Microsoft releases its first laptop

Competition heats up between Microsoft, Apple and traditional hardware manufacturers

Microsoft launches its first laptop, the Surface Book.Microsoft’s first laptop, the Surface Book, is creating quite a buzz because the company is not only taking a page out of the Apple playbook by trying to control the tablet-laptop customer experience from software to hardware, but it is also stepping on the toes of traditional hardware manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and Dell. With this move, Microsoft is further blurring the lines between traditional software and hardware companies and creating more competition in a crowded manufacturing market.

This new hybrid laptop/tablet device may well have the muscle to appeal to Apple MacBook Pro users, a decidedly loyal consumer group. In fact, Microsoft claimed their first laptop, the Surface Book, is twice as fast as the Apple MacBook Pro. Designed to take the best of the tablet and laptop worlds, the Surface Book combines them into one potentially disruptive piece of technology.

Microsoft took what it learned from Surface Pro tablets to develop the Surface Book. But it has a decidedly different design and is more robust than the Surface Pro – even the new Surface Pro 4, Microsoft’s latest tablet which goes right up against the iPad Plus which Apple recently developed to compete with the Surface Pro because Apple has been trying to appeal to the business segment of the market… and so it goes!

So how do the two machines really compare? Gizmodo reviewed the Surface Book and 13" Macbook Pro and here is what they report, summarized below:

The weight, size, battery lives and costs are very similar. The display resolution is better with a larger screen and more pixels in the Surface Book, and Microsoft claims their processing is twice the speed of the MacBook Pro. According to Gizmodo, the design is the biggest difference: "The Surface Book, on the other hand, is a radically new concept for a laptop, owing to a clever new hinge that lets you adjust the display bend however you see fit. You can use it like a regular laptop, or remove the screen from the keyboard base and use it like a tablet. The Surface Book design is conceptually cool and has potential, but this design may have some stability issues."

The Surface Book also comes with a Surface Pen, which can magnetically attach to its exterior, allowing you to use the device like a portable clipboard or a creative canvas. The device is available for pre-order at the Microsoft web site with most models to start shipping in early December.

According to CRN, "The Surface Book launch is just one more sign of technology vendors' increasingly encroaching on one another's turf in the cloud era, blurring the once-clear lines between hardware and software makers."  

The question is how will traditional hardware manufactures react to Microsoft’s continued focus on developing devices? Many of these manufacturers have been channels for Microsoft’s software and now the companies are competing. CRN reports, “The channel conflict issues are even more troubling for Dell and HP, which just one month ago inked a deal to resell Microsoft's Surface Pro, putting them in direct competition with partners selling HP and Dell tablets.” 

Will Dell pursue Apple with more business-to-consumer options and try to control the tablet-laptop experience? Will Microsoft retreat a bit and shrink their line to a handful of choices abandoning their build-to-order manufacturing approach? Will Lenovo develop a Thinkpad “Plus-Plus” to compete with Apple and Microsoft? And who can tell with Hewlett-Packard after their recent split into two separate companies, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise?

Whatever these companies do in response to this “throwdown” (CRN) from Microsoft, it certainly looks like there will be more options for mobile, powerful machines in the enterprise marketplace.