Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop — a conventional clamshell — is aimed at Google’s education-centric Chromebook and a longstanding student favorite, the MacBook. But the Surface Laptop may be a tough sell considering its design.
The pure laptop design is a first for Microsoft, which has been focused on selling its laptop-tablet hybrid, the Surface Pro. Sold as a standalone tablet, the Surface Pro was designed to convert to a laptop-like experience if buyers also purchase Microsoft’s $130 Type Cover detachable keyboard. The problem from day one has been that the Surface Pro never really worked very well as a laptop because of its tablet-first design that props the screen up on a stand.
Enter the Surface Laptop, which starts at $999 and is aimed squarely at the MacBook Air. “Crafted to bring new form and function to the classic laptop design,” Microsoft said in a statement.
The svelte 0.57-inch-thick Surface Laptop includes a 13.5-inch high-resolution (2,256-by-1,504) touch display that can be used with a stylus and has a built-in keyboard. Microsoft claims the battery life is a MacBook Air-beating 14 hours.
Below is a video of the laptop on Microsoft’s YouTube page:
It also comes standard with Microsoft’s stripped-down Windows 10 S, which only runs the limited number of apps you can get on the Microsoft Store. Consumers, however, can switch to the mainstream Windows 10 Pro for free until Dec 31, 2017.
Since 2015, Microsoft has also been selling the more user-friendly Surface Book, which includes a detachable keyboard in the price. But it’s expensive, starting at $1500, putting it out of reach for most consumers and especially students.
Will it convert buyers?
The challenge for Microsoft is that schools and students have been flocking to cheap Chromebooks, which run Google’s barebones Chrome operating system, while MacBooks have long been a student mainstay.
“I don’t believe these moves will impede Chrome OS’s continued momentum in U.S. K-12 – at least not for the immediate future,” Linn Huang, an analyst at market researcher IDC, told Fox News. “But it does give Microsoft a stronger arsenal to defend against Chrome building deeper inroads into non-U.S. education markets.”
And what about Apple strength in education? “MacBooks tend to do better in higher education than in K-12. The iPad was once the darling of the U.S K-12 device market, but Chromebooks assumed that title a few years ago,” Huang added.
The $999 version of the Surface Laptop might have an easier time against the MacBook these days. The aging MacBook Air starts at $999, while the more up-to-date 12-inch MacBook starts at $1,299.
Why is Microsoft building a laptop?
The Surface Laptop begs the question, why come out with a laptop when Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other Microsoft hardware partners already offer a raft of laptops running Windows. “The new Surface bothers me because it [goes] after Microsoft’s partners’ business,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told Fox News.
“It’s aimed directly at the sweet spot on the product spectrum, the place where OEMs [PC makers] can still make money. Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn’t really take care of end customers and still needs the OEMs to get to market,” Kay said.
IDC’s Huang agrees, noting this puts Microsoft squarely up against its partners. “Today, [Microsoft offers] a detachable, an AIO [all-in-one], and now a conventional notebook,” Huang said. “They’re also sitting at the premium in each of these categories, content to let the partners fight over the lower price, high volume market downstream in the pricing spectrum.”
The Surface Laptop comes in four colors platinum, graphite gold, burgundy and cobalt blue and will be available starting June 15.