Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Is Probably Not For My College Bound Kids – Forbes
recently revealed some fantastic tools for education at its education focused event. An expansion of Microsoft Teams, HoloLens integration with educational tools, Minecraft Education Edition, mixed (augmented) reality and an optimized OS in Windows 10 S were some of the highlights. Then Microsoft took a hard 180 degree turn and revealed the expected Surface Laptop with a hard sell.
Before the Surface Laptop hit the stage, Microsoft picked up the gauntlet and slapped with it. Whether or not it was felt down to the stack of Chromebooks in classrooms around the world is yet to be determined.
Announcing a line of Windows 10 S machines starting at under $200 with tech partners such as , and so on was Microsoft looking to step into the classroom. The suite of products offered along with the physical machines should help Microsoft get a toehold in that market.
That part of the presentation made sense with the educational tie-in. It made even more sense considering the price point of these entry level machines and the trimmed down operating system optimized for lower to mid-level hardware — it is wholly cloud based and won’t operate installed programs. That’s perfectly fine on a device designed to compete with the Chromebook and Chrome OS.
The Surface Laptop is clearly not designed to compete with the Chromebook so has no reason to be running an operating system that limits users to what is in the Microsoft Store. While upgrading to Windows 10 Pro is always just a click away, it seems that Pro should be the starting OS.
Panos Panay said during the event that the Surface Laptop is the kind of laptop that would last from enrollment to graduation, which is a very bold statement. Let’s assume that’s a four-year term. When was the last time you had a laptop for four years that wasn’t bricked by the latest operating system? Is Microsoft saying that the trimmed down Windows 10 S will never bloat? The entry level Core i5 and 4GB RAM will be enough for a four-year college term? Sure, it’ll do fine for liberal arts classes, but what if your child is majoring in Quantum Mechanics?
“I own literally the newest surface, a MacBook Air and a HP Pavilion 17t,” says DJ and EFL teacher-in-training Dominic Caprari. “I find the Pavilion to be the best at doing everything from intense gaming to homework, Skype and everything in between. The Surface is more for when I am in the mood to draw. I don’t use it near as much as the two laptops though. I even use my iPad Air more than my Surface and thought about giving it to my mom.”
My two college bound kids will get the best performing laptop at the lowest price because that’s the most economical and efficient way to do it. If that one happens to break (which is 50/50 because at least one of them knows how to maintain a computer) then they can buy another. We’d spend less on several cheaper ASUS laptops running Windows 10 S than a single Surface Laptop. Plus, the cheaper ones will probably be running at least 8GB RAM. There are deals on laptops all the time.
Such as the recently released Dell Latitude 11 EDU, entering the market at a mere $349. Sure, the specs don’t match up to the Surface Laptop, but it’s pretty easy to upgrade memory on your own in such a laptop, or stick in a bigger hard drive. Everything is cloud based these days, so even that should help with lesser processors than an Intel Core i5 or i7.
The Surface Laptop being sold as an educational tool seemed a bit off. While it would work just as well as any other laptop when it comes to doing homework, it seems like Microsoft might have been forcing it into the educational narrative. The Surface Laptop, once you get it priced for optimal specs past entry level, is more of the kind of laptop your boss — who only uses Word, Powerpoint and inexplicably, Bing — would use.
So if not for education, what is the target demographic for this fuzzy, slim laptop with speakers under the keyboard? As many tech journalists are pointing out, it could be the Apple MacBook Pro killer. It won’t be. It might sway a few undecided buyers, but the Surface Laptop won’t damage MacBook sales. The Surface Pro never overtook the iPad, I don’t expect the laptop version to perform better in that regard.
As Erik Kain points out, the Surface Laptop is certainly not for gamers. Even at the highest spec level it still comes up short. Plus, even gaming PC companies such as Origin PC offer laptops that compete on the same level. The Origin EON15-S enters the market at the same price point of the Surface Laptop, albeit with variable specs (less on the processor, better on the graphics card).
Like my 18 year-old told me last night while discussing the Surface Laptop, he’ll take the best specs at the best price — or the best tool for the job — over the pomp and circumstance of a carpeted laptop. If the Surface Laptop is the best tool for the job at the best price, then go for it. If it’s just another Surface product that feels more like a luxury device than a must-have, then you might want to go with something more economical.