Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs. MacBook Air: How Do They Compare?

8 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AT&T exclusivity would be a disaster for the Lumia 950, the first Windows 10 Phone.

Ralf Groene and his design team at Microsoft first conceived of the recently revealed Surface Book while working on the Surface Pro. Microsoft Corp on Tuesday unveiled its first Windows 10 smartphones as it launched a series of new gadgets in a bid to win a bigger share of the competitive mobile market. The technology giant’s two premium Lumia smartphones take aim at popular devices offered by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co and add a few original features, such as a security tool that unlocks the handset by scanning a user’s eye.

But, significantly, the new Book would be a laptop first—not a tablet with a kickstand. “We had the idea of people starting out with that laptop architecture, going about their business, and then transforming it into something more personal,” Groene says. The launch marks the latest step by Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella to build on the July release of Windows 10, which Microsoft on Tuesday said was now running on 110 million devices around the world. “We now begin a new chapter of Windows 10 with new devices built for Windows 10,” Nadella said at the New York launch event. “What matters most is the mobility of your experience more than the mobility of any specific device.” The latest smartphone pitch follows a bruising rethink of the technology following Microsoft’s disastrous acquisition last year of Nokia for about US$7.2 billion.

Groene didn’t want to compromise on any of those, which led to a structural engineering dilemma: To convert into clipboard mode, the display would need to balance at the edge of the keyboard base. AT&T also held exclusive U.S. launch rights to sell some of the best Windows Phone 8 handsets, like the Lumia 920 and Lumia 1520, and those didn’t light the world on fire either despite their slick designs.

While you can’t lay the entire blame for Windows Phone’s original flop on one carrier, there’s no denying carrier relationships play an important role in a smartphone platform’s success. The connective tissue between the Surface Book’s base and display is an isopod-like piece of aluminum that flexes back and forth thanks to four rotational points. Analysts said there is little chance for Microsoft to quickly shift the dynamics of the smartphone business, in which it holds only about 3 percent, according to International Data Corp. Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said the handsets’ innovative eye-screening security and ability to link to other computing capacities were intriguing ideas, with the latter of particular interest to enterprises. However, the challenge to win market share is tough because it would require consumers who have already built relationships with other smartphone systems to switch, he said. “These are stepping stone devices,” Gillett said. “Microsoft is trying to demonstrate that it can put out competitive interesting devices with some interesting or unique features.”

This is due in part to the fact that the hinge is aluminum, and the rest of the Surface Book is magnesium, which weighs around one-third less than aluminum. But the contrast in appearance, Groene says, is mostly accidental. “Our whole focus was to make the hinge be the hinge, and roll out, and save weight,” he says. “Concentrating on what the function should be almost suggests what the form should be, so we ended up with these different sections nesting together.” Groene even likens the final design to a folio, for how it elegantly rolls over onto itself.

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