Sometimes you just gotta call it like it is. Business, like politics and war, is all about information. Or, between competitors, misinformation, and what better place to misinform than the
information misinformation superhighway known as the interwebs.
One could easily look at Microsoft’s newfound combative competitiveness and use the trope, “Nothing to see here. Move along,” but there are times when truth is important, a time when facts matter, and a time when obfuscation and deliberate misleadings need to be uncovered. Microsoft, I’m look at you.
$999 MacBook Killer
Assuming you were not crossing the Pacific in a kayak or halfway up Mount Everest, you’re likely to have come across news of Microsoft’s newest Surface PC. It’s been dubbed a MacBook Killer. It. Is. Not. We’ve been reading for years about how this PC or that laptop will kill the Mac but it hasn’t happened.
If anything, the Mac is more resilient than ever, thanks to record sales every quarter or so. Even the user base tops 100-million; not much by Windows PC standards, but PC sales have been going in the opposite direction, and the Mac’s somewhat negligible marketshare still takes more of the PC industry’s profits than all other PC competitors combined.
Where Microsoft needs to own up to the reality of facts is in how it presents itself as, 1) Mac killer, and, 2) iPad killer. The only thing getting killed these days is, 1) the traditional PC industry, and, 2) Microsoft’s Surface PC sales (yes, they’re going down, down, and down again).
We’ve seen various and sundry Microsoft advertisements pitting a Surface this or that against a MacBook Pro or an iPad, but the latest is a Microsoft newbie; the Surface Laptop running Windows. No, not Windows 10. Windows S. A crippled version of the popular and more powerful Windows 10. Microsoft and the company’s legions of tech media apologists pit the Surface Laptop against the similarly price, similarly sized, similarly powered and equipped MacBook Air.
Alright, we can’t really compare Apple to apples, but loosely we can. Both base models run Intel Core i5 CPUs, but the Surface has a Retina display, the Mac does not. But the Air comes with 8GB of RAM vs. 4GB on Microsoft’s latest entry-level entry. Even the Air, a model which dates back about seven years, has two USB 3 ports to the Surface Laptop’s single port.
See? That’s not really a good Apple to apple’s comparison, is it? Microsoft’s new reference with a crippled Windows version goes design goes head to head with a seven-year-old design from Apple? And barely wins? Anybody see a problem there?
To be fair, the Surface Laptop should not be compared to a Mac at all. As soon as you add more RAM and storage, Microsoft’s newest Surface is about the same as an entry level MacBook Pro, which has helped to drive Mac sales to record levels.
So, if not for comparisons to the hot-selling Macs, why does Surface Laptop exist?
Surface Laptop is a reference design; a way to show off Windows S and how small and thin notebooks should look and perform, even if not filled with the latest specifications. Why? Because both Microsoft and Apple are getting creamed by cheaper than cheap Chromebooks in schools, where, apparently, the only requirement in the purchase order is cheap, cheaper, and cheapest; an area where neither company wants to tread. Or, do they?
Windows 10 S is available to PC manufacturers for free, ostensibly so they can make cheap Windows-based notebooks to compete against cheap Chromebooks. The commonality here is, well, cheap. How did Apple respond? Is there a $299 Mac on the way? Nope. Apple’s claim to fame with iPad circa 2017 is the new $329 price tag for a 9.7-inch iPad. That makes Apple’s position more tenable because iPads do some things well that Chromebooks do not (mobile camera comes to mind). Windows 10 S, on the other hand, is crippled and only runs applications from the Windows Store, so no Google Chrome for kids. And no iTunes, either.
Still, it’s a good way for Microsoft to keep its face in front of our children, even with a slightly crippled product to compete with inexpensive iPads and cheap Chromebooks. But any comparison of a Surface Laptop to a Mac notebook is fraught with peril. They are not competitive. The Mac can run macOS Sierra, Windows 10, and most flavors of Linux and Unix– all at the same time, if needed– so it’s definitely the device of choice for students who want to learn about real computers.