I don't think I'm alone in saying that this was really the star of Microsoft's show, and their self-aggrandizing video above shows a lot to be impressed about. I say self-aggrandizing lovingly, as they've just taken a page out of Apple's playbook. There's no shortage of epic, sweeping music to accompany your product unveiling. Much better than some bizarre dance number.
To be sure, this is a very, very impressive device. It's exactly what excites me about present-day Microsoft, the company that's been backed into a corner, dethroned by others that bet big on mobile and won. Their foray into hardware is so much more appealing than the flaccid efforts of Google and the slew of other manufacturers shitting out awful Android devices. The Surface Book is an entirely new beast. And just as Apple double-down on their vision of the future of computing with the iPad Pro a couple of weeks back, Microsoft has stuck their own flag in the ground with this computer.
Personally, I do not believe the way to go is a hybrid OS. Just using Windows 10 on a desktop makes me very wary of ever using it on a tablet. They would have a lot of work to do to convince me otherwise. I think Apple is smart to stay as far away from that as possible. They know the purpose of both of their OS's, and they're sticking to it. Microsoft still resides in this universe where Windows somehow makes sense in all situations. It's more mobile-focused than ever, but they just can't build up the courage to completely shed their roots. That's disappointing.
Aside from that main sticking point, there are a couple other things that jump out at me about this device:
- The marketing. Surface Book is a great name and clearly explains exactly what this device is. Microsoft advertises it on its site as "The Ultimate Laptop." However, Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Pro 4 today, which they call "The tablet that can replace your laptop." Specs-wise the Surface Book is the more powerful machine, but Surface Pro sounds like it's actually the more powerful one. Couple that with the Surface Pro being a laptop replacement, and Surface Book being "The Ultimate Laptop," it seems like Microsoft is shooting themselves in the foot. Confusing.
- That hinge. The device, overall, is gorgeous. It almost reminds me of a shrunken Mac Pro. The machined magnesium, the open vents, and overall industrial aesthetic. It's stunning. The hinge, on the other hand, looks chunky and inelegant, and it immediately makes the whole device look dated. It also bothers me to no end that the device will never fully close completely.
It remains to be seen how this computer performs out in the wild, but their showing today is admirable. I think this device is a little confused, and I hope Microsoft finds the right path as it trudges forward. If they can continue to execute at a high level on hardware, and find the right software experience, they'll be in a good place.
Regardless, this is no longer Ballmer's company, and that's good for the entire industry. I'd love to see them continue putting pressure on themselves and everyone else to keep pushing forward.