After Apple’s recent flattery in blatantly copying the design of the Surface Pro 3 for the new iPad Pro, it only makes sense that Microsoft would continue to issue more exciting hardware. The Surface Pro 4 is a solid refresh to product line with improved screen resolution, new processor options, more RAM, and increased storage capacity all in a form factor that weighs slightly less than the Surface Pro 3. For me the real news is the introduction of the Surface Book.
Detachable laptop designs aren’t new at this point. Many PC manufacturers have released laptops with screens you can use as a standalone tablet. None of the previous units offers quite the same fit and finish as the new Surface Book. Starting with the 3000×2000 13.5-inch screen, this is a unit that truly shines. In a maxed out configuration you can get an Intel Core i7 Skylake processor, 1TB hard drive, and 16GB of RAM in a form factor that’s pretty close to the dimensions of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro.
Unlike Apple, Microsoft understands the value of having a touch screen on your laptop and takes the Surface Book one step further by offering an active stylus to go with it, just like the Surface Pro line. But the key difference here is that all of this comes with the added bonus of being able to use the screen without the keyboard as a standalone 13.5-inch tablet.
I’m still a fan of the Surface Pro 2 smaller form factor, but I can see the advantages of a nice big slate for writing on, drawing, or performing various one-handed operations with a stylus in settings like healthcare facilities and warehouses. Being able to come back to a more familiar laptop paradigm with a firm keyboard is an added bonus. I never really got comfortable typing on the detachable keyboards of any Surface Pro while propping the device on my lap. The Surface Book solves this problem by offering all the rigid design benefits of a laptop.
While much of the current news is around Microsoft gunning for Apple with these new Surface models, I think the OEM manufacturers who already make Windows laptops will be the ones who are impacted most by the Surface Book. It’s an easy sell into the enterprise to have Microsoft offering end-to-end coverage on everything from the operating system to the underlying hardware. And I wouldn’t rule out some kind of bundling deal on Office 365 adoption as part of the pricing model.
The bottom line here is that the Surface Book raises the stakes in the 13-inch plus laptop market. It will be exciting to see how HP, Dell, and the rest answer back.