Microsoft Should Have Made A Laptop

Whatever you think about Microsoft's Surface Pro, it's impossible to deny its beautiful design, and the quality of the the tech behind it. It's a siren, luring you into an oddly metaphored whirlpool of unsure typing. I've been using it for close to two weeks now, and the entire time I couldn't escape one feeling: Microsoft should have made a laptop.

That isn't to say that Microsoft should have only made a laptop. The Surface isn't perfect, but it's gotten people talking about laptop-tablet hybrids more than more outwardly capable devices like the Lenovo Yoga. A lot of that is billions in advertising, but it's also the uniqueness of the Surface as an idea.

But the Surface remains, more or less, an idea without a home base. Windows 8 is about touch and a new way to think about software design, yes. But it's also about being Windows. And the Surface doesn't do the best job of showcasing that.

That's the thing. No one knows PCs like Microsoft. No one is more central to them. And if Microsoft is going to do hardware, and do it well, why wouldn't it give its flagship, Windows, the perfect vessel? The Surface isn't that. It perpetuates the idea that Microsoft can't get anything right. That sure maybe it has some good ideas, but it can never get more than halfway there. It's still too easy to poke holes in Microsoft's Windows 8 arguments. A Nexus-like Surface line for Windows PCs would change that.

Judging from the Surface Pro's design and performance, it would be an easy jump to make. The Surface might be the most thoughtful and well-considered piece of design in tech. Ask anyone who's held one — you just don't want to put the thing down, even if you're not especially enjoying using it. And things being equal, its components tested either equal to or ahead of ultrabooks and MacBook Airs. That 10.6-inch 1080p screen would probably look just as good at 11.6 inches, 12 inches or 13 inches too.

The biggest standouts for a laptop transition though are the keyboard and trackpad, oddly. Aside from an issue where the trackpad will lose your finger right as you start using it, the Surface's trackpad is basically the most accurate I've used on Windows 8; it's just too tiny. The Touch cover takes some getting used to, but it's a usability miracle that it's as usable as it is. And with the Type cover, Microsoft crammed a more usable keyboard onto the back of a TABLET COVER than a lot of laptops have period. With the standardization of Intel Core chips, laptops basically break down to keyboard, display, touchpad, and design, in some order. Microsoft has all of those covered in the extreme. The rest would be just not tripping over its feet.

And yes, making a laptop would have pissed off PC makers something fierce. OEMs are already threatened: Acer fired some warning shots about not supporting Windows RT if Microsoft is going to be making hardware like the Surface. An honest to goodness Microsoft laptop would give the industry a heart attack. But who cares. Those OEMs know that they can't ditch Windows, unless they want to resign themselves to the IT afterlife.

Besides, there's a clear need for something like this. Dell just bent over backward (with a hand from Microsoft) to put itself in position to catch up to where we're going. HP is constantly in disarray. Lenovo's actually doing just fine, thank you, but even it's throwing (mostly well made) stuff at the Windows 8 PC wall to see what sticks. Microsoft can consolidate that, be a standard bearer. It can afford to be a loss leader like no one else in PCs right now. It can throw billions down the drain on the Xbox and make it all back a generation later. Why not take the same example-setting approach of the Surface and set the bar for long-blundering (but in fairness lately improving) PC makers?

We're ready for that to happen. As great as the current MacBook Air is, its design is starting to seem a little frumpy when you hold it up to newer models like the Series 9 or 11-inch Acer S7. Next to a Surface, it looks practically middle-aged. But because all those Windows machines fly under different flags, they end up splitting the vote. Give us a Windows Laptop Prime to rally around and maybe that changes. It would be a chance to shake off the John Hodgman-ed image of Windows everything being a bumbling, outmoded fossil. "My god, this is perfect," resonates more loudly than, "This is really impressive, but what about..." even if it's not the all-at-once revolution Microsoft is reaching for. And it's not like the thing wouldn't have a touchscreen, anyway.

In fact, a Microsoft laptop would only strengthen the unsure mobile footing that the Surface is built around. The formerly Metro UI needs time to grow. And more importantly, it needs more people using it, nurturing it. Where the Surface leans on mobile muscles that Microsoft hasn't quite developed yet, a more conventional laptop could play to Microsoft's strength in desktop software and drive both forward.

But really, it comes down to this: Ask anyone who's touched and used either Surface if they'd be excited about a laptop made in the spirit of the Surface line, and the answer is always some unqualified permutation of "HELL, YES PLEASE."

When's the last everyone had that reaction to something Microsoft was doing?


Comments

    Sorry but no, i've waited years for a high spec tablet with FULL windows support so i can ditch carrying the laptop to work every day, the Surface pro fills a gap that techies have needed filled for years, it gives us an open environment compatible with almost all business's and allows on the run use without the bulk or hassle.

    I see the direction M$ is going and for the first time in many years i like what they are doing, sure its only the first step and not without its issues, but i for 1 hope they stick on this path.

      100% agree. This is the holy grail I have been waiting for for years. There are many of us out there who fail to understand why tablet = simple content and experience. If the power is available to deliver a desktop level of sophistication then why not let consumers take advantage of it.

      Hardware manufacturers have let Apple set the rules of the game. That being that simplicity is king. You can have your simplicity, I rather play World of Warcraft on a train. And quite frankly I do not understand why it isnt every nerds dream.

        Probably because they're all too busy spending mum and dad's dollars on 'Gaming Notebooks' - lol what a joke - instead of buying a PC with the same specs for half the price.

      Agreed. I can't wait to get mine.

      I use my laptop on a desk most of the time, rarely at my own desk mind you so a desktop is useless.
      Occasionally I need a tablet, however I need all the information from my laptop and all the same applications that are on my laptop.

      The Surface Pro? Perfect, as I never actually use it on my lap. What kind of wanker does that anyway?

        Perfect, as I never actually use it on my lap. What kind of wanker does that anyway?

        Errrrr, anyone who's ever used a LAPtop when a table or desk hasn't been available? On the train/bus, on the couch, outdoors, etc.

        You know who the real wankers are? People who actually use their phones to call people. Who does that??

        Last edited 07/02/13 2:15 pm

          I prefer to read a book or catch up on the news on my phone or tablet than do work on the train.

          Most of my work is fairly confidential so I'd never really feel comfortable doing in on the bus.
          I never really use my laptop on the couch beyond surfing the web so the Surface as tablet is fine.

        Da F*^k are you on about?
        What kind of wanker doesn't use a laptop in their lap?

          The question should be... What kind of wanker uses a laptop on their lap?

        lol ur wanker comment drew is flameworthy. But I get ya, I never use a notebook on my lap. Id rather use the Surface Pro like a tablet if I'm on the train, and use it like a laptop/desktop when I'm at a desk/coffee shop

        Laptop... Hence lap... Not a tabletop. Funny if that was their name

    Something else that never gets a mention with these MS devices is the screen size. Not once can I remember anyone saying what size it is. That's because it is very bloody small. It may have great density and fantastic colour, but it is tiny compared to everything else.

      Tiny compared to what? A Laptop? It's about the same size as a 11 inch MBA. It's about the same size as an iPad. Does that answer your question?

      It's 10.6", roughly the same as every other 10" tablet. What's the problem?

        @motormouth @zen
        That's actually cheating a little bit though isn't it, because it's actually long and thin and thus looks way too small compared to a regular ratio screen!

        Last edited 07/02/13 3:17 pm

          It is a "regular ratio screen" - 16:9, just like your TV, your computer monitor, your laptop and most Android tablets. The iPad is one of very few 4:3 devices you can buy, so it is actually the odd man out. And there is no good argument for it, despite what Apple might say. 4:3 is no better fit for a sheet of A4 paper than 16:9 and most paperback books are much closer to 16:9 than 4:3.

      really dude? http://lmgtfy.com/?q=surface+pro+screen+size
      you dont even have to click on the first review link - its 10.6 inches which is bigger than an ipad

    Would a Surface Pro laptop be an awesome piece of hardware? Sure.

    Is it needed? Nope. OEM's have jumped on the Ultrabook train pretty well now, the only thing the Surface might be useful for is pushing OEM's to offer signature devices without crapware. Not to mention it would seriously piss off other OEM, pushing them to promote Linux more. Not what Microsoft wants when Valve is already trying to push Linux as the future of gaming.

    I love the surface pro andwhat its doing, but the probemi have with it is that it wont replace my MBA for uni use simply due to the design doesn't allow for "laptop" style use during times such as lectures or when there is very little room

    I challenge anyone to use the the Surface Pro as a tablet and when I mean as a tablet I mean not resting on a desk but using it with one or both hands for a prolonged time. 50% of my job is field work and I recently changed from a iPad to and iPad mini and Nexus 7 due to weight and size as the full sized iPad gets too heavy after prolonged use. When out and about a tablet is usually used holding with one hand whilst using the other to navigate or held with two hands when reading, etc. As much as I love the idea of the Surface Pro we are still a generation or two away from a holy grail tablet. If you are using it resting on a desk then you are better of with a laptop apart from those that we be using it for the Wacom capabilities as a laptop with keyboard and mouse is still more efficient for the Windows 8 Desktop environment.

      Sure, but it is all a matter of degree and how you intend to use it. I find my 7" Playbook much too heavy to use for extended periods of time but it's still lighter than your average hardcover book and we've put up with those for centuries. That's why I think every tablet is fatally compromised and my phone is a way better alternative. But a Surface Pro would be awesome to use on stage, way better than a laptop, and it would be able to handle everything our laptop currently can, something an iPad simply couldn't. For me, that could make it an acceptable compromise in much the same way that my 15" Samsung Series 9 isn't as tiny as I'd like but it's big screen makes it worth compromising on. Everything is a trade-off and if we played live more than a few times a year, I'd be all over a Surface Pro because the compromise equation would be very different.

        Just curious why the Surface Pro would be better on stage than a Laptop. Would you be using any touch based apps in the New UI, probably not (no DAW apps available) and therefore why is the tablet/touch functionality required. The only benefit I can find for the Surface Pro is the Wacom functionally. I currently use a 11" Air on stage as I am using MainStage for my live sound, but if I was using any other software I would be using a similar sized Windows 8 ultra-book. Don't see how the Surface Pro would benefit me on stage over an ultra-book. For work when I am in the field I need to mark up electrical drawings and reference 100's of pages of manuals and documents. I use the iPad mini and a Jot Pro stylus to mark up the PDF drawings and manuals/documents, then I modify them in AutoCAD when I am at my desk or send them to my drafter for drafting. Don't see how anything other than a small and light tablet would work for me here let alone the Surface Pro if I am doing this walking around site, standing up for 4 hours or so. What I am trying to get across is that in this point in time you a better off with a small and light ARM tablet for the tablet experience and an Intel Ultra-book for the desktop experience. But I agree in a year or two the Surface Pro will be the norm and as small and light as the iPad mini or Nexus 7.

      An iPad is too heavy? God forbid if you ever have to wait tables, or carry a suitcase. Try eating more carbs for sustained energy

      Totally agree with you. Just like the Samsung Galaxy Note is a "Phablet" (not quite phone, not quite tablet), a surface pro is a "Laplet???" (not quite tablet, not quite laptop).

      As with your company, our guys went from laptops to iPads and now to iPad minis for the same reason. They weigh nothing and are still perfectly able to access the tools the techs need while away from their desk.

    I have to agree with the others above. The Surface Pro fits my need for an IT Pro on the go instead of a laptop. Sure the Surface Pro has it's bad points but guess what, tell me what product didn't have a issues when it was first released. I'll be getting the Surface Pro when available in Australia

      What benefit does it provide over a laptop. Laptops have similar specs including size and weight? Just curious. A tablet for me provides a pen and paper replacement as well as a simple web client, email client and word processing client when I can't be seated somewhere. So it provides me with something a laptop cannot. Where as what does the Surface Pro provide over a laptop. And additionally I can have a Laptop and a Nexus 7 for less than the Surface Pro. I really want to love the Surface Pro but not this generation.

        For me, all of the clients use Microsoft networks and the Surface will fit in without any issues. Even if you have to join it to a domain. Not to mention the network tools that I use are windows based as well. Surface is lighter than laptops, use it as a tablet or for typing with the keyboard. Writing notes on the surface will hopefully be like other tablets that have this now so writing notes will be easy instead of typing. I have changed my mind about buying a Surface.... I'm going to wait a little and try to have a play with it before I buy it

          So are you saying it is lighter than an laptop. Size and weight is comparable to ultra-books. How would you use it as a tablet. No one has indicated that they will use the Surface Pro as a tablet or at least how they will be using tablet mode. Again the only benefit I can see is the Wacom feature but that's where the benefits stop. I have a bit of a soft spot for technology and I usually allow anyone at the office to get what ever they want. Windows 8 has been well received but the Surface RT's we purchased are just collecting dust. It's always the same argument from my employees that the Surface RT is crap as a laptop and crap as a tablet and they always opt for a laptop and and tablet combination. iPad mini and Nexus 7 are the most used at the office along with the some employee's not requiring a tablet as they are happy with the Galaxy Note 2. Again I think a Surface Pro device is the future but just not yet.

            I've been using the RT Surface as a tablet more than a laptop and without any issues so for me I would say that I would use it more as a tablet than anything else though I say that because it's only based on using the RT Surface. It's all a person thing really and it has only just been released but I will say that using it (RT) for more work like function like a laptop is wrong but again that is just my opinion from using the RT

    out of all these argument, MS needs to make the Windows 8 footprints for their tablets...

    I want one but the storage capacity.... I know you can add external HDD but... it's an add on

      Purchase a MicroSD card. They have been tested for up to 64Gb but people have gotten their hands on cards that are higher and found that it works without any issues with Surface and Surface Pro so that will solve the storage problem

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