Today I’m at the Microsoft education announcement and they just did a Steve Jobs’ Apple like hardware announcement of a new laptop. What makes a Steve Jobs’ hardware announcement special is that it doesn’t lead with speeds and feeds, with specs, or even with what the product does. It begins with what the product looks like, how it feels, its elegance, its sound, in short, the reason you want the product not the reasons my may need it. It’s all about lust, it is almost hardware pornography. Within the first few minutes of the presentation the only sure thing a lot of people know about the product is that they want it. Done right these things are magic. Done wrong, they are incredibly painful. Microsoft did it right.
They even opened the segment with a unique execution of the song from the movie and play “Greece”, “you’re the one that I want” and god help me, it was the one that I wanted.
Let’s talk about hardware lust today.
The Problem With The PC Market
We’ve been talking about how PCs aren’t trendy anymore for years but I think the problem is that with all the focus on Smartphones and how sexy, thin, and wonderful they are we stopped doing the same with PCs. Vendors raced to the bottom and the result was many boring cheap laptops with marginal performance and poor battery life.
The Apple products, even though Apple has really moved on from pushing this segment as well, remain pretty much the gold standard when folks care more about design than price. Microsoft showcased the product by first pointing to Apple as the gold standard, and then showcasing they beat Apple products in every critical category.
Apple isn’t carrying the ball anymore with regard to building lust on PCs, apparently, Microsoft just stepped into that breach.
Now the Surface Book was arguably the best looking 2-in-1 on the market, but I’ve never been a huge fan of that form factor – largely because it results in a heavy product that is both a laptop and a tablet but virtually no one uses the tablet and, in tablet mode, it gets poor battery life. In addition, the whole reason 2-in-1s were created was to stop the unstoppable wave of iPads expected to take laptops out last decade but that didn’t happen. Folks didn’t move to tablets, they stayed with laptops and that suggests the entire premise that created the 2-in-1 was false. What was needed was a laptop with the Surface Book’s focus on design.
That is the Surface Laptop. As a laptop, it is better balanced (the weight is in the base not the screen), it is lighter, thinner, and yet it still has the crafted metal look that made the Surface Book as much of an art statement as PC. The current generation of Surface Books has a built-in Hello compliant camera for facial identification and log in, I’m writing this on a Surface Book and just love that feature. Oh, and it has a whopping 14.5 hours of battery life.
But they extended beyond that initial concept, and just like a high-end car they took the keyboard and nearly every surface you touch to Italian Alcantara, which feels like suede, but it is actually a stain resistant synthetic. Microsoft also stepped away from only having one color and moved to choices. In this run they have a Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold.
Other folks at the event with me clearly see this as Microsoft calling Apple out on design and, if Apple responds, this could lead to some much-needed competition and focus on design in this space.
Wrapping Up: Design Is Back
If Apple will step back in and again focus on competing with hardware –rumor is they are – the fact is that design is back as a competition element in laptop computers. It isn’t just the product but the focus on creating something that you can again lust for that is different here and while the Surface Book was near magical, the Surface Laptop puts the emphasis back on where I think it should have remained, creating a lust worthy laptop product.
A little lust can do a lot of good to any market, I think the Surface Laptop more than delivers on that core concept. Yes, I have lust in my heart for the Surface Laptop.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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