Back in 2012 when Microsoft rolled out the first Surface model, only a handful of companies actually believed in this concept. Apple itself was one of those who didn’t, with Tim Cook saying at that point that using a tablet with a keyboard was just like mixing a toaster and a refrigerator.
A few years later, Apple decided that mixing a toaster and a refrigerator was actually an excellent idea, so it launched its very own 2-in-1 device by attaching a keyboard to the iPad and creating the so-called iPad Pro.
But despite this super-familiar approach, Apple said it didn’t copy Microsoft’s Surface. Not even when releasing the Pencil, its own Surface Pen-like stylus, to let users draw and write on the iPad Pro just like they’d normally do on a piece of paper.
Fast forward to 2018 and here’s Apple still thinking that Microsoft’s Surface isn’t more than an experiment that sooner or later could fail to impress.
Talking about touchscreens on laptops, Apple’s SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi didn’t specifically mention Microsoft’s Surface in a recent interview, but instead emphasized he doesn’t think these products are compelling in any way. He continued by saying that these devices are just “experiments,” adding that he’s never been a fan of touchscreens on PCs and there’s a chance he’ll never be. Unless Apple builds them, most likely.
"I don't think we've looked at any of the other guys to date and said, how fast can we get there?” he said.
This attitude towards Microsoft’s Surface sounds a lot like what Tim Cook said a few years ago when the 2-in-1 form factor was still in its early days. While it’s hard to tell whether Apple will actually embrace touchscreens on laptops at some point in the future, there’s no doubt it should. Not just because they’re super-useful, but because this idea has become one of the main catalysts contributing to the recovery of PC sales across the world.
Back in February when revealing its earnings for the second quarter of the 2017 financial year, Microsoft also disclosed that sales of its Surface lineup totaled $1.3 billion, up 1 percent over the previous year.
Forecasts released by research firms like Gartner estimate this particular market is projected to continue its growth in the coming years. In 2019, the premium ultramobile device sector, which includes products like Microsoft’s Surface, is supposed to reach the highest level in four years.
“Gartner forecasts that shipments of traditional PCs will decline by 5.4 percent in 2018, with notebooks showing the steepest decline (6.8 percent). The premium ultramobile market will be the only PC segment to achieve growth in 2018, without which the overall PC market would decline,” Gartner said in a forecast earlier this year.
Microsoft isn’t the only one betting big on laptops with touch capabilities, and the number of OEMs investing in this form factor keeps growing every year. This is living proof that such devices are selling well and there’s basically no reason for a PC maker not to want to be part of this.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop, and other similar devices with touchscreens, are far from being just experiments. They’re products that have already proved to be successful and, above all, which enable customers to do a lot more than a conventional laptop. After all, a laptop that also comes with touch capabilities is still a laptop with a little extra, so you still don’t lose anything, but actually gain more features enhancing usability.
It’ll be interesting to see if Apple changes its mind and decides to launch a MacBook with a touchscreen, but after making fun of the original Surface and then unveiling an iPad Pro, don’t be too surprised if this happens. By the looks of things, when Apple laughs off rival devices, it’s all just a sign that the company is actually looking into building something similar.