The $999 device was unveiled at Microsoft's EDU event in New York City on Tuesday and features a 13.5-inch screen, 14.5 hours of battery life, an Alcantara fabric keyboard and a clamshell design. Microsoft on Tuesday showed that it wants to be a major player in grade school and college classrooms -- areas that have grown to be dominated by Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report Google since it debuted a range of low cost and simply designed Chromebooks. The Surface Laptop was anticipated by many to be marketed as a Chromebook competitor, but Microsoft's device chief, Panos Panay, and the Surface Laptop's specs indicated otherwise.
College-bound high school students are buying more Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report MacBooks than PCs, said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy. That's the demographic that Microsoft is going after with the Surface Laptop, not educators who are looking for a cheap, simple machine similar to the Chromebook.
"There's just no way they can be competitive with the very aggressively priced Chromebooks," said Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner.
Hidden in Microsoft's slew of announcements, though, was an item that could serve as a rival to the Chromebook: Microsoft's partner laptops. The entry-level laptops are made by Acer, Samsung and HP, among others, and start at $189. They also run Windows 10 S, a stripped down, student-focused version of the Windows 10 Pro that only comes with a browser and the Windows Store. In Windows 10 S, users can only run programs that are available in the Windows Store.
"Those are intended to compete with Chromebooks but they didn't talk about them a lot," Moorhead explained.
Eventually, Microsoft may market the Surface Laptop with the Windows 10 Pro operating system, instead of the Windows 10 S, Moorhead said, but the software giant hasn't yet indicated whether or not that will happen.
And it's no coincidence that Panay spent a great deal of time on Tuesday explaining how the Surface Laptop might best the MacBook Pro because, in many ways, the two devices are more likely to go head to head than the Chromebook.
"The Surface Laptop has the performance of a MacBook Pro and the form factor of the MacBook Air," Moorhead explained. "What's interesting about the Surface Laptop is from a design standpoint they are finally attempting to separate themselves from Apple."
The Surface has four color options, uses soft fabric materials and the speakers are positioned underneath the keyboard -- all of these features are departure from what Apple usually does, Moorhead said.
"In a way, the industry has been emulating Apple when it comes to looks," Moorhead added. "But this was the first time I've ever said 'I've never seen anything that looks like this.'"
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