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What makes the Microsoft Surface so good?

Kevin Jacoby's picture

by Kevin Jacoby on 05/17/2019
Blog Category: Devices

With PC sales in decline, you’d think Microsoft’s Surface business would be feeling the same pinch. After all, the company has never been known for making above-average hardware.

But in fact, Surface hardware sales rose 21% in Microsoft’s most recent financial quarter, totaling $1.3 billion. And for the company’s three most recent fiscal quarters, Surface sales totaled nearly $4.4 billion.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft Surface Pro 6: with 8th gen Intel Core processor

Does Microsoft know something the rest of the PC business doesn’t? Maybe.

Microsoft is working hard to gain ground in the PC hardware market. This much is apparent in the differences between the first iteration of Surface products and the much-improved current versions.

The Surface line currently comprises 5 models: Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, Surface Go, Surface Book 2 and Surface Studio 2. Starting retail prices range from a low of $399 for the Go to a high of $3,499 for the Studio.

Microsoft also offers Surface hardware as part of a subscription package, Surface All Access. It includes a Surface device, accessories and Office 365. The subscription fee starts at $25 a month for 24 months.

It’s not always about the money

But one surprising fact is that the Microsoft Surface is not always the cheapest option.

For example, put together a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga X1 with an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, and you’d pay $1,883. Configure the exact same components in a Surface Book 2, and you’d end up paying more: $1,999.

Based on the specs alone, your customer could be forgiven for choosing the less-expensive option. That’s especially true if they’re buying multiple PCs to outfit an entire office.

But if they’d look just below the, um, surface, they’d see a world of difference. For starters, Microsoft has put a great deal of thought into the design of its hardware. By essentially taking a page from Apple’s playbook, Microsoft has turned advanced industrial design into a marketing advantage.

Detachable screen

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the duality of the Surface Book 2 screen. You can fold it under the keyboard — or you can pop the screen right off and use it as a tablet. The Lenovo? Not so much.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft Surface Book 2: laptop, tablet, all-in-one

Microsoft’s implementation of the detachable screen is one of those features that may seem simple and obvious, but is actually quite clever. The hardware feels magical and intuitive, as if it was simply meant to be.

Features like this point to Microsoft’s overall new design ethos. This also provides a good clue as to why the company is doing so well in an otherwise down market.


This design ethos can also be seen in the Surface’s awesome array of optional accessories. Microsoft, once again taking a cue from Apple, has wisely created a symbiosis between its core hardware, accessories and Windows 10 software. Superior design makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

The Surface accessory lineup includes high-end wireless keyboards, the Surface Pen stylus, Surface Dial, headphones, a dock, and more. All these add-ons are not only well-designed, but also reasonably priced.

Together, these elements create a cohesive ecosystem. Its value could prove far greater to your customers than the nominal price bump over a similar system from another PC vendor.

A little glitz never hurts

But wait, there’s more. Wouldn’t your customers like to use the same computer as Dr. Strange? Microsoft is betting they would.

A bit of obvious product placement in the Marvel blockbuster is just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft has been playing the long game for years, pushing its slick hardware into popular TV shows and movies including “Mr. Robot,” “Equity” and “Dr. Strange.”

Product placement is a tried-and-true marketing method, mainly because it works. Who cares whether Benedict Cumberbatch has a Core i7 under the hood, or if Jessica Chastain is maxed out at 16GB of DDR4 memory? What matters is that they look good using the gear. And they do!

Will your customers shell out a few more bucks for more style and substance? It’s certainly worth offering them the Surface choice. They may thank you for it.


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