REVEALED: Microsoft's new $1,300 Macbook killer

Microsoft just unveiled the Surface Laptop — a new laptop, starting at about $1,300 (Australian pricing has not been confirmed yet), aimed squarely at stealing customers away from Apple’s newest MacBooks. It’s available in four colours.

But the Surface Laptop will likely stand out from anything made by Apple: It sports a 13.5″ screen, a 14 hour battery life (or so Microsoft promises), a clamshell body, and a keyboard covered in alcantara fabric; the same material used for premium Surface Pro covers. At the very least, the Surface Laptop won’t look much like any other computer out there.

Microsoft hardware chief Panos Panay said at an event today that this new laptop is born from the need that students have for a laptop — not a tablet, like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, or a laptop/tablet hybrid, like the Surface Book.

The one thing to know, here, is that the Surface Laptop is the poster child for Windows 10 S, a new version of the operating system, also announced today, that Microsoft promises is more streamlined, more secure, and that offers better performance and battery life than the standard Windows 10.

The tradeoff for those perks is that Windows 10 S doesn’t let you install any software that’s not from the Windows Store app market — which means that, at the very least, you won’t be able to install the Google Chrome web browser.

If you’re not down with that, Microsoft lets you switch any Windows 10 S computer, including the Surface Laptop, to the regular Windows 10 Pro for a one-time $US49 fee (less if you’re on a tablet or something else with a small screen size). But if you do that, Microsoft says, it can no longer guarantee you’ll get the improved battery life or higher performance.

Versus Apple

At first blush, the Surface Laptop looks to fill an important gap in Microsoft’s home-built hardware lineup, as it looks to go toe-to-toe with Apple and its premium Mac devices. Microsoft is pitching Surface Laptop as perfect for college students, in line with the educational focus of its event today in New York City.

If the Surface Pro 4 is Microsoft’s MacBook Air alternative, the Surface Book laptop is its MacBook Pro competitor, and the Surface Studio is up against the iMac, then the $US999 price tag makes the new Surface Laptop a slightly cheaper alternative to the $US1299 MacBook.

Microsoft’s Surface business seems to be struggling, as evidenced by a big 26% revenue decline it suffered last quarter. Still, Microsoft has always said that a big reason why it bothers with the Surface hardware lineup in the first place is to draw attention away from competitors like Apple, while simultaneously paving the way forward for Windows 10. The Surface Laptop is just another salvo in that strategy.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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