Microsoft (MSFT) is going back to school with a new Surface Laptop. Unveiled at a special event in New York on Tuesday, the laptop is the Redmond, Washington-based company’s biggest attempt to combat Apple (AAPL) and Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) increasingly dominant presences in American colleges.
The $999 Surface Laptop is a slim, sleek notebook with a gorgeous 13.5-inch, touch screen display that runs a special version of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system called Windows 10 S. Consumers can also upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for $49.99.
Panos Panay, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Surface group, took the stage during the event to show off the new device, and was effusive in his love for the notebook’s design. He called the laptop soulful and beautiful.
“We built a laptop, and it’s beautiful,” Panay said. “But it’s beautiful because it’s personal. It’s personal because it’s meant to be a reflection of who you are. It brings that security and superior performance. And probably most important is it’s going to last you.”
Inside, the laptop gets either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, up to 1TB of storage and a ridiculous 14.5 hours of battery life. Panay took dead aim at the Apple’s laptops, saying that the Surface Laptop is 50% more powerful than Apple’s MacBook Air and offers more battery life than any MacBook on the market.
The laptop’s keyboard uses the same kind of fabric backing found on the Surface Keyboard Cover for the Surface Pro on its keyboard deck. It can also take advantage of the Microsoft’s Surface Pen and Surface Dial.
It’s safe to say that the Surface Laptop easily bests any Google Chromebook on the market in terms of design. What’s more, because it’s running a version of Windows, the Surface Laptop is able to run full programs rather than just apps.
The Surface Laptop is clearly geared toward older students and adults. Panay even took time to note that the laptop is built to last throughout college students’ careers and beyond.
“This is where we wanted to put our focus,” he said. “In the next four years of their magical lives.”
Still, the Surface Laptop’s $999 starting price is far more expensive than any Chromebook you can buy. Which puts it out of range for most school districts.
To ensure it can still compete in terms of price, Microsoft’s manufacturing partners — including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Samsung and Toshiba — will sell Windows 10 S-powered devices starting at $189, which is comparable to most Chromebooks. Those devices will be geared more toward school districts to be used in classrooms by both students and teachers.
Windows 10 S
So what does Windows 10 S have to offer? A streamlined version of Microsoft’s full Windows 10 operating system, Windows 10 S will only run apps available through Microsoft’s Windows App Store.
Of course, if teachers or students want to download apps from outside the App Store, they can install Windows 10 Pro on their devices through the App Store for free.
Microsoft will also include a free subscription to Office 365, which features Excel, Powerpoint and Word. Office 365 also includes Microsoft’s Teams for the classroom, which allows students and teachers to collaborate and chat about projects in an environment that educators can easily police.
Microsoft’s system management tools can also let administrators set usage limits for all Windows 10 S devices district wide. What’s more, logging into Windows 10 S devices takes about half the time it does to launch a full Windows 10 Pro device, 15 seconds versus 30 seconds, because the Windows 10 S notebook is running fewer apps at launch.
Microsoft is also bringing mixed reality and 3D to Windows 10 S with its View Mixed Reality app and mixed reality devices from manufacturers like Acer.
Of course, Microsoft is also providing schools with a one-year subscription to “Minecraft: Education Edition,” which will allow students to build environments based on their daily lessons. One such demonstration featured students building living quarters on Mars in order to give them a sense of what it would take to live on the Red Planet.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop begins shipping June 15 for $999.
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