Microsoft just surprised everyone by introducing the Surface Book: the company's vision of the ultimate laptop. It's crazy! It's like they went from making the Surface tablet, to making a laptop, and then back to making a Surface tablet again — but somehow it looks like it works.
Read next: The Surface Book review.
The bigger surprise, though, is that Microsoft has finally figured out how to give a presentation with verve. The company can mostly thank VP Panos Panay for that, even if at times he came off a little like a parody of a car salesman. (At several points, Panay seemed physically strained by his need to encourage excitement for things like digital pen pressure points.) But he shined when Microsoft had something genuinely exciting to announce, and I almost forgot I was watching a Microsoft event.
What we're seeing now is Microsoft as a real product company
Today's event was a far cry from 2012's introduction to Microsoft's original hardware design during the tepid Steve Ballmer era. For years, Microsoft has waffled between lots of jargon about what kind of company it is, and who it serves: things you should spare audiences from by leaving them at the office in PowerPoint presentations. What we're seeing now is Microsoft as a real product company — one capable of surprising and delighting.
Beyond Panay's aggressive panache, Microsoft proved that it's capable of surprising us with more than niche novelties. In January of this year, Microsoft made its debut under Satya Nadella, and looked confident and ready to be loved again. But I was worried that the HoloLens might just be another Kinect; an intriguing, futuristic novelty destined to only be appreciated from afar. The Surface Book is just as unexpected today as the HoloLens was then, but Microsoft's new laptop is a more reliable indication that the company has relevant ideas in a languishing PC hardware market that struggles to provide original thought.
As Apple appears to be downshifting into the cozy sort of dominance that comes with excessive dad jokes, Microsoft is making a really good case that you should be paying attention. A polished presentation is a breath of fresh air, but a confident product is even better.
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