Can SurfaceBook redefine the laptop?

TORONTO – The Microsoft SurfaceBook along with Surface Pro 4 and the Surface 3 are available for pre order today.

Canadian availability starts Oct. 26th and you can see these products at the Microsoft Store, big box retailers such as Best Buy Canada and Staples and solution providers will also get an opportunity to resell these products in the commercial space and SMB customers.

That’s the go-to-market strategy as it stands now from Microsoft Canada. What the channel, retailers and customers should take note of with the launch of these products, however is that software giant plans to grow this portfolio beyond the SurfaceBook, Surface Pro 4 and the Surface 3. The Surface Pro 3 will be phased out. Sherief Ibrahim, category lead first party devices for Microsoft Canada, told CDN that there are still Surface Pro 3s on the market but the company is moving on and intends to create new product categories to help users do more; be it in productivity or creativity.

The Surface Pro 4 will be available in the channel on Oct. 26 for $1,179.
The Surface Pro 4 will be available in the channel on Oct. 26 for $1,179.

“The Surface Pro 4 is in the 2-in-1 product category. The SurfaceBook creates a whole new category for the marketplace. We have not yet coined a name for this new category, but what we want to do is redefine the laptop category to deliver new performance levels and new types of versatility,” Ibrahim said.

The concept of the SurfaceBook is to bridge the gap between the flexibility of the tablet with its portability and touch capability and productivity and performance of a laptop, Ibrahim added.

Sheriff Ibrahim, Category Lead, First Party Devices at Microsoft Canada
Sheriff Ibrahim, Category Lead, First Party Devices at Microsoft Canada

Microsoft shied away from making the SurfaceBook too mechanical. Ibrahim said there is a muscle wire that releases the tablet from the keyboard. From there you can re-attach it in video mode or laid flat for writing notes, drawing or reading.

The battery life on the SurfaceBook is between three to four hours detached. When connected it can produce nearly 12 hours of battery life, he said.

The SurfaceBook will not have a kickstand. Instead it has a fulcrum hinge, which Ibrahim claims is an engineering feat. The product only comes in brushed silver.

When the original Surface launched back in late 2012 – priced a $499 – it was slow to catch on. In 2014, for example, Microsoft (SEC) reported Surface losses of approximately $363 million. Ibrahim said the Surface line has grown 100 per cent year-over-year reaching revenues of $3.6 billion. Comparing the product revenue from the first Surface to today and its almost night and day.

“The ethos of the Surface is based on versatility. We want to redefine the laptop with this product. It’s not a traditional laptop, but a signal to the market that Microsoft can bridge the gap between laptop and tablet,” he said.

Who is buying the Surface?

According to Ibrahim, people are doing something creative are buying the Surface. With the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft has found that users do at least one creative task per week on average with the device such as 3D modeling with Rhino, Adobe Photoshop, illustrations and OneNote work.

You will notice that the screen is bigger at 12.3-inches and can produce more pixels at four million. The SurfaceBook maintains the 3×2 aspect ratio while looking taller. Ibrahim said its to create the shape of a legal piece of paper. There are two cameras (front and back) running Windows Hello for 3D.

“This also provides more screen real estate so that you view an Excel spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation.”

The screen contains the brains of the product and weighs 1.7 pounds, Ibrahim said meaning the Intel Core M, Core I5 and I7 processors along with the SkyLake graphics chip. The SurfaceBook keyboard will have the new Nvidia GeForce graphics chip. “Users will be able to work seamlessly with both graphic cards on the tablet,” he said.

Ibrahim said this type of design can lead to a 30 per cent performance bump. Users will also have options in pre-order configurations. For example, there are three options for RAM up to 1TB and four options for storage. The SurfaceBook will come with a full SD card.

The units will again sport full USB and the power port can transition to the docking station and enable users to transfer files when docked along with adding two 4K monitors. The SurfaceBook will have two USB ports.

The new keyboard accessories have a glass-like feel and are able to do gestures such as pinch and the three-finger swipe.

The new Surface Pro 4 keyboards are backwards compatible
The new Surface Pro 4 keyboards are backwards compatible

The new Pen priced at $59 features 1,000 levels of pressure and will have many different tips such as felt pen, for example. The pen will also have an erasure and is magnetized to stick to the side of the Surface products. With one click of the Pen a user can launch Cortana.

“We tried to make these keyboards sturdy enough so that you can hammer out a long report or article,” Ibrahim said.

Two more things to note on the new line up of Surface products: improved Dolby Audio sound and all new accessories such as the multi-coloured keyboards (Gold, Silver, Black, Blue and Red) will work with older models such as Surface Pro 3.

The SurfaceBook will retail for $1,949, while the Surface Pro 4 comes in at $1,179. The entry-level Surface 3 is $639.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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