Microsoft Releases the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S

You can file this under the WTF of the Day category…

You can definitely file this one under the WTF category. Sometimes you really have to wonder what the heck a company like Microsoft is doing. I mean, I am totally out in deep, roving, left, right field with this one, knee deep in Lake Winnapasocki… if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Like the last part of that statement, the whole decision by Microsoft to release the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

Let me break this down for you. It’s really a very simple thing, despite what you might think.

Windows 10 S
Windows 10 S is Windows 10. It runs on an Intel Core i processor and does everything that Windows 10 Home can do (because it mostly is Windows 10 Home…). The big difference here is that Windows 10 S only runs apps out of the Windows Store. Period.

According to Microsoft, the S in Windows 10 S doesn’t stand for Store. It stands for “security, simplicity and superior performance.” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group said that the “S” stands for Soul, or the Soul of Microsoft’s future – a secure Windows platform that will provide users with malware free apps from them as well as third parties at a variety of price points.

In short, Windows 10 S runs apps from the Windows Store. It will also run Win32 apps that are wrapped using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge, codenamed “Centennial.”

In short, this is Windows RT for Intel Core i processors.

While Microsoft thinks that restricting Windows 10 S to running only apps that come from the Windows Store, because doing so will provide a more reliable, secure and manageable computing experience, there are a couple of key flaws to this:

  1. There Aren’t Enough Apps in the Windows Store
    This has been an issue for Microsoft since the introduction of the Windows Store in October of 2012. As of November of 2014, there were over 500,000 apps in the Store. By September of 2015, that number had increased to approximately 670,000. As of March 2016, that number should have come close to 850,000. By the time of this Writing (May of 2017) that number should be somewhere around 925,000.In contrast, the Mac App Store should have somewhere around 2,2000,000 (two million, two hundred thousand) or approximately 58% more than the Windows Store. You can find this interesting bit of information here.
  2. There are a Number of Different ways to Obtain Windows Software
    Microsoft is trying to change over 35 years of a proven software publishing business model encouraged and supported by the ASP (the Association of Shareware) and software developers all over the world. THAT is going to be an uphill battle. Most software developers and publishers have resisted the Windows Store because, well… they don’t HAVE to use it. They don’t have to subject themselves to the restrictions that Microsoft places on software that’s sold and delivered through it. They have a number of different alternatives and; it’s clear since the introduction of the Windows Store with the Release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, they’d rather NOT subject themselves to those restrictions.
  3. Windows RT was Discontinued
    Microsoft tried this method of software delivery with Windows RT, a version of Windows that ran on ARM. Windows RT failed miserably and was discontinued. Microsoft was really the ONLY software publisher or vendor of note to provide software through the Store under Windows RT; and at the time, that did NOT include MS Office. What makes Microsoft think the concept of restricting users to running software from the Windows Store on an Intel Core i processor is any better of an idea?

Now let us consider the hardware that was intended to run this “new” operating system – the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is light and thin. It has a long lasting, 14.5 hour battery and uses most of the same accessories as its other Surface family PC’s – including the Surface Pen, Surface Dock, and Surface Dial. It also has a keyboard, covered of cloth or fabric, if you will, like other keyboards from Apple.

The base model comes in four different colors – Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold and Platinum. Its display is a 13.5 inch PixelSense screen made of Gorilla Glass. It has a touch display that has a 2259×1504 resolution, insuring that long exposure to it won’t strain your eyes. Its touch pad supports multi-touch. The keyboard has 1.5mm of travel, and is supposed to be more responsive and more comfortable than the keyboard on Microsoft’s Surface Book, though I have yet to actually put my hands on the device.

The device’s feature set is rounded out with a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port, a Surface Connect jack for charging and Surface Dock connection, as well as 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. The device does not have a USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port.

The base configuration of the device which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. The high end Surface Laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and is priced at $2199. High end Surface Laptops only come in Platinum. If you wish to have a gold, cobalt or burgundy colored SL, then you’re going to be limited to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft is targeting the Surface Laptop at the education market and most specifically, they are marketing the product as a Chromebook competitor.

However, they aren’t going to do that well pricing the device at its current price points. To be very honest, the Surface Laptop is a premium priced product. Chromebooks, most of which are priced between $199 and $399, are minimalist based PCs. They have only just enough processor, RAM and storage needed to push and store a few documents and run the web apps needed to edit them. That’s the point of a Chromebook. They run web apps or those apps that are available in the Chrome Store and that’s all. They don’t run any other kind of app and aren’t meant to.

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with the Surface Laptop. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Microsoft would price that solution starting at $1000 USD. At that price, education accounts likely won’t touch them, even at a bulk discount.

There’s a great deal here to be concerned about.

The whole model is a bit problematic. Microsoft is targeting the education market where Chromebooks are used by students and teachers, along with G-Suite (formerly Google Docs), to get school work done. G-Suite is free for individuals, and Chromebooks are dirt cheap. The way that the Surface Laptop is priced, it’s really priced more in line with Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Air – a premium product.

The problem here is that Apple’s products are premium products with premium prices in a business model. Most of their apps are found in the Mac App Store; but Apple also gives you a way to side load the apps via the traditional method… the same method that Microsoft is now adopting with Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop.

Actually there are a number of problems here:

  1. The device starts at $1000 when their direct competition is priced 80% less to start.
  2. Apple’s software delivery model – the Mac App Store – contains roughly 60% more titles than the Windows Store, and it’s much more successful. Its accepted and it works. Microsoft’s isn’t proven and isn’t well populated
  3. Microsoft’s target audience, educators and students likely don’t have the means to get into a Surface Laptop and won’t choose one over even a high end Chrome book, simply based on price.
  4. Part of what makes the Surface Laptop desirable are the four cool colors that the device comes in. Unfortunately, they’re only available in the i5, 8GB, 256GB model. All other models only come in Platinum.

Everything that I’ve seen and read so far about Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop doesn’t lend a lot to its success. I really don’t think either of them are going to do well. I think the Surface Laptop won’t sell as well as either Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. While users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows Pro for $50, according to Microsoft, I don’t think many users are going to seek Windows 10 S out. The last thing I’m going to want to do is pay an additional $50 to upgrade the “cloud” version of Windows.

I actually think that the whole Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop effort are doomed from the start.

What do you think? Is the Surface Laptop something you’re interested in? Will you pay $1000 or more for it? Do you think that Windows 10 S and the Windows Store are something that is going to work out? Let me know what you think in the Discussion area below.

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Chromebooks – What are they and Why do I Care?

What’s a Chromebook with enhanced offline capabilities..?

A notebook with a stripped-down desktop OS (or, “three Chromebooks walk into a bar…”)

 

Introduction

See… I blame the whole netbook era for this.

A few years ago, just before tablets hit the market and the iPad took the computing world by storm, netbooks were all the rage. They were really a full blown notebook computer with either a “starter” version of Windows or Linux or a hacked version of the full OS; but had budget processing power and RAM. In many ways, they were a hackers dream, as with the right tools, talent or instructions, getting unusual Linux or Unix builds or even OS X on one was fairly easy, requiring only the right OS build and a USB flash drive or CD drive. Back in the day, I had a number of articles published on Gear Diary on how to create a Hackintosh with an MSI Wind.

Netbooks were replaced by tablets; and then the whole rooting your Android device-thing started. In many ways, rooting your Android device has also seen its day come and go, as more people are interested in a pure Android experience. Jail breaking or rooting your device has become very passé and honestly, I’m glad to see it go, too. I used to be very much into putting custom ROM’s on my phone(s), and that goes all the way back to the PocketPC and Windows Mobile days. While it was fun (at times), it’s a great deal of work and the results you get aren’t always worth the effort, especially when you can now cycle devices in and out every 12 or so months.

What does this have to do with Chromebooks? That’s a great question… The way things have been going, I see the implementation of Chromebooks in a similar light – a relic of the pre-tablet age where an open-source undercurrent was trying to redirect the interests of the industry and mainstream computing. Cloud computing has its place, but I don’t see it as the savior that Google and others would want YOU to think it is.

Chromebooks are completely dependent upon a few key items in order to function correctly. Over the next few days, we’ll discuss them all and see if we can figure it all out.

Chromebooks

 

Google Services and Little Else

Let’s get this out there right now – unless you’re already in bed with Google, you’d better plan to be if you purchase a Chromebook. The device may not work properly with other cloud-based storage or office suite services, and then you’d be stuck. Buying a Chromebook means buying into Google. Period.

 

A Chromebook is (little more than) a Dumb Terminal

The current computing model is completely based on the Intel x86/x64 architecture and the client/server model of computing. Over the past 20 or so years, you’ve seen Moore’s Law prove itself and then be recast as the number of transistors that we can currently put on a silicon wafer sort of went from 2300 back in the day to more than 2.3M. The point I’m making is that the current computing paradigm has all of the processing power for your computer actually ON your computer.

It’s got a beefy processor with (increasingly sophisticated) power management capabilities. It has a boat load of RAM and as much spinning or flash storage as you can cram into it without blowing the price out of proportion. It (usually now-a-days) has an HD display as both HD capable desktop monitors and notebook screens are coming down in price.

Software ecosystems, even for traditional desktop/laptop computing, provide easy access to all of the tools you need to get your computing tasks done. Everything you need is on the computing device…except on a Chromebook.

Chromes doesn’t have a lot of local processing power built into it. It’s really a desktop version of the Chrome Browser for PC/Mac/Linux shoved inside a plastic and metal case. Most of the apps and computing that you do on it must be run within that browser wrapper. Things like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Photos, work well, and are really all you get. If it runs inside a browser window on your PC and if most of the heavy lifting the app needs are done by the web site/service, then you’re likely going to have a good chance of it running well on a Chromebook… especially if it’s a Google service. The local device can do some crunching and processing, but the device and service are designed to push most of the processing needs on the web server and service. “Regular” applications won’t run, however; so don’t look for that kind of experience from a Chromebook.

While this hardware and software configuration insures that the device itself can be relatively inexpensive (many Chromebooks are priced between $199 and $299), it doesn’t explain devices like the Chromebook Pixel, which sells for $1299. Most Chromebooks have budget processors – Intel Celerons, Samsung Exynos, etc. They’re not very powerful and really only provide basic computing services. The Pixel, however, is configured like a standard laptop, which doesn’t make much sense. It also has a touch screen, which either says they’re going to start doing some touch-centric related stuff with it and will also produce a tablet, or it could mean nothing at all. With Google… you never really know.

Chromebooks, though, are really designed to turn the lights on and just get you access to the internet. They don’t do any local bit crunching. What processing they do, is limited to local storage, file retrieval and internet service navigation and running of the “operating system.” As such, they’re really nothing more than a dumb terminal on wheels.

 

Next Page

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Is Google taking their selling strategy to the next level?

In 2011, Google opened their first physical shop in London in a branch of Currys and PC World. The shop was solely dedicated to Google’s Chromebook and was called the “Chromezone”. Basically, this concept is called a shop-in-shop. The concept was very well received and many customers appreciated the fact that they could not only try the gadget out, but rather receive valuable advice from the well-trained staff. The only problem, which customers expressed, was that no other Google products were marketed.

Today, after 2 years, Google took the next logical step and fulfilled their customers wishes. Google opened their first shop-in-shop in Hamburg, Germany, for all their products.

The shop was opened in a local branch of Saturn. On 100 sq. m (about 1.100 sq. f), Google presents all their products in a modern but natural design with a lot of colors and wood. Besides the whole Chromebook and Nexus range and accompanying accessories, you can also test their software products like the Chrome browser, Google Maps, Google Play or Youtube.

The highlight of the shop is the so-called Liquid Galaxy, a big Google Earth screen, where you can explore the world and visit interesting places. It’s a nice idea which also looks very cool.

Google Store Hamburg

The biggest advantage of the store is the very-well trained and competent staff, eager to help you with whatever question you might have, be it regarding hardware or software. This is, in my opinion, the right approach of bringing good products closer to the people. It’s very convenient to shop online and have the goods delivered to your door but sometimes it just feels better to see, touch and test the product you want to buy. And if someone can tell you more information and show you how that product works, it’s that much better. It makes you feel important and that you, as a client, matter to the company, thus you are more satisfied with your purchase. And you are more likely to establish a personal connection to the company.

Some might say, Google is trying to copy the concept of the Apple Stores. So what? If it is a good concept and customers can benefit from it, I don’t see the problem.

All in all, I really like the new approach and I hope, as probably many others do, that Google won’t stop with only this one store, but take it to an international level and expand this concept.

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Google launches Chromebooks with Samsung and Acer

Yesterday we announced that Google was getting ready to announce a “student package” for its Chrome notebook. Well, shorter than expected, Google officially unveiled its first Chromebooks. Google has partnered up with Samsung and Acer to deliver the first models, which are slated to ship on June 15.

Let’s take a look at the main features of Chromebooks…

Instant web
Chromebooks boot in 8 seconds and resume instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash. In fact, Chromebooks are designed to get faster over time as updates are released.

Always connected
It’s easy to get connected anytime and anywhere with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G. As your Chromebook boots up, it quickly connects to your favorite wireless network so you’re on the web right from the start. 3G models include a free 100 MB per month of mobile data from Verizon Wireless so you can keep working around home and on the go.

Same experience everywhere
Your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log in to another Chromebook and get right back to work.

Amazing web apps
Every Chromebook runs millions of web apps, from games to spreadsheets to photo editors. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many apps keep working even in those rare moments when you’re not connected. Visit the Chrome Web Store to try the latest apps, or just type in a URL. No CDs required.

Friends let friends log in
Chromebooks are easy to share with family and friends. They can log in to experience all of their own Chrome settings, apps, and extensions, or use Guest Mode to browse privately. Either way, no one else using your Chromebook will have access to your email and personal data.

Forever fresh
Your Chromebook gets better and better over time, unlike a traditional PC. When you turn it on, it updates itself. Automatically. All of your apps stay up-to-date, and you get the latest and greatest version of the operating system without having to think about it. Annoying update prompts not included.

Security built in
Chromebooks run the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses. They employ the principle of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot.

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