In a few weeks, at its education-oriented software and hardware event in New York, Microsoft could unveil a sub-premium laptop — something more robust than a Surface but not as fancy as a Surface Book.
And rather than run good old Windows 10, the new product could run something called Windows 10 Cloud, which reportedly will only be able to run apps that you can find in the Windows Store, unless you change a certain peference in Settings.
The idea is this will keep your device more secure. However that does mean you won’t be able to use certain apps that aren’t in the Store, like Steam, on a Windows 10 Cloud device, such as the rumored CloudBook.
This concept might sound familiar. You may reminded of the original Surface tablet running Windows RT, for which Microsoft ultimately took a $900 million write-down. Older Windows apps wouldn’t work on the thing.
The base model cost around $600 with a keyboard cover and $500 without one. Microsoft ended up cutting the price of each version of the inaugural Surface by $150, and then came the write-down. One could probably fairly say sales were lower than expected because the product wasn’t good enough for the price.
Fast-forward a few years. Microsoft’s Surface brand has come a long way, the Surface Pro 4 is a respectable rethinking of its oldest sibling, and the Surface Book is thought to be some of the nicest consumer computing hardware that money can buy.
Meanwhile, Google and Apple have been busy. Google has brought Android apps to Chromebooks, and good convertible and detachable Chromebooks are available, not just conventional laptop-style Chromebooks. And Apple has responded to the Surface Pro with the large, high-end iPad Pro tablets with optional solid keyboard covers. You can use two apps at once on iOS now. But more recently, Apple has also introduced a cheap but good enough $329 iPad. It’s in this environment that Microsoft now appears to be coming back around to its first-party-but-lower-cost hardware strategy.