Microsoft is listening. Surface Duo 2 drops its previous-gen specs. The Surface Laptop Studio eliminates the Surface Books gimmicky, detachable screen. Finally, Microsoft has released the Surface Pro 8, which features an enhanced keyboard, stylus and Thunderbolt ports. Microsoft continues to insist on charging you a lot more than the sticker price for these computers, as they don't include a stylus nor keyboard.
Microsoft marketed the Surface Pro 8 at $1,099 and up as a powerful tablet with tablet-like capabilities, but it is not a laptop when you open the box. The Surface Pro 8 is a touchscreen tablet. Microsoft will gladly sell you the stylus or keyboard for $130. Microsoft spent only 11 seconds demoing the Surface Pro 8 during its 49-minute event without any peripherals. Two of those seconds were a repeat of an earlier part of the presentation and six were part of a montage which included Surfaces with stylii and keyboards.
Surface Pro 8 is the least expensive I'd consider starting at $1,680
The actual price is $129.99 for the stylus, $179.99 to get Microsofts new keyboard with a slot for a stylus, $279.99 for both (there's a $30 discount), $199.99 for a keyboard that comes with a fingerprint reader and $329.98 for the keyboard, stylus, and fingerprint. Microsoft's full Surface Pro 8 vision keyboard with detachable magnetic stylus and 8GB RAM will set you back $1,379.98. This is before taxes and includes a 128GB SSD. For the most futureproofing, you can double those capacities and get a grand total price of $1,679.98. This might not seem like a bad deal but it is definitely not $1,099.
There are many ways to save money. The Surface Pro 8 can be used with the older Surface Pro X keyboards, which are $40 cheaper at $140. They are currently on sale for $104 if your preference is to have a stylus that magnetically charges from the keyboard. If you aren't sure, Microsoft sells a standalone stylus charging device for $35. Other keyboards are also available from companies, such as this Brydge which makes the Surface Pro more clamshell-like. Thunderbolt ports are a good alternative to the Microsoft proprietary single-cable docking system.
The full Surface Pro X costs more than $1,580
Microsoft doesn't want consumers to choose. It wants both a low starting price for pen-equipped laptops, and a huge upsell to make them more powerful. This applies to all of its products. The new price for the ARM-based Surface Pro X is $899. Although technically correct, the $899 price will get you a tablet with no keyboard or stylus. It also features an older-gen SQ1 processor and not the new SQ2 model. You will need the full Surface Pro X vision, which includes the SQ2, LTE, keyboard, and pen. However, you can save $1,400 if the stylus is removed and you purchase the lowest-end keyboard.
The Surface Go 3 at $399 and up is hard to fault. Microsoft showed kids almost a minute watching video and making calls during the presentation. Although the last-gen Pentium chip has 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, it is not marketed as a keyboard-first device. The stylus can be purchased for as low as $65, even though it still costs $100.
Microsoft's $1,499 Surface Duo 2 phone demo included prominent placement of a feature that you will have to pay extra for. The moment when Microsoft demonstrated how the Surface Pen magnetically sticks to the phone and charges it was remarkable.
It cannot do it out of the box.
A Microsoft presenter explained that the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover was introduced to ensure your Surface Slim Pen stays charged and always available. Pen Cover is a case that you will need to purchase for your phone in order to perform those tasks. It is not part of the Surface Duo 2's cover materials. You will also need to purchase the pen. Microsoft did a great job designing a case that fits in seamlessly with the phone.
Surface Pen doesn't still magnetize to the device, at least not intentionally. However, it does stick to the new cover/case which is much better looking than the bumper last year.
The pen can wirelessly charge when it is attached. (Sorry, there is no Qi charging available for the Duo 2.)
5/ pic.twitter.com/fyDd7zWjAT Michael Fisher (@Captain2Phones) September 22, 2021
Microsoft is unlikely to stop using this strategy anytime soon. It has proven its effectiveness over seven generations Surface tablets and it allows the company to offer great flexibility in sales. When Black Friday or Prime Day rolls around, the company can create discounted bundles or give away accessories to tempt those who were on the fence.
To a certain extent, consumer choice is valid argument
Microsoft can always claim it is on the side consumer choice and sustainability. But why include a keyboard when they won't use them or throw them away? This argument is also used to justify unbundling mobile chargers. However, it's not that simple. Microsoft's argument for backwards compatibility is one that it has. Stylus pens from the Surface Pro 3 in 2014 are compatible, and keyboard covers from the same Surface Pro 3 work up to 2019, Windows Central reports.
The keyboard compatibility streak is broken by the Surface Pro X/new Surface Pro 8, so it's not possible to buy a used model from previous years for $30 or $40, instead of paying $104 for it.
I am mostly annoyed by the way Microsoft presents the Surface products as a complete vision for computing and leaves the most important parts out of the box bearing their names.