With real Windows 10 under the hood, Microsoft hardware is finally ready to roar

When Microsoft first introduced the Surface back in 2012, it didn’t feel like it was taking the effort very seriously. The first Surface tablets ran a watered-down OS called Windows RT, and used hardware with limited application support. They eschewed the most important product Microsoft sells — Windows.

With the release of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, it’s starting to feel like Microsoft is doing more than treading water with its hardware.

Microsoft is starting to seem rather spry.

The devices are seriously competitive, with the newest processors from Intel, advanced storage, and the highest resolution displays we’ve seen on devices that small.

Most importantly, they leverage the full power of Windows 10, which is a huge improvement over its predecessor. This time around, the team in Redmond has learned some hard lessons, found an audience for new products, and said, defiant in the face of detractors, that it’s time to take on Apple in the hardware market.

I challenge you to a duel

There was something different about the Surface Book announcement, different even from the Surface Pro. A real, honest-to-God laptop from Microsoft is unprecedented, and seeing Panos Panay slap a picture of it on the screen next to a MacBook Pro was a clear challenge to Apple’s perennial favorite. Microsoft has taken pot-shots across the aisle before, but this year was particularly brazen, perhaps because (for the first time) the company is offering an alternative to the much loved MacBook Pro, which represents Cupertino’s most powerful mobile hardware.

For years now, Apple has positioned itself as an end-to-end computing and mobile solution. You buy Apple hardware, which runs an Apple operating system, and run Apple-approved apps. It’s not without its issues, but the closely integrated development of hardware and software has opened doors for the Cupertino-based brand, and turned iOS and iPhone into a singular phenomenon that no other smartphone maker can match.

It’s clear that Redmond wants to emulate that approach, and it now has both the software and hardware needed to do it. But Microsoft faces a few potential pitfalls on the path to hardware dominance.

Nobody likes the Windows Store

The Windows Store, which launched in February of 2012, has yet to gain a substantial developer base or comprehensive selection. Even with all of the changes Windows 10 brought with it, most users prefer classic apps and web browsers to the woefully limited and underpowered software in the Windows Store.

At the October 6th event, a big deal was made out of the revamped Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram apps for Windows. In fact, there’s already a Facebook app for the Windows Universal App interface, but it’s a watered-down version of the mobile experience that you’re used to on Android or iOS.

An app store is defined by its selection and quality of software.

A modern app eco-system needs a well-rounded base of apps, like Facebook, from the get-go. An app store is only defined by its selection and quality of software, and you have to prove that it’s worth using right from the beginning.

That’s particularly true when software support outside of the ecosystem is already so well developed, as it is in Windows. Part of the reason the Windows Store is underwhelming is that users expect to be able to use their software on any system, no matter that their experience level or choice of application.

Windows is everywhere – for better or worse

One of the greatest strengths of Windows is the ability to run the OS on almost any system out there, whether it’s one you bought or built yourself. Windows 10 especially is designed to run on every system, from your servers down to your dishwasher, which means wider availability, and that Windows can function as the platform for an entire set of machines.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

While Microsoft ultimately has the control over the direction for its own operating system, it still needs to run on a vast array of hardware. Without muddying the waters with special Surface Pro and Surface Book versions of Windows 10, there’s a limit to the demands the OS can place on a mobile system, and the hardware it has to support.

Unfortunately, that means Microsoft faces competition from within its own ranks. Manufacturers that have long collaborated with Redmond on systems are now challenged by the expanded capabilities of the Surface line. Brands like Asus and Lenovo already compete with the Surface tablets with third-party two-in-ones that boast lower prices and years of experience in the market.

It’s a fight that can be won

To say a tablet or 2-in-1 runs “real Windows 10” is a big deal, because of the huge amount of customization and software support that comes along with it. It’s an advantage in the market that few other manufacturers can claim, and the Surface Pro line has become one the premier options for tablet users because of it.

There’s also an opportunity here for Microsoft to leverage those advantages. Windows 10 is one of its best operating systems yet, and is well suited for the wide array of devices Microsoft is now pushing out.

The more connected the continued development of Windows 10 and the Surface line is, the better the devices will become as a result. We’ve seen this with Apple’s development of iOS and iPhone. While Android phones have a greater market share, they are fragmented by the vast diversity of hardware.

If Microsoft’s attempt to expand from just producing operating systems remains an uphill battle, but it’s one that has led to revolutionary, innovative devices. Though it has a reputation for sluggish, Microsoft is starting to seem rather spry. The company may yet obtain its dream of developing one platform that rules all devices.

Microsoft

Microsoft

Gaming

Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From DirectX Box to 720, it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.
Computing

Microsoft reverses decision and extends lifeline to MS Paint for Windows 10

Microsoft reversed its decision to deprecate the classic MS Paint software on Windows 10. Microsoft announced on Twitter that the mainstay free image editor that comes pre-installed with Windows will live on for now.
Product Review

The Xperia 10 Plus feels great in your hand, but you'll still want to put it down

There has never been a better time to buy a smartphone with an unusual design, and one of the cheaper models out there vying for your attention is the Sony Xperia 10 Plus, with its 21:9 aspect ratio screen.
Deals

Amazon strikes $100 off the price of Microsoft Surface Go tablets

If you've been eyeing Microsoft's Surface Go for its compact size and portability, now may be a great time to buy the tablet. Amazon has a $100 discount on the Surface Go, bringing the price of this slate down to just under $400.
Computing

Here's everything you need to know about setting up your wireless router

Want to get Wi-Fi working in your home, but don't know where to start? Here's a quick tutorial outlining the four basic steps needed for most routers. You'll be browsing on your laptop from the couch in no time.
Computing

AMD will launch anniversary edition Radeon VII and 2700X to celebrate 50th year

Ahead of its new hardware lines launching this summer, AMD will celebrate its 50th anniversary with special editions of its top-tier gaming hardware: the Radeon VII and Ryzen 2700X.
Product Review

Without 4K or Core i9, the new Razer Blade Pro trades features for polish

Razer hasn’t updated its 17-inch gaming laptop for a couple of years, while showering most of its attention on the smaller sibling. The new Razer Blade Pro takes a lot of cues from the 15-inch model, stretching it out for the big screen.
Computing

Intel’s new Core i9 processors bring 8-core power to laptops

Intel announced a new line of ninth-generation mobile processors that bring eight-core Core i9 processors to laptops. In addition, the company announced a slate of new desktops CPUs that bring the rest of the lineup up to date.
Computing

Pain in the wrists? Type in comfort with one of these great ergonomic keyboards

Long typing sessions can leave anyone's wrists aching, but if you have one of the best ergonomic keyboards, that doesn't have to be the case. Our list of favorites will support good typing posture while being comfortable to use.
Computing

Lenovo Legion, IdeaPad gaming laptops sport 9th-gen CPUs and 16-series graphics

Lenovo is expanding its gaming laptop range with a line of new Legion and IdeaPad notebooks that sport Intel's latest, ninth-generation Core CPUs up to an i7 and a choice of Nvidia graphics with options for everything up to an RTX 2080…
Computing

Asus launches a fleet of ROG gaming laptops with 240Hz screens and 9th-gen CPUs

Asus launched updates to nearly every gaming laptop line they have, ranging from the high-end Zephyrus to the budget-level TUF Gaming. The naming schemes might be hard to parse, but there are some impressive options in Asus' new lineup.
Computing

Nvidia’s new GTX 1660 Ti and 1650 graphics cards for laptops start at $799

Nvidia announced the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650, two new mobile graphics cards to flesh out the Turing lineup for laptops. These GPUs don't have the ray tracing capabilities of the RTX 20 series, but start at much lower prices.
Computing

Acer gives Predator, Nitro gaming notebooks CPU and GPU upgrades

Acer's latest gaming notebooks will be getting a processor and graphics boost. The company announced that Intel's ninth-generation mobile CPU and Nvidia's GTX 1660 Ti will land on the Predator Helios 300, Nitro 7, and Nitro 5 laptops.
Computing

Dell’s XPS 15 steps up its game with next-gen Intel, Nvidia chips

Dell announced a redesigned XPS 15 with a webcam positioned up top, and the internals make this Ultrabook an even better gaming laptop. The XPS 15 can be configured with Intel's 9th-Gen processors and Nvidia's GTX 16-Series GPU.