Microsoft's next Surface Book could dump a radical feature - and be much more affordable

Surface bookBusiness Insider/Melia RobinsonThe Surface Book separates out into a tablet and laptop portion.

The weirdest part of Microsoft’s exquisite Surface Book laptop, originally launched in 2015, is its detachable screen — which allows you to lift off the machine’s top portion and use it as a standalone tablet.

Now, a new report from DigiTimes indicates that Microsoft’s next Surface Book, which could launch as soon as the end of March or beginning of April, will have a more traditional “clamshell” design, ditching the detachable tablet portion.

The report also says that this new Surface Book will start selling for around $US1000, far less than the original’s $US1500 MSRP at launch.

The report indicates that the reason for this design departure are twofold. First, because the original Surface Book’s premium price was turning people off. Second, because the fact that it had a detachable tablet meant that there was product confusion between the Surface Book and Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet lineup.

Thanks to those factors, DigiTimes reports, Microsoft shipped only about 500,000 Surface Book laptops in 2016. That includes a new, even more premium model of Surface Book, dubbed the Surface Book with Performance Base, which launched in the fall of 2016.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Double-edged sword

A more traditional laptop could prove to be a double-edged sword for Microsoft: Combining that lower price point with the Surface Book’s premium hardware could win even more Mac users over to Windows 10, especially those frustrated with what some Apple fans perceive as an underwhelming slate of new MacBook Pro laptops.

On the other hand, though, a cheaper, more straightforward laptop could also bring Microsoft into tighter competition with Windows computer manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Asus, who are all already struggling with an overall shrinking PC market.

One thing is for certain, though. As eye-catching and nifty as Surface Book’s detachable tablet is, it’s not actually supremely useful in real-life use. I expect that if the tablet portion vanishes, it won’t be widely missed by existing Surface Book owners.

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