Microsoft's Surface Pro is a laptop no matter what anyone says
Microsoft claims that Surface Pro is a laptop. I agree. Windows Central Senior Editor Zac Bowden does not.
Five years ago Microsoft launched Surface Pro as "the tablet that can replace your laptop." That tagline and product positioning were relevant and strategically necessary for Microsoft during that time.
In 2013 slate tablets were still very popular and were even predicted as eventual laptop replacements. With Surface Microsoft was playing catchup with iPads and Android tablets.
Additionally, that catchy tagline was Microsoft's way of emphasizing Surface's desktop productivity strength (laptop) while avoiding its app-related weaknesses as a tablet. It is this foundation that sets the context for the Surface "being" a laptop, albeit a uniquely designed, packaged and marketed one. Let's take a closer look.
Zac Bowden: No matter what Microsoft says Surface Pro is not a laptop - it's a tablet
See Surface Pro at Microsoft (opens in new tab)
Marketing Surface on Microsoft's strengths
Positioning Surface Pro was a unique challenge for Microsoft. It needed slate-shaped hardware to compete in the then vibrant tablet space. Unfortunately, though the word "tablet" accurately characterizes the device's hardware shape, a hardware-software synergy defined consumer's "tablet" experience and the business models of market leaders. Simply put, consumers were accustomed to tablet experiences inextricably tied to mobile OSes and vibrant app ecosystems.
Consequently, it would have been strategically foolish for Microsoft to wholly rest the Surface's messaging on its tablet experience. Microsoft didn't have a successful mobile OS or robust touch-centric app ecosystem, but it had Windows, the world's most popular and productive desktop OS.
Thus, "Surface as the tablet (slate hardware) that can replace your laptop (Windows PC)", was a juggling act of positioning needed slate-shaped hardware in the tablet space, while downplaying OS and app weaknesses as a tablet, by emphasizing its Windows PC strength as a laptop. Surface creator Panos Panay's comparisons of Surface Pro to Macbook, buttressed by a statement that he wouldn't compare it to a tablet because there was no tablet in its class, emphasizes Surface's laptop focus.
Surface is a modular laptop Zac, not a tablet
My colleague Zac Bowden expressed strong feelings about Microsoft's new, "Surface Pro is the most versatile laptop", tagline. His arguments rest primarily on the devices "tablet" form factor when no keyboard's attached, its packaging without a keyboard and the Surface family's lack of diversity if Surface Pro, like Surface Book and Surface Laptop, is also a laptop.
Bowden's strongest argument is that since the device isn't packaged with the Type Cover then it's a tablet. The laptop experience (like the tablet experience), however, is the result of both a hardware and software synergy. The Surface with or without a keyboard is running software optimized for a laptop experience (opposite its rivals). Microsoft knows this, and that's, in part, why it pushed the "tablet that can replace your laptop" tagline. Combined with Microsoft's marketing and consumer's familiarity with Windows as a desktop OS most would see Surface Pro as a uniquely designed PC. Thus, the keyboard, even if not included would be perceived as a necessary component of this modular PC that would be used mostly as a laptop.
Windows Central writers are known for our analysis on how evolving technology often leads to the redefining of traditional form factors. The Surface Pro's modular design may therefore be a redefining of the laptop category not bound by the traditional parameters Bowden enforces.
How Microsoft changed Surface Pro conversation from tablet to laptop focus
Separate packaging, maximum profits
For better or worse Microsoft took advantage of an opportunity to profit on the Surface's modular design by selling the keyboard separately. Business is business.
Surface Pro as a modular laptop introduced a new distribution, packaging and business model that traditional laptops didn't have. In fact, Bowden concedes that if the keyboard came packaged with the main device, he would let the new slogan slide.
Since Microsoft is currently offering bundles to that effect, perhaps Bowden would now agree Surface Pro is a laptop.
How Surface changed Microsoft forever
All in the Surface family
Image credit Microsoft (opens in new tab)
Bowden argues that three laptops – the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and Surface Book – and a desktop, the Studio, confuses what the Surface family has to offer. He argued Microsoft can reach a wider audience if it marketed the:
- Surface Pro: as a tablet that can be a laptop.
- Surface Laptop: as a pure laptop.
- Surface Book: as a 2-in-1 that's a pretty good laptop.
Ironically, Bowden's proposed marketing plan focuses on these devices as laptops just like Microsoft's does. It's difficult getting away from the software side of the Surface Pro, Windows, that drives it toward a predominantly laptop usage pattern regardless of the form factor.
Anecdotally, I use my Surface Pro very much like I've used my laptops in the past. I prop it on a desk, table, or on my lap when sitting on the couch, in the car or in bed, just as I did my laptops. The device is quite "lapable." Furthermore, I purchased it as a tool for writing and running my business using Office and other productivity software, just as I would a laptop.
And though I am also using my Surface for art and consumption, most Surface buyers are likely like me – we wanted a Windows PC for Windows PC stuff. The tablet aspects are certainly wanted (otherwise we could've opted for a traditional laptop) but are secondary characteristics of this "most versatile laptop."
Why Microsoft Store wouldn't sell this enthusiast a Surface Pro bundle
More accurate marketing
Microsoft calling Surface Pro the most versatile laptop, given its shortcomings as a tablet and strengths as a laptop, is likely a more accurate tagline than the "tablet that can replace your laptop." That tagline put it's less capable tablet positioning at the forefront. The new slogan reverses that by placing the more formidable laptop qualities and common usage first and foremost.
This unique laptop with a detached keyboard tablet mode and "drafting table-like" Studio mode is indeed a versatile laptop.
So who do you agree with, yours truly Jason L Ward or Zac Bowden? Let us know in comments.
See Surface Pro at Microsoft (opens in new tab)
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Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!
Let's say my parents are mixed black/white. Do I have to call myself black? Or, is it acceptable to call myself black, white, or mixed?
Could someone argue that I'm black, but not white? Lol. I just saying.
Some of us don't want to screw around with another OS, another interface, integration issues, minimized work integration. Business also wants a single OS, single interface that will run all desktop, laptop apps and reduce support, app implementation,and education costs.
A pocketable Windows tablet with telephony is the only thing that makes sense. I think MS will do it. The twinkle in the eye of the guy at the MS Store last week while saying he didn't think it would happen, said it all.
Microsoft's HoloLens and Insider Chiefs suggest smartglasses will replace smartphones😉 : https://m.windowscentral.com/ar-smartglasses-may-replace-smartphones-hin...
If microsoft continued evolving windows for the surface pro to be more tabletcwbyric, the identity crisis of it being a laptop device would have been less clear, and this article wouldn't have been necessary
We FINALLY agree on something! It was bound to happen eventually. Microsoft doesn't treat the Pro as a tablet. Just look at how bad tablet mode on Windows 10 is. No one treats the Pro as a tablet. Neither do they treat the Book as a tablet. They simply have detachable screens. If there's one product that makes no sense in the Surface line-up, is the Surface Laptop. That overpriced under-spec'd thing has no reason to exist. It doesn’t innovate in anything, it isn't better than what Microsoft partners already offer and now that Windows 10 S is dead, it's not even a platform to showcase it.
Whereas the Surface laptop is a traditional laptop and the Surface Book a versatile laptop. Personally I feel that your emotions got the best of you on this particular topic 😉.
So by your own definition, For the Surface Pro to be called a laptop, it has to be sold with a keyboard, it is therefore a laptop at least in some instances. So based on your definition a simple shift in packaging will change the category of this device from tablet to laptop. To take it a little deeper, it's not the OS, not the usage, simply the packaging, from your perspective, that makes it a tablet. So if a customer went to the Microsoft Store or ordered it oniline and Microsoft packaged the Surface and keyboard together before selling it to the consumer it would be a laptop.
So how about if the customer put the two together online or in the store then paid for it, according to your logic, why isn't it a laptop? In one case Microsoft packaged them before purchase, in the other the customer put them together before any many was exchanged. The categorization as I logically not emotionally 😃 argue in the piece revolves around a desktop OS, usage, a modular design and how Microsoft markets it - which is as a laptop. The comparisons on stage and as I noted in the piece Panos makes are deliberatly with laptops not tablets. Most people buy the Surface to use as a PC, laptop. Sure calling the Pro a laptop does call into question the position of the Surface Book - a laptop and the Surface Laptop...also a laptop. :-) Microsoft addresses that by calling it the most versatile laptop. The Surface Pro has a tablet mode and Studio mode. The Surface Book has a tablet but no Studio Mode. The Surface Laptop is a straight laptop. So there is differentiation because they are different devices. Someone who wants a straight Laptop and likes the weight of the keyboard base and the ability to hold a laptop by its base should go for the Surface Laptop. Someone like me, as I say in the piece, who will use a device primarily for writing and running a business, but also for art (I can't afford a Studio) the Surface Pro, with Studio Mode and the Surface Dial is a great choice. So you can't just look at the word or categorization of the device as a "laptop" in relation to the other laptops in the Surface Family and say, well its not a laptop without looking at what makes each device distinct. You have to look at the differences and the distinct positioning of the devices. 😉 Hey and call me emotional again and I might get really emotional!!!!!!!! 😄 Lol
It's an argument that can't be won or lost. It is what it is to those that use it. It's not up to marketing or media. It's not up to what you say. No matter what you say.
There simply hasn’t been the development of windows 10 as a well rounded touchable OS, or enough App Store apps to help that along. Too often things like the soft keyboard not appearing when you need to type something and the keyboard is removed because you’re trying to use it as a tablet.
It's simply called a laptop because of the TSA making Jason and Zac's debate at Mercy to the arguer's prejudice. In the real world (usage cases, not applications), IT DOESN'T MATTER. NO ONE CARES!!!!
but are mostly used as a laptop because 99% of Surface slate Owners buy the type covers. before the Surface tablets were introduced by MS CEO Ballmer there were laptops that had swivel screens that folded down to make a thick Tablet. it's the Surface's unique thin design with a built in kick stand and Type writer cover that created for Microsoft a PC Tablet that is the best 2 in 1 Tablet / laptop hybrid in the World. The hybrid Tablet / Laptop hybrid Computers are here to stay. The Surface tablet laptop hybrids are a stable product I think Microsoft will continue to sell.
I am very surprised by how lapable is, I thought it was impossible to work on my bed with the SP over my laps but I was wrong.