Rich Stroffolino

Thoughts on Microsoft, Arm, and Macs

A few thoughts on Microsoft’s recent AI-PC and Surface announcements:

  1. It’s weird to describe the new Surface Laptop as “outperforming” the MacBook Air. I know the Apple Silicon launch gave that laptop new performance chops, but the Air set the consumer laptop standard for years before that with middling Intel chips. It was a success because it nailed the fundamentals, namely great battery life, the right form factor, and a great trackpad. Microsoft must be confident in its performance because it isn’t claiming the Surface laptop will be thinner, lighter, offers better web-browsing battery, or a brighter screen.
  2. To the Surface Laptop’s credit, it looks great, has better I/O (a card reader on the 15-inch version!), offers removable SSDs, and doesn’t think variable refresh rates is a pro-level feature.
  3. It seems like the moment is here for Windows to succeed on Arm processors. Microsoft has it’s OEM ecosystem all ready to fire with Arm as a platform. More importantly, the software support will be there too.
  4. Let’s assume that Microsoft and its OEMs have figured out a killer Arm platform. Let’s take better performance than Apple’s M3 as a given. Great. Apple definitely got a lot of people to upgrade Macs with the release of M1. But did it actually move any market share? It doesn’t seem like it. Apple grew PC market share about 1.5% from 2015 to 2023. There’s much more variability within the Windows OEM ecosystem quarter to quarter than what Apple could achieve with a breakthrough processor. So even if it’s framing this as a blow to Apple, Microsoft… doesn’t care?
  5. The bigger question is what does this new class of Windows PC look like in the next 2-4 years. I imagine the first generation of these machines will all be very similar, based on the same platform with virtually the same components. Will this just be OEMs waiting on Qualcomm’s chip release cadence? Will x86 PCs become budget options that you’re mad your parents bought at Best Buy without calling you first? Apple may still have a distinct advantage with product selection simplicity. Although as said about, none of that really seems to translate to market share.
  6. I keep thinking about this.
    Post by @reckless1280
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