Were they ever away?
Well, they certainly lost their mojo and pioneering spirit. But their recent launch including a new laptop, tablet and mobile devices has seen them change direction. How does that effect us as customers?
Whilst the Surface Pro 4 is an evolution from previous models, the new Surface Book laptop is a gesture of serious intent by Microsoft. By becoming a manufacturer, they are directly competing with not only Apple, but with the companies they normally supply Operating Systems to: Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer etc.
On top of the Windows 8 / 10, these companies use Microsoft’s software: Office, Outlook, OneDrive etc, and are now direct competitors. With flagship stores being opened in New York and Sydney, with more promised, this is a business model with similarities.
Competitors and the future:
So what does this really mean? It’s arguable that Apple have the monopoly on stylish devices – yes, other companies make nice hardware, but they don’t have $110b sitting in their accounts. Windows strength is that you can buy or build a relatively cheap device that will support all the familiar software. But with the advent of cloud computing, business models are changing to subscription based services and hardware. Microsoft doesn’t want to be left behind, supplying free or cheap OS’s and some Office software. There are cheap or free alternatives already out there that are threatening that monopoly, so Microsoft needs to adapt.
By providing the tablet or laptop, OS, Office software and mobile phone (Windows 10 Mobile is looking positive in its previews), then Microsoft is offering the complete package, whilst also maintaining a healthy profit. How it makes that profit, being the key difference as it moves from software to hardware.
Should I buy it?
If you’re after a new Windows laptop, then this is a slightly expensive but excellent choice. The Lenovo Thinkpad and Yoga range would also be worth looking at, alongside the Dell XPS range and others. The Surface Pro 4 would actually be my preference, as it looks like a more all-round package, but you would definitely need the additional keyboard. This would give you a tablet and laptop device, with an excellent spec.
The Surface Book is going to be incredibly important. Its quality, design and intent from Microsoft, will change the marketplace as it sets a new standard to aspire. It’ll be worth watching what competitors do to match Microsoft, will they directly compete, undercut or is there an expected premium higher price for high quality PC laptops and surfaces?