How Does The Surface Laptop Fit With Microsoft's OEM Partnerships?
Microsoft's Surface Laptop starts shipping in just a couple of weeks and, based on the reception this month's announcement generated, it's likely to be a popular choice for customers seeking a premium Windows laptop.
That's going to be interesting for Microsoft's OEM partners, who are going to find themselves competing on an uneven playing field once more. Microsoft develops the platform and therefore can more easily tweak hardware designs for both the best performance but also battery life.
Those OEMs have only just been able to find a market position which competes with Apple's MacBooks - for years clunky Windows laptops were stuck with low-end consumer sales and low margin enterprise deals, whilst Apple sucked up all the profit in the market.
Windows 10, hybrids and convertibles have all driven advances in the premium PC market in the last couple of years. Dell's XPS, HP's Spectre and Lenovo's Yoga all took the game to Apple and outdid them.
Now that Microsoft has entered the game Dell, HP and Lenovo are once again competing at a disadvantage.
I guess the question is why would Microsoft enter the premium laptop market. Unlike the Surface Pro, Book and Studio there's nothing unique, new or innovative about the Surface Laptop. Also unlike its siblings, there's no gap in the market which Microsoft's OEM partners haven't filled.
So why does the Surface Laptop exist? Is it that Microsoft really believes it is the only brand able to take the battle to Apple at every level? That's probably true - a succession of well received hardware releases has given Microsoft a level of street credibility its partners don't have.
Ultimately what Microsoft is seeking to do here is to insert Windows 10 into the premium customer conversation. Previously that discussion started and ended with which MacBook to choose. Once you begin to consider the Surface Laptop - and by extension - Windows 10, then other Windows OEM's products also become part of the consideration.
So whilst Microsoft has said it will only do hardware when a gap in the market exists, the Surface Laptop shows that it is prepared to consider strategic products too.
Whether that sits well with OEM partners remains to be seen.