Although Microsoft has long been known as a software company, that hasn't stopped it from releasing some knockout hardware. Earlier this week, the Redmond-based firm set the high-bar for laptops with the Surface Book, a 13.5-inch hybrid notebook that's the thinnest Windows 10 laptop yet. It also carries one of the highest-resolution screens in the industry as both a notebook and tablet.
It's more than a high-end laptop that's nice to look at, though: it's also the device that's going to set the tone for notebooks for years to come. A bold statement, yes, and one I'm confident in making because Microsoft did exactly the same thing in the tablet space with its Surface slates. In these past few weeks alone, we've seen manufacturers put out device after device that tries to imitate the success of the Surface Pro 3.
Proof in the product
Whether you're looking at the iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, Lenovo Miix 700, Dell XPS 12 or HP Spectre x2, all share striking similarities to Microsoft's Surface tablet. For instance, each has features a detachable screen and magnetic keyboard, a form factor championed first by the Surface tablets.
Some tablets, like the Lenovo Miix 700, hew even closer to the Surface, lifting the same design down to the kickstand.
Of course, not every device is a carbon copy. The HP Spectre x2 goes with a kickstand bar to make way for a larger battery while incorporating additional speakers into its keyboard accessory. The Dell XPS 12 was designed as a laptop first, prioritizing the keyboard. Google's Pixel C represents the greatest departure, incorporating an adjustable hinge into the keyboard rather than relying on a kickstand attached to the back of the screen.
When Microsoft first introduced the Surface as a tablet that could replace your laptop three years ago, it seemed like an absurd claim. But if these multitudes of imitators are any indication, the Windows maker was onto something from the very start, similar to the way the iPhone spawned a whole new generation of smartphones.
The next generation of laptops
Now the Surface Book could spark a similar revolution in laptops as a shining symbol of innovation. It's the most unique laptop we've seen in years. Look at the aesthetics alone: it includes a hinge that doesn't fold over, but rather coils into itself while leaving a noticeable gap between the screen and keyboard.
By creating a machine that doesn't fold completely shut, users can leave the screen at a small angle in draw mode. At the same time, because the machine doesn't shut fully, Microsoft didn't need to tuck the keys into a small indentation to prevent them from leaving marks on the screen. From the keyboard deck to the palm rests, the entire interior panel of the laptop is one perfectly smooth and flat surface.
Add in the articulating hinge and its nearly bone white magnesium finish, and the Surface Book looks almost like a concept product. It's a futuristic design for sure - whether it looks odd or just ahead of the curve will depend on your perspective – however you can't deny Microsoft has pulled off some new tricks with the basic aesthetics of the Surface Book.