In October 2015 Microsoft's Corporate VP for Surface, Panos Panay, launched 'Surface Book' at a special event in his typically excitable way to say that it was 2X more powerful than Apple's MacBook Pro. Panay had previously tried to sell their Surface Pro tablet as a 'better MacBook Air.' Panay and his team are obsessed with beating Apple in the hardware game and recently introduced the Surface Studio desktop to outdo Apple's iMac. They've gotten great reviews and applause from the PC press for their hardware, but that's about it. Their sales are meaningless against Apple, in fact an embarrassment. But if anything, the Surface team have persistently marched on like worker bees with nothing distracting them from their mission of challenging Apple through innovation. Yet if a new report surfacing today turns out to be true, we could be witnessing a crack in Microsoft's confidence.
The Surface Book is a great product, especially if you're in the market for both a tablet and notebook. The problem is that it's currently overpriced and that early adopters got burnt with a nightmare 'Sleep of Death' bug that all but killed any sales momentum dead in its tracks.
With a little patience, both of the initial Surface Book problems would have been sufficiently addressed. Now a new supply chain report has surfaced to confuse the issue. It appears that Microsoft may be about to kill the Surface Book's famed 2-in-1 design.
While I'd like to think that Microsoft is simply expanding its Surface Book line-up, the report is unyielding in its belief that the company has decided to cut costs by dropping its tablet mode and shifting to a traditional clam shell design so as to better compete against the MacBook Pro.
According to Digitimes, Microsoft's new Surface Book recently entered mass production and shipments are expected to rise each month. The sources believe that Microsoft is likely to announce the new notebook at the end of March or April.
The report goes on to note that "The new Surface Book is expected to adopt a clam shell design instead of its traditional 2-in-1 and will feature a starting price lower than that of its predecessors.
Microsoft has recently cut the prices for its existing Surface Book products with the Core i5 128GB model dropping from US$1,499 to US$1,299. The sources believe the move is meant to help Microsoft clear its inventory to welcome the new product's arrival.
The new Surface Book continues to feature a 13.5-inch display and chassis made of magnesium-aluminum-alloy. The product is expected to be priced at around US$1,000, much lower than the starting prices of Microsoft's existing Surface Books, which range from US$1,499-3,199.
The sources believe Microsoft's decision to lower the price range for its new Surface Book is because the existing Surface Book's high price level has significantly limited demand, while the detachable design also created conflict with its Surface Pro product line in terms of product position. Because of these two factors, the sources estimate that Microsoft only shipped 500,000 Surface Books in 2016."
Once again, it's hard to believe that Microsoft would actually shoot itself in the foot by killing off the one advantage that the Surface Book had over a MacBook Pro and other similar Windows based notebooks. Microsoft's advertised hard to show artists and engineers finally finding the perfect solution with a device with two distinct functions in one form factor.
So to kill off the 2-in-1 design instead of extending the Surface Book line-up to include a clam shell unit would be a black eye for Microsoft, plain and simple. It would expose Microsoft's confidence in itself for hardware as being paper thin.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that consumers and Businesses alike hate flaky companies constantly shifting strategies like season-to-season fashion.
Is Microsoft really dumb enough to drop their 2-in-1 form factor next quarter or has Taiwan's supply chain sources finally fallen off a cliff here by misinterpreting Microsoft's game plan?
While it's certainly an interesting development if true, we won't know what Microsoft is actually doing here until Panos Panay steps unto a stage to introduce the all-new Surface Book with a clam shell and spells out their notebook game plan.
William Shakespeare once wrote: To be or not to be, that is the question. And yes, it's the question of the day. Will Microsoft introduce a new extension to their Surface Book line-up in the weeks ahead with a clam shell design or will they admit that their unique 2-in-1 form factor was a miscalculated disaster?