Microsoft's Surface Laptop officially broke cover today and dropped into a bizarrely niche market - at least if you take Microsoft's marketing as gospel. Effectively packing a Surface 4 into a standard body, the Surface Laptop targets students. especially those who want the Surface but find it difficult to use on the lap.
Microsoft wants to go head to head with Apple here. The look, the marketing, even the language at launch tells us that Microsoft is aiming to sell this machine to those students heading to University.
So why deliver it with Windows 10 S? Yes, there's an option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free for those who buy before December, but really, who wants a premium laptop which only runs Store applications? Have you seen the state of the Microsoft Store lately? Aside from the quality and number of applications, it also restricts what software users can run, potentially impacts the installation of hardware and most importantly identifies the Surface Laptop as a machine under control of 'the man'.
Not a great selling point for Microsoft's claimed demographic.
A far more sensible option would have been to offer the Surface Laptop with a full copy of Windows 10 and include a downgrade option for organisations who could benefit from the extra control.
The absence of USB-C in a 2017 device is unforgiveable, and there's a missed opportunity to properly support the Surface Pen. Yes, it will write on the screen, but writing on a screen in the vertical orientation, rather than on a flat surface(!), is not viable. As a minimum the Laptop needed to have a hinge which allowed the display to open to 180 degrees and lie solidly on a desk. Writing on the screen then becomes something of value, if a little clumsy.
Otherwise the hardware looks reasonably good for a laptop. Whether it competes with comparable products from Dell, HP and Lenovo will have to wait for a hands on experience. For now, it seems that in the Microsoft range, the SP4 remains the better option. Unless you are really sure you're never going to use the Surface Pen. Or can't move on from a clamshell.