Earlier this morning, the Windows Central team in Berlin gave us a hands-on look at Lenovo's new MIIX 700. The two-in-one is certainly very reminiscent of the Surface Pro 3 and that has some people accusing the company of ripping off Microsoft.
However, I see this very differently for a few reasons. In fact, I think that the MIIX 700 is welcomed competition and can only help the Surface and the future of PC computing.
The Surface form factor
Looking at the MIIX 700 it is hard not to see the resemblance to the Surface Pro 3. Whether it is the metal body, the kickstand, even the magnetic keyboard. Here are a few reasons though why this is just fine.
The Surface Pro 3 is by all accounts the sweet spot Microsoft was attempting to achieve. It is the first Surface to really resonate with the public. Surface Pro 4 is going to build off of this momentum. Think refinements not a revolution for the next Surface including an additional, larger 14-inch version (yes, this is true).
By Lenovo using the same form factor it reinforces this new market of ultra-portable two-in-ones over traditional laptops. The company obviously sees Microsoft doing something right with the Surface, and they want in on that action too. Conversely, if the Surface were tanking, Lenovo would just pass.
Competition in technology is very important. Although capitalism has an odd contradiction (it thrives on rivalry, yet every firm strives to be a monopoly), it is the ability to one-up the other guy that keeps consumers happy. Indeed, the original Surface was born out of the idea of "priming the pump" and Microsoft stepping up where their partners were failing.
One thing, however. Nearly every time we post an article on the Surface or rumors of a new version many armchair engineers here are quick to add their two cents in comments on what Microsoft should do next. Interestingly, there are real engineers (and companies to back them) that also have ideas.
Take a look at the MIIX 700 and a few things it does right when compared to the Surface Pro 3:
- Included keyboard
- Comparative and competitively priced
- Bluetooth built into the keyboard
- Two USB ports (one USB 3.0, the other 2.0)
- Optional LTE modem
Those are not trivial things. They are substantial and impressive additions that any Surface Pro 3 owner would love to have too. Who knows, maybe the Surface Pro 4 will bring those as well. Or maybe not. The point is if Lenovo can one-up Microsoft (or at least add variation to the market) that is a good thing for consumers.
3. The more, the merrier
The last time I checked, the Surface Pro 3 is still not available everywhere worldwide. Part of that is Microsoft's new cautious approach to selling their hardware while other aspects reflect their supply chain limitations (Newsflash: they are not PC manufacturers). Why not let some of their OEM partners shoulder the burden of production risks in other countries? Or leverage better their manufacturing abilities?
Maybe you cannot get a Surface at your local shop in your region of the world, but Lenovo might be able to get you a MIIX 700. That is a better option than you having to consider a new iPad (rumored to have a keyboard dock too).
The more OEMs make Surface-like devices, and the more consumers demand them, the better for the future of Windows 10 and PCs in general.
The fact that the Surface design is being extended by PC partners is a good thing. It validates all that Microsoft has been trying to do with their genre defying device. Besides, copying a form factor is not that big of a deal. Look at a generic laptop. Or a tablet. Or a PC tower. Your black slab smartphone. Aren't these all clones too of a single form factor? If a company owned a general design in 2015, we should all have hexahedron laptops and orb smartphones by now.
Microsoft's Surface is a very compelling device, but I think having other manufacturers can, in the long run, lower pricing, add variation, spur creativity and offer improvements over it. Additionally, a company like Lenovo can extend their supply chain to places where Microsoft struggles to get the Surface into customer's hands.
The Lenovo MIIX 700 is nothing but a win for customers, and I hope other companies get in on the game too. You should as well if you care about Windows 10.