Microsoft just released its own laptop. OK, a convertible laptop (if you want to get technical), but a laptop nonetheless. The Surface Book represents an important shift for Microsoft, it's a key movement toward the company's ongoing work to position Windows 10 as cohesive cross-device ecosystem.
It's a net positive for consumers, but the picture may not be as pretty for the company's longstanding hardware partners.
It's a genuinely surprising revelation, but until now, Microsoft has never actually built its own laptop. The Surface Pro has fulfilled a space as a working tablet – a space Microsoft is dominating well enough that Apple felt it necessary to react with its own version in its launch of the iPad Pro. But a fully-fledged laptop it wasn't.
Prior speculation had it that the company never developed a true laptop out of fears of upsetting its hardware partners. The truth is, wrote Gizmodo's Kyle Wagner back in 2013, "An honest to goodness Microsoft laptop would give the industry a heart attack. But who cares. Those OEMs know that they can't ditch Windows, unless they want to resign themselves to the IT afterlife."
Microsoft put itself in a great position when it created Windows 10. Engadget's Devindra Hardawar wrote in his review that it "delivers the most refined desktop experience ever from Microsoft, and yet it's so much more than that. It's also a decent tablet OS, and it's ready for a world filled with hybrid devices." It unites everything – all Microsoft's devices – and creates a coherent ecosystem not seen since Apple.
The theme of the Oct. 6 event was oneness: all Microsoft's products are connected. For the first time consumers may get to see Microsoft as one brand, not a disjointed market of products that seem vaguely related, in that they all came from the same company.
It may sound harsh, but I never saw Xbox and my Windows PC as part of the same whole, because they weren't. My experience in one space could not be shared or transferred. They had little to do with one another beyond basic branding.
But soon gamers will be able to "[s]tream your Xbox One games to any Windows 10 PC in your home. Play new games optimized specifically for Windows 10," according to Xbox's website. This along with so many other features makes me wish I could take back that PlayStation 4 purchase I made.
The relationship becomes even stronger when introducing a flagship laptop to house Windows 10. Microsoft made a power play when it released the Surface Book, a huge blow to hardware manufacturers like HP, Asus, Lenovo, or any third party that has ever made a Windows laptop.
Rather than try to emulate Apple's aesthetic, like so many OEMs do, Microsoft made a model for what a Windows laptop should look like. It has already had a great deal of practice with its Surface tablet line.
And while it's clearly been years – if not decades – in the making, the Surface Book is an impressive debut. It's distinguished itself as a premium Microsoft product. It has some nicely engineered features, like the muscle wirelock system and dynamic fulcrum hinge. In a sea of Apple look-alikes, the Surface Book is distinctly Microsoft.
Everyone loves a comeback and Microsoft just so happened to make a suit and tie called the Surface Book when it decided to bring Windows 10 to the event on Oct. 6. It's a major wake-up call to the company's hardware partners. But the biggest takeaway from the show is how Microsoft has decided to own its software, its hardware, and its ecosystem.
It allows the company to put its best foot forward and show Windows 10 as it was meant to be. It's taking a page from Apple's book and Microsoft might just pull it off.