The Controversial Surface Laptop

Today Microsoft unveiled a device so controversial and divisive it has split the Windows community….and it was a laptop.

It was a laptop running a new version of Windows; without the next big peripheral or any of the surprise twists of previous devices.

The Surface Laptop may be the most controversial thing to come out of Redmond and here is why.

Simple and Clean

With the Surface Laptop, the Surface team did something they have never done before; they made a device without a hook. They didn’t make the Laptop a second version of the Surface Book or a new take on the Surface Pro. The Surface Laptop is not a hybrid Tablet PC; it is just what the name implies (a LAPTOP).  In doing so Microsoft has divided Windows enthusiasts and Surface diehards.

Between late last night and during the event I read a lot of responses questioning Microsoft. In particular there were questions as to why Microsoft was playing it safe by making a simple notebook. They made the argument that the device was 1) not creating a new category (the reason for the Surface brand) or 2) truly designed for student needs. A lot of the arguments dealt with the fact that the Surface Laptop cannot be used as a tablet; the tasks associated with education, such as inking, are not workable. Another issue was price. Given the focus on education there was an expectation this new Surface would be fairly inexpensive. Many (including myself) were expecting some replacement to the Surface 3 or a device that folded like Lenovo’s Yoga  device line. So the price considered was at least $400 below the $999 entry fee for the Surface Laptop.

Beyond expectations the other issue was Windows 10 S.

The New RT

Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s answer to Chrome OS and a sort of updated version of the ARM based Windows RT. Like RT, S is a stripped down version of Windows allowing it to be a little faster and secure. However unlike its predecessor Windows 10 S allows users to upgrade to full Windows; however this will cost users $49. Windows 10 S comes shipped on the new Surface Laptop which adds to the controversy.

At $999 some question the reason to “hobble” the new PC with a restricted OS. Windows 10 S is locked down to apps within the Store remember. So no Steam, iTunes, or Chrome. For many this is a non starter. Also to unlock it and move to Windows 10 Pro you have to pay, which is a hard pill considering the history of Windows.

So you have a laptop people wanted to do more, cost less, and run full Windows.

They got nothing they expected.

Unless they were the many who wanted Microsoft to build a regular, old laptop. One without hinges or detachable keyboards. Also there are a number of people talking up how secure Windows 10 S is.

I think the Laptop is controversial because it highlights the issues Microsoft faces in moving Windows into a more competitive position. Much like the Apple MacBook signaled a change for the Mac; the Surface Laptop is signaling change for Windows. Between the two, Windows 10 S is showing where the platform wants to go. Microsoft is ready to move away from .exe and legacy and toward a new application model based on UWP (Universal Windows Platform). This is about simplifying Windows to make it work for a consumer market altered by mobile devices. Users no longer use PCs as their sole computing device; and the one they use has changed how they view software. On the PC most people work through their browser and maybe a few programs. We are approaching the end of the PC Wild West.

And this maybe the first step

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