Microsoft recently introduced the Surface Laptop, attempting to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Surface Pro series of convertible tablets, the Surface Book and the Surface Studio. This new 13.5” laptop will initially be marketed to schools and students, but “it’s also a great choice for any Windows user looking for consistent performance and advanced security.”
More importantly, the product also introduces Windows 10 S, “a specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro that offers a familiar, productive Windows experience that’s streamlined for security and performance. By exclusively using apps in the Windows Store and ensuring that you browse safely with Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 S keeps you running fast and secure day in and day out”. Not coincidentally, exclusive use of Microsoft Edge and Bing search will be mandatory. Schools will be able to convert all their current compatible computers to Windows 10 S at no cost; registered students will also get free access to Office 365.
Surface Laptop prices start at $999 and peak at $2199. Those recoiling in astonishment at Microsoft’s premium prices may be far more interested in lower priced Windows 10 S laptops coming soon from HP, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung Fujitsu and Asus. Some of these offer bas prices as low as $189, competing directly with Chromebooks. If purchasers find Windows Store offerings too limiting, a $50 upgrade to the full featured version of Windows 10 Pro will enable the use of familiar legacy programs.
Windows users with long memories may recall the Microsoft Surface aka the Surface RT, a hybrid tablet launched late in 2012 to compete with the Apple iPad. This was the first ever personal computer developed and manufactured by Microsoft. It introduced Windows RT, a variant of Windows 8 that was completely restricted to apps available via the new Windows Store. Attracted by low prices, consumers were soon disappointed by the limited software choices and lackluster performance. Sales were so dismal that the Surface was discontinued just 9 months later and Microsoft reported a $900 million loss. The more fully featured Surface Pro, launched at the same time, has gone on to fame and fortune and is now widely imitated by competitors.
Will Windows 10 S meet with better acceptance? Will it compete successfully with Chrome books? At launch, the Windows Store offered but 10,000 of the promised 100,000 apps, most of which had limited appeal. Recent inventories list 700,000 apps in the Windows Store, 2.2 million in the Apple Store and 2.8 million in Google Play. The 2012 Surface featured an NVidia Tegra 3 processor (used primarily in smartphones) and had 2GB of memory. The new Surface Laptop has an Intel Kaby Lake i5 processor and 4 to 16GB of memory – a significant improvement in capability. Multiple other components are also improved. Both devices, like almost all current lightweight portable devices, are powered by non-replaceable lithium batteries which will fail after about 1,000 full charges – roughly two to four years of average use. Planned obsolescence is now the order of the day.