Finally, a 15-inch Surface. Microsoft added yet another form factor to its Surface lineup this week, and while I’m excited — this is exactly the size of Surface I’ve always wanted — I can’t help but feel there are now too many any options.
At the Canalys Channels Forum in Venice earlier this month, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier declared Microsoft would kill off its Surface business in 2019. Lenovo COO Gianfranco Lanci suggested this might happen even sooner than that, and a Dell executive hedged his bets by saying Microsoft might slow down the Surface product cycle.
Microsoft has had more Surface launch events this year than any other. I’ve tried to attend every Surface event so far, either in person or simply by watching the livestream, and I’d argue only the Dell dude is close.
Most important, let’s remember that this market research firm and these PC makers don’t have any insider knowledge. They’re simply stating their opinion. And I’d like to add mine: Surface isn’t going anywhere.
Could Microsoft kill off Surface next year, in 2019, or in 2020? Sure, anything is possible in tech. But based on what I’ve seen, Microsoft is investing more, not less, into Surface.
The Surface lineup has grown significantly in the last few years. There’s now a Surface laptop, a Surface tablet/laptop hybrid, a Surface laptop/tablet hybrid, a Surface desktop, and even a Surface whiteboard, not to mention all the various accessories.
Furthermore, all these products have multiple models and configurations, and some now even have years of predecessors. Surface has been around for more than five years now, after all.
It’s becoming overkill.
Microsoft started out building hardware on which to showcase its software, and now it has a robust product line that is a little overwhelming. The company even built a shitty tool to help you choose which Surface you may want.
And yet, Panos Panay, head of engineering for all of Microsoft’s devices, showed off the Surface Book 2, which now comes in 13-inch and 15-inch versions. I’m more excited about Surface than I’ve ever been.
You see, 15-inch laptops happen to be my sweet spot. Most people want 13-inch laptops, or even 11-inch mini machines. I lean the other way — I want a 15-inch device I can primarily use as a desktop but also at any point just get up and take everything with me.
But this is a double-edged sword. Even if you decide you want the Surface Book 2 instead of the Surface Laptop or the Surface Pro, you still have to choose between two 13-inch devices that have different compromises and the 15-inch beast, as Panay likes to call it. There’s a bunch of tradeoffs that makes the decision all the harder.
Microsoft’s Surface devices are becoming incredibly specific. The Surface Laptop is specifically for tablet haters. The Surface Studio is specifically for designers. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 is specifically for desktop replacement lovers.
Microsoft is now making Surface devices for incredibly narrow audiences. Expect some consolidation in the years to come.
But Surface isn’t going anywhere.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.