Microsoft Surface Book is an impressive Windows 10 laptop, but it begs us to ask the question; is the company going against its OEM partners?
The Microsoft Corporation October 6 event turned out to be a surprise for all of us. The company unveiled its first in-house Windows 10 laptop called the Surface Book. Apparently, Microsoft claims that it has been as transparent with its partners regarding the internal hardware efforts as it can be and it wasn’t a surprise to them.
If one looks at Microsoft’s OEM partners, they do not have a choice for now. It wasn’t a surprise for them because Microsoft cleared the air with these partners but that doesn’t mean the Surface Book announcement is going to settle well with them. Panos Panay, Device Chief at Microsoft, certainly made his mission to boast as much as he could about the Surface Book during the event. It was being touted as the ultimate laptop and according to PCWorld he used it four times on stage.
If one looks at the Surface Pro, Microsoft was introducing a new category, a hybrid (a cross between a tablet and a laptop). The company itself pitched the Surface Pro as a tablet that can replace laptop. Hence introducing a Windows laptop, that is not just the best from Microsoft but the best laptop available out there in the market will tick off some.
The OEM partners such as Dell, HP, ASUS, and others rely on their laptop and PC sales. The Surface Book is an announcement to go on an all-out war because it encroaches on OEM territory. For the original equipment manufacturers the short term and even the long term choice is to accept what Microsoft just did and move on. Going head-to-head with Microsoft might not be as viable given there is no established OS that could challenge Windows or OS X. Google’s Chrome OS has been garnering some attention but it is not at that stage to warrant a shift of OEM’s partners from Windows.
To an outsider this would be the result of healthy competition that pushed Microsoft to introduce such a premium offering that it leaves the OEM partners scrambling to come up with their own laptops. Dell XPS 13 and 15 are considered to be the best Windows 10 offerings with infinity displays on the market. The Surface Book might eat into Dell’s offering but it shouldn’t affect a lot.
This is because an entry-level Surface Book starts at $1,500 and most Windows users do not use a laptop above that price tag as their daily driver. Microsoft’s Windows and Devices VP, Terry Myerson, wants to calm the OEM partners. He thinks that Microsoft’s offerings are in no way an attempt to compete with its partners. Instead the company wants customers to have more options with good hardware to be the compelling reason to opt for Windows 10. Microsoft here is thinking about its billion Windows 10 devices goal, hence the introduction of a Surface line.
The main competition according to Microsoft here is Apple, the MacBook Pro to be exact. Apple’s premium laptop offering is what’s got Microsoft interested and the Surface Book is directed at that. Aiming at Apple’s share of the market might be a bit ludicrous given that hardware is just one part of the equation. There is the software ecosystem which needs to be taken into account and comparing Windows 10 to OS X is an Apples to Oranges comparison.
Still the OEM partners that Microsoft has on-board might still be unhappy with the move. It sends them a message that Microsoft considers the current available hardware not up to the mark for its Windows 10 customers and felt the need to introduce its own. Partners such as Acer and Toshiba operate at the mid-tier laptop category but the pressure is on to innovate and compete with Microsoft and still be its OEM to survive in the market. The PC sales do not look quite optimistic and are down 7.7% in the third quarter, according to Gartner and the launch of Windows 10 has done nothing to put a stop to that. Will it be wise for Microsoft to compete with its own OEM partners and Apple for a market that is witnessing a decline?