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Surface Laptop

In the past 48 hours I have done a lot of thinking about the Microsoft Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S. I have also read a few opinion pieces and watched video hands on. There is a lot of opinions about the device and how it fits within the Windows ecosystem; about how it changes or doesn’t changes things.

So I thought I put in my 2 cents.

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The Surface Laptop on first glance looks like a matchup of the Surface Book’s screen and a Surface Type Cover. The Laptop’s profile and body has these angles that work to hide the lower half given the allusion its just a screen and keyboard. The colored versions only come with middle tier models; that may upset some. The lack of USB Type-C or the Thunderbolt connector of the same shape will be one the major dings facing the Surface Laptop. The argument being these things are the future (even though it is not the case now).

The Surface Laptop’s profile when open really reminds me of the profile of the Surface Pro. The device’s screen is incredibly clear. You know it’s a good, crisp screen if it works well on camera. In terms of the Surface family the Laptop is quite conservative. It doesn’t fit into the tablet PC mode of the Pro or Book, but it does fit the name Surface. The colors chosen for the Surface Laptop are a good balance; they aren’t too bold to be considered toy-like but aren’t so muted as to be barely there. As interesting as it would be to see this notebook as one those 2-in-1 devices that flips, it’s intriguing to see the Surface team’s take on the clamshell design. It sort of like watching a comedian in a dramatic role; they are following the script but bringing another perspective.

For example the last few years has seen a number of thin and light designs for PC laptops that have pushed the boundaries. From Lenovo’s Yoga and its jeweled hinge to Dell’s XPS 13 and its near bezel-less screen to Hewlett-Packard’s svelte Specter. PCs have been getting better designs across the board. The Surface Laptop isn’t as flashy. The laptop’s most daring features is the Alcantara layer sitting on top the keyboard and the fact it runs Windows 10 S. Of course there are innovations such as putting the SSD on the same motherboard as the Intel chip, but where Surface excels at is in eliciting a response. With Surface Microsoft built a brand; they built something that works on an emotional plane. I mean for me the Surface devices have been coveted items. There is something to buying a device built for the software it runs. Inherent in buying a Surface device is buying into the design; into the notion of a tablet that can replace your laptop.  Its buying a device from people you think give a damn about you loving what they made.

The Surface Laptop is a desirable object; I want but I can’t afford it and its quirks I gladly try to fit in my computer usage.

There are some issues. Like I wished Microsoft would have made a fan less Core M version. I know there are power freaks out there, but I’m all about no fans. Secondly I was thinking the device would be smaller. Like 10-11 inches. Lastly I’m surprised there was no talk of an LTTE model. The USB thing to me is not a big deal and this running Windows 10 S isn’t a hurdle either. Actually the other thing is I wish colors were available for all models.

And that’s about it. Hopefully I will get a hands on (aka playing with the demo model at a Best Buy).

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