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Microsoft's Surface Laptop Can't Replace Chromebooks, So What Is It For?

4 May 2017, 7:30 am EDT By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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Microsoft recently unveiled a new kind of laptop, aptly named the Surface Laptop. So what's new? Well, this is a machine sporting the company's newest Windows iteration — Windows 10 S. That's kind of a big deal, if you know what Windows 10 S is.

So what is this new Windows 10 version all about? First and foremost, it's meant to take on Google's Chromebooks, or relatively underpowered machines powered by Chrome OS, an operating system unlike any other, but still strikingly familiar.

It's familiar because it packs in Google-made software and web-based services a lot of us are probably used to by now: Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and much more. Chromebooks are popular in the education sector in particular, and that's mainly because of three things: these laptops are up to every task a person in school might need to accomplish, the software is simple to use, and most importantly — Chromebooks are inexpensive, sometimes even dirt cheap.

Of course, some models still cost a pretty penny, but Chromebooks are generally priced lower than their Windows 10 counterparts. For someone looking for a laptop who doesn't want anything significant out of it — not gaming, editing, or any power-intensive task — apart from simple web-browsing and using productivity tools, would they purchase a brand-new Windows 10 laptop or gravitate toward the much-cheaper Chromebooks? You probably know the answer to that.

Is The Surface Laptop A Chromebook Killer?

The new Surface Laptop, packed with Windows 10 S, is meant to challenge Chromebooks. But here's the biggest problem: Microsoft's new machine starts at $999.

Majority of Chromebooks — 90 percent — hover beneath the $300 price range. There's no price war, as Chromebooks already win in that regard. So who does Microsoft think its new machine is for?

Is Windows 10 S A Dealbreaker?

Not for power users, that's for sure. Windows 10 S looks pretty much like Windows 10, but it's not Windows 10 at all, because it can't run traditional desktop apps — only those from the Windows Store. Granted, third-parties can convert their desktop apps via the Universal Windows Platform and have them run on Windows 10 S, but will a large number even bother, given the difficulty of porting apps?

With Windows 10 S, you can't run software such as Adobe Photoshop, WhatsApp, iTunes, OpenVPN, Google Drive — the list goes on. For some, this is pretty much a dealbreaker already. Remember, this is a $999 device. That can't run the desktop version of Photoshop.

Still, Microsoft says that the Surface Laptop is for students. Specifically, those who want to invest in a laptop that'll stand the test of time as they go through the strains of higher education. In short, it's meant to be a longstanding companion; not a one-off thing you'd want to upgrade in a few months.

"This is where we wanted to put our focus, into those next four years of a student's life, when they're just about to get out of high school," Panos Panay told CNET. He is Microsoft's VP of devices, the person helming the Surface line. "We wanted to bring them a product they could have so much confidence in."

Surface Laptop: A Closer Look

Putting aside Microsoft's perplexing decision to target college students with an underpowered $999 machine, there are some merits to be made of the Surface Laptop. It packs a 13.5-inch PixelSense touch display, Intel's seventh-gen processors, and 14.5 hours of battery life. The base model comes with 4 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD, and is compatible with the Surface Dial for offscreen controls.

These specs are more than enough for the average college student, to be sure. But at that price range, it's easy to imagine they'd look elsewhere.

Maybe even at Chromebooks.

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