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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Windows 10 Creator Update Release Date Announced

The Windows 10 Creator’s Update will be released on 2017-04-11.

Today is the world is abuzz with the news that Microsoft will be releasing its much touted Windows 10 Creator’s Update on 2017-04-11. This update will work with all Windows 10 Anniversary Update compatible PC’s and is specifically intended for Microsoft’s larger, touch screen enabled, all in one PC, the Microsoft Surface Studio.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows and devices group calls the Creator’s Update a “pretty major” one. He further states that its “[Microsoft’s] vision is to empower the creator in all of us.”

When I jumped back into the Surface, with the Surface Book, I also jumped back into the Windows 10 Insider program on the Slow Ring. This means that the code that I’m getting is still prerelease code – still a beta – but is much more stable than other betas in other rings in the program. I’m liking what I’m seeing; but so far, for me, the Creator’s Update isn’t as big as Microsoft is making it out to be. I haven’t seen anything THAT major…yet.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. Here are seven of probably the biggest and most notable items in the Creator’s Update that you’ll notice, even if you DON’T pick up a Surface Studio – which, by the way, starts at $2999.99.

  • Paint 3D
    Paint has been around since Windows 3.x. Its seen a few updates in terms of UI/UX; but its functionality has remained pretty constant – provide some basic way for a user to create a bitmap. The app now supports creating graphics in 2D or 3D formats. If you have a 3D printer, you can print your 3D creation as well…
  • Photos & Maps
    If you’re so inclined, you can now take your Surface Pen – or other supported stylus – and mark up graphics or maps in their respective apps. It’s not ground breaking, but it can be fun.
  • Microsoft EDGE
    Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, users still do NOT prefer either IE or EDGE. Most Windows users are using Chrome before either MS browser. However, EDGE is now faster, more secure and easier on your battery, and that last, ESPECIALLY over Chrome, which is a known battery hog. Microsoft claims an hour more use while watching streaming video using EDGE vs. Chrome.

Updates to EDGE include the following:

  1. The ability to preview visual thumbnails of your open tabs by hovering over a given tab.
  2. The ability to set aside open tabs to reference later, bringing them back by selecting a “restore tabs” button.
  3. EDGE now offers a variety of extensions including a Pinterest Pin It Button, Amazon Assistant (surfacing deals), and a Translator extension that lets you translate Web pages in more than 50 languages. EDGE also has an MS Office extension, letting you view and edit files without having Office installed on your computer.
  4. Microsoft has created an eBook Store as part of the Windows Store, where users may buy eBooks and read them in EDGE. Microsoft isn’t sharing how many books will be available in the Windows Store at launch.
  • Security
    The Creator’s Update includes a new Windows Defender Security Center. With it, you can examine the overall security status of your system. By clicking on a Health Report , you can your computer’s most recent scan results. The details of this system are still coming together, so I would expect updates to this new component to be available in a Patch Tuesday deployment near you.
  • Gaming
    Windows 10 now has a dedicated Gaming section in Settings now, and includes a Game Mode that is turned on by default. Game Mode prioritizes system resources when your gaming to insure that you get the best gaming experience from your hardware. This includes optimizations to the new game streaming process that Microsoft acquired last August from Beam. I know my oldest boy will be thankful for this when he streams games from our Xbox One. You will also be able to play games via the Xbox app on either your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC in the near future.
  • Color Adjusted Night-Time Display
    A number of different folks have issues with blue-based light in the evening. Studies have shown that exposing yourself to too much blue light before you go to bed can create sleep related issues. In other words, computing before bed makes it hard to fall asleep.A new feature in the Creator’s Update allows you to alter the color pallet on your display automatically so that you get warmer colors in the evening. The warmer colors on your monitor are supposed to help you sleep (or not be kept awake too long after calling it quits for the night). All I’ve noticed so far is that it can make everything on your monitor appear a little yellowy. I have no idea if this is going to make a difference in the long run, though you can use this as well as a new feature to limit the amount of time your kids spend on the PC as well as on the Xbox One’s version of the Creator’s Update.
  • Augmented and Mixed Reality
    Put this more in the coming soon category, but the Creators Update will support the first Windows Mixed Reality-enabled headsets when they arrive later this year from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo, at a starting price of $299.Microsoft says that the headsets will have built in sensors, that will enable you to walk around a room without the need for any external markers or sensors. This will more easily mark your boundaries . Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is also going to come to any consumer version of the HoloLens or not. However, these enhancements are eagerly anticipated by many; and should be fun to try when they’re available.

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