the thinnest optical stack that can be shipped.

Microsoft also released a companion convertible laptop, Surface Book, with similar touch sensitivity, but a more powerful keyboard with back-lit, quiet keys and a glass track pad. The 1.6-pound laptop, optimized for gaming and graphics, has a 13.5-inch display, 12 hours of battery life and high-speed memory, twice as fast as the MacBook Pro.

The computer also has reversible screen with a fulcrum hinge. The Surface Book starts at $1,499, and is available for preorder Oct. 7 and retail Oct. 26, the company said.

App offerings

Xbox and PlayStation signage on display at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
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Though Microsoft engineers touted the devices as the fastest in their class, they aren't without competition.

In addition to more sophisticated iPad Pro and Chromebook offerings, Apple and Android have already delivered in an area where Microsoft lags: a robust app store across devices. Windows phones had less than 3 percent of the worldwide smartphone market as of August, IDC estimated.

"The thing they really need to do is deliver on universal apps for PC customers," Del Prete said.

Panay said universal apps like Facebook and Uber are on the way, in addition to Microsoft Pen-enabled versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. Most Netflix users on Windows 10, for example, now use the app, rather than the browser, Myerson said. Microsoft Office 2016 will available on mobile devices via the cloud, too, the company said in an earlier release.

Lifestyle and gaming upgrades

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In addition to its flagship productivity-centered devices, Microsoft also debuted a series of Windows 10 devices for lifestyle and gaming.

The $249 Band wearable, similar to an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, was updated with a curved, scratch-resistant screen and a more flexible strap, and syncs with a universal Microsoft Health app on phones and PCs, said Lindsey Matese of Microsoft's health team . It also includes some exclusive features for hard-core health nuts, like the ability to track elevation, oxygen intake, and calories burned in both carbohydrates and fats, and a golf scorecard.

Xbox One will also see an upgrade in time for the holiday season, the company said, with Windows 10, a new controller for speed and accuracy, and compatibility with Xbox 360 games. New limited-edition consoles with designs inspired by games like "Halo" and "Fallout" will also launch for the holidays, Microsoft said.

The company also gave viewers a peek into what to expect in 2016, with an update on its virtual reality device HoloLens.

Microsoft demonstrated a "mixed reality" game where the user could fight monsters, moving throughout the room wearing the goggle-like device. The virtual monsters appeared to burst through the walls, highlighting HoloLens' ability to make objects touch and ricochet off any object in a room.

— CNBC's Josh Lipton and Reuters contributed to this report.