Why Microsoft’s new Surface laptop is a misguided parting shot at Google

Bryan Smith argues that while Microsoft’s Surface laptop might have solid heritage, the Redmond company has aimed its latest product directly at Google for all the wrong reasons.

Microsoft has lost a great deal to Google. Chiefly, there’s the fact that the Redmond company’s mobile business was obliterated by Android, Docs impedes on the prevalence of Office, and now Chrome OS has begun to not only threaten Apple’s macOS, but Microsoft’s darling, Windows, as well.
In recent years, Microsoft has displayed some forward thinking by moving ahead as a proactive company, rather than resorting to reactionary measures. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons that creatives and professionals around the world have turned at least part of their attention to the company’s Surface range, rather than continue with the haphazard approach Apple has taken with its professional products such as the Mac Pro – notwithstanding its forthcoming modular replacement.
Read: Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop brings specs, fabric, and Windows 10 S
Some of Microsoft’s best thinking can be exemplified by its decision to turn Windows Everywhere into an actually meaningful strategy; for instance, the company birthed Windows Holographic as a means to tie virtual reality together, and it leveraged the strength of its PC smarts to bring Continuum to mobile phones. Its Surface Book and Surface Studio models, much to the delight of professionals and prosumers alike, stole thunder from Apple’s controversial MacBook Pro series.
It’s thus, then, that I see the company’s latest device – the Surface Laptop – has a missed opportunity.

A vital step for Microsoft

Let me be clear – Windows 10 s is, in my opinion, a vital step for Microsoft to take. Android has begun to serve as a desktop system through Continuum-eaters like Samsung DeX, tablets are dying, and Google’s Chrome OS is proving massively popular in the education market as a sexier, cheaper alternative to bulky PCs or MacBooks.
Windows 10 s, then, through leveraging the power of Microsoft’s Universal Windows App platform, can simultaneously deliver a ‘core’ version of Windows to a mass market with far lesser requirements. The strength of Microsoft’s cloud platform – tied together with Office 365 – should (in theory) be enough to entice students and corporates towards a slimmer, and sexier operating system should the apps they need be supported.
That remains a problem for Microsoft – given that its Windows Store remains sadly porous – but hope has recently emerged by the presence of Facebook’s core apps on the service. The fact that Microsoft further announced that Windows 10 s would run any browser found on the Windows Store seemingly points to the fact that the company believes Google would not have any reason to deny bringing Chrome – or its other apps – to the platform.
The problem lies, then, in hardware. Microsoft – like Apple – has cultivated a hardware following centered around portability and premium design, and faces a similar problem in cultivating an offering that is accessible to the general market. Where the iPhone 5c failed, Apple had to learn and cultivate the iPhone SE – yet the Surface laptop seemingly fails to observe that conceptual lesson.

A high-grade reveal…

The introduction of the Surface laptop itself ran with all the drama of a high-grade Apple announcement, and Microsoft frequently touted its premium design and unorthodox use of Alcantara-fabric. The end product – an undeniably good-looking slice of some $999 USD – arrives then not running Windows 10 Pro, but Windows 10 s.
For Microsoft, this is an interesting bid to place a premium Chromebook competitor at Google’s doorstep, and reads with spite for all the wrong reasons. Where Google emphases accessibility and affordability, Microsoft’s first foray into cloud-based computing screams of one bent for students with leather wallets and sports cars rather than the market it truly needs to capture.

…with several limitations

Sure, Windows 10 s will arrive on third party laptops many versions of Windows has before it, and users can opt out of using Windows 10 s for an additional fee. Yet the limitations placed on the device at launch will likely render it an unappealing option for anyone other than a specific corporate entity desperate for a basic Windows experience or those who’ll immediately pay in to go Pro, and leaves the company’s now aging Surface Book and Surface Pro a more appealing – yet more expensive – option.
Read: Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s promise for cheaper, sleeker PCs
For Microsoft, this is a misplaced step that feels like a screaming, desperate bid for developers to finally adopt its Universal App program with the debut of a laptop that arguably will not meet its intended target demographic.
Google has reason to smile.

Have your say!

What are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Do you have any plans to buy a Surface Laptop? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA