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Can Microsoft's new Surface Laptop compete with premium laptops?

Microsoft seems to be aiming at two different audiences with the high-end laptop and its Apple-y operating system, The Verge’s Dan Seifert says on Too Embarrassed to Ask.

Microsoft Unveils New Surface Laptop Drew Angerer / Getty

If you don’t follow the laptop market super-closely, you might have missed some of the significance of Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, which the company announced May 2 at a flashy event in New York City. The new device is Redmond’s first “real” laptop.

“What’s different from the prior Surface models — the Surface, Surface Pro and then, a couple years ago, they came out with the Surface Book — those were all detachable computers,” The Verge’s reviews editor Dan Seifert said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. “You could rip the keyboard off, and they could work as tablets. Microsoft thinks of those as tablet-first, even though I think the vast majority of owners use them as laptops.”

Microsoft also announced a new version of the Windows operating system, dubbed Windows 10 S, which will only run applications from its own store. Seifert explained that the OS, which will be installed on the new laptop by default but can be upgraded to normal Windows for free in the first year, may be aimed more at schools and businesses than regular consumers.

“It’s almost like if they took Windows and applied Apple’s iPhone model to it,” he said. “The advantage, Microsoft says, is that it’s more secure, more stable, it’s less likely to run down or get slow over time and a bunch of other security benefits. If you’re deploying a bunch of these to a business or a school, it’s easier to manage than standard Windows, where people can install whatever they want, whenever they want.”

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So, how to square the two new products? The Surface Laptop is aimed at competing with Apple’s MacBook Air, and to not compete with the cheaper Windows-based laptops that are the “bread and butter” of Microsoft’s OEM partners, Seifert said.

“The Surface Laptop is a high-end laptop that’s targeted toward a very specific niche of the education market, mostly kids going to college who are willing to spend $1,000 or have the scholarship money to spend $1,000-plus on a laptop,” he said. “And then Windows 10 S is competing against Chromebooks that exist at the $200-$300 price range and are filling all of the elementary and middle schools. So they’re kind of two separate stories.”

On the new podcast, Seifert joined Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode in answering your questions about the Surface line and other laptops. He said the answer to the big one — should I upgrade now? — isn’t that different from what it was last year.

“If you’ve got a four- to five-year-old laptop that’s working fine, doesn’t feel slow, it’s doing what you need it to do, then I don’t know why you would buy a new laptop,” Seifert said. “The new laptops that came out [in the past year], whether they were the MacBook Pros in the fall or Microsoft’s new products coming out this year, they’re not fundamentally different than prior laptops. They offer the same experiences: They might be a little bit faster, they might be a little bit slimmer, maybe slightly better battery life. It’s not a fundamental change.”

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