Microsoft presents its first true laptop in bid to rival MacBook

Mr Panos Panay, vice president of Microsoft Surface Computing, speaking about the Microsoft Surface Laptop.
Mr Panos Panay, vice president of Microsoft Surface Computing, speaking about the Microsoft Surface Laptop.PHOTO: AFP

SEATTLE/SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Microsoft introduced its first true laptop, a US$999 (S$1,391) device running a souped-up version of Windows software that's aimed at college students and represents the company's latest bid to become a player in hardware to rival Apple.

The Surface laptop comes in four colors - gold, platinum, blue and burgundy - and ditches a metal area around the keyboard for a softer microfibre lining. It has a 13.5-inch (34.3 centimetre) touch screen, runs the latest Intel processors and gets 14.5 hours of battery life, according to Microsoft. It also will run the new Windows 10S operating system, software the company presented on Tuesday (May 2) that will be faster and offer better security than previous versions.

Microsoft is targeting the new operating system and laptop at the education market, where the total value of personal computing device shipments - including desktops, notebooks and tablets - has reached US$15.6 billion, according to research firm IDC. Microsoft and Apple had long dominated the school computing market, but Alphabet Inc's Google has made inroads recently with its low-priced and simple Chromebooks.

Windows 10S will be available on cheaper computers targeted at elementary schools where teachers want predictable, easy to maintain and quick-booting machines. Dell, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba, among others, will offer new PCs running Windows 10S from US$229 starting this summer. With the new Surface laptop, Microsoft is hoping to attract college-age buyers who want both a reliable machine and premium design and materials.

"We know a lot of students use MacBook Airs and MacBook pros and those are awesome," Panos Panay, vice president for Surface Computing, said at the event. But he said the Surface laptop is lighter and thinner with a longer battery life than any MacBook Air or MacBook Pro on the market today.

The new device represents Microsoft's first classic clamshell computer - previous versions were either a tablet or a hybrid tablet/notebook. The base model includes 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and runs on an Intel Core i5 processor. More expensive configurations are also available with a faster Intel Core i7 chip, storage capacities up to a terabyte and as much as 16GB of RAM.

Core to the new laptop is Windows 10S, which looks and feels like the current operating system but limits the apps users can download to those available only from Microsoft. The company says that extends battery life and makes the laptop faster and more secure.