The recent launch of the Surface Pro 3 displays an engineering feat from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)to the entire Windows community. Eyeing the essence of quality from corner-to-corner, the Surface Pro 3 easily distinguishes itself from the competition, unlike other OEMs who ostensibly use Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) products as a foundation of their own. The new tablet is highly functional and fulfills the needs of many, but despite its efforts it still doesn't suit all. Some people still desire a laptop experience but when it comes to Windows laptops, OEMs just don't cut it. However, if Microsoft extended the qualities of the Surface Pro 3 into the form of a clamshell, it could be enough to close the enormous quality gap between Windows OEMs and Apple.
Apple's PC market share is on the rise
According to Apple's last earnings conference call, the Mac has shown global market share growth for 31 out of the last 32 quarters. That's eight years of growth and it doesn't look like its stopping anytime soon. The Mac, which has a historical reputation for poor value and high prices, now offers unmatched value across the chain even down to the Mac Pro desktop. Prices have dropped significantly over the last year as the MacBook Air, which made its first appearance with an $1800 price tag, now costs half as much. At $900, there's no Windows equal.
In addition to being easier to own, owning a Mac is even better with an improved ecosystem. Thanks to the upcoming OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 updates, owning an iPhone in addition to a Mac will be better than ever. During the last earnings conference call, Apple said that for the last six months, half of newly registered iPhones and two-thirds of newly registered iPads came from first-time users. With Yosemite offering features like the ability to send and receive calls and text messages from your computer, the Mac is an increasingly attractive computer for all of those new customers. Despite some stubbornness, even I recently made the switch to buy my first MacBook.
OEMs are building worse copies
Apple is like a chef that takes the best ingredients in the world and fixes up an amazing dish while its competitors look at the finished product and then figure out how to replicate it. Dell, HP, Samsung, and other OEMs spend so much time copying Apple that they never come up with anything better. OEMs shouldn't copy something with the hope of making it better, because the best they can possible do is make something just as good.
Indeed the affordability of Windows PCs can't be denied. However, any PC that enters the price territory of Apple's MacBook, which now starts at $900, is entirely outmatched. When people buy products from other OEMs, in most cases it seems like they're losing out on a little something. Customers aren't getting what they deserve. To observe a very small detail, take a glance at the two images below. They're both external battery indicators on the MacBook Pro and Dell's XPS 13 but there's a clear difference in effort. With Apple, its customers are getting perfection while Windows PCs suffer from shortcuts like this that are spread throughout the entire device.
An extension of the Surface Pro 3
A quick look at the Surface Pro 3 shows that it is a work of highly functional art. From corner-to-corner it features premium materials and virtually no shortcuts, similar to an Apple product. Also, Microsoft didn't skimp out on the details as evident in its focus on the minuscule features like the magnetic hinge on the keyboard that improves typing ergonomics in the lap.
While this is an incredible product, it isn't enough for people who want a clamshell laptop experience. There are just some situations that can't be solved with a kickstand and flimsy keyboard. For example, despite being a compact tablet, if you have the keyboard and kickstand out, the device as a whole takes up more surface area on a table than even a large laptop.
However, the dimensions of the Surface Pro 3 are wildly impressive. Despite using similar internals, it's thinner than the MacBook Air even with the keyboard cover. If Microsoft extended this into a laptop form, the software maker could come up with a high-quality device that would easily be superior to the laptops provided by OEMs on the market.
While Microsoft would severely upset its OEMs, it would lift the bar on a new standard like a reference design. A venture into the Microsoft store is a saddening display of lazy, ugly, cheap, and inferior laptops. The PC laptops on the market right now just don't cut it and unfortunately, the Surface Pro 3 doesn't fill everybody's shoes despite its efforts. In the end, the Surface Pro 3 is an incredible representation of what Microsoft is capable of, and I believe it could vastly benefit from extending these qualities into the form of a clamshell.