Microsoft is making a laptop, which is weird, because Microsoft doesn’t normally make laptops.
The Surface Book, introduced during an event on Tuesday in New York City, is the company’s first laptop. Sure, Microsoft makes the Surface tablet. And sure, it’s got a keyboard thing (the “Type Cover”) that you can buy and attach, which turns it into kind of a laptop.
But not really.
The Surface Book is an actual laptop. The battery lasts for 12 hours. It has a real trackpad (with multitouch!) and a keyboard with keys that you depress to type letters. It’s powerful enough to run some games, edit movies, and crunch numbers. And it’s a direct shot at Microsoft’s long-time competition in Cupertino: Apple.
Apple has three main pieces of metal and silicon to sell you: phones, tablets, and computers. If we’re being serious, Apple’s really in the phone business — the vast majority of its revenue comes from sales of the iPhone. Here’s the company’s latest earnings sheet (try to contain your excitement):
But the top three? That’s Apple’s phone, Apple’s tablet, and Apple’s computers. Microsoft is taking aim at number three with the Surface Book. Specifically, Microsoft is going after the MacBook Pro power users, the folks who might want to, say, edit a video or crunch some numbers on a powerful laptop.
Here’s a look at the comparative specs of the latest MacBook Pro and the new Surface Book:
These are very similar devices with very similar functionality. They’re both able to handle a modicum of heavy lifting, while also fitting snugly in a small backpack or travel bag when you’re on-the-go. The Surface Book costs a tad more ($US200 for the base model), and the operating systems will automatically divide some folks used to using one or the other. But Microsoft has added a few smart components that could sway the graphic artists and film editors and tech bloggers and, yes, even the Apple devotees of the world:
- A touch screen, something that already feels like it should be a standard on all laptops.
- A stylus with swappable tips, which can be paired with…
- A detachable screen, so the laptop immediately feels more personal. Use it like a sketchpad! Use it as a notepad! A crazy future notepad!
And this is all in addition to Microsoft’s surprising success with the Surface Pro tablet. While paltry compared to Apple’s $US4.5 billion in iPad revenue last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface business is humming along at $US888 million in its latest report. That’s a 117% increase over the previous quarter, while iPad sales have been on the decline for several quarters.
The reveal of the Surface Book is a hilariously timed return volley in the wake of Apple’s iPad Pro announcement — a tablet that in almost every way mirrors Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet. There’s a keyboard attachment that doubles as a cover. There’s a new stylus (the “Apple Pencil”) for drawing.
It can even be folded out to look like a tablet-laptop combination:
So, while Apple’s announcing new products that compete with Microsoft’s surprisingly successful new hybrid category — one that Apple CEO Tim Cook took a swipe at years ago and has seemingly come around on — Microsoft’s taking aim at another of Apple’s underloved categories, the laptop. And Microsoft’s innovating.
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