The MacBook Air is dead in the water, with Apple all-but-abandoning it, leaving the window wide open for competitors. Today, Microsoft claimed that with the Surface Laptop, an ultra-thin, ultra-powerful laptop that looks poised to take on Apple at its own game:

In all the years it's been making hardware, Microsoft has shied away from making a traditional clamshell laptop, at least in part because the company didn't want to upset its OEM partners by competing with them directly. But it has been edging closer to that territory with each new Surface Pro iteration and with the convertible Surface Book, and today Microsoft is formally announcing its first-ever plain-old, no-gimmicks clamshell notebook.

The Surface Laptop is an attractive, modern take on the MacBook Air that Microsoft has clearly put a lot of thought into. For $999, you get a computer that's far more powerful than Apple's $1,299 MacBook, with an Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

That's upgradable all the way to a Core i7, with 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. With four gorgeous color options (blue, silver, maroon and gold), it's a gorgeous machine, at a time when it really seems like nobody's pushing in the laptop market.

When I watched the Microsoft reveal video I quite literally said "holy shit" out loud. Everything about this machine takes cues from Apple, but iterates on it. See for yourself:

Perhaps most interesting, the Surface Laptop has a touchscreen for that price, which is supposedly the "thinnest ever" on a laptop. Apple has maintained for years that touch on a laptop is ridiculous, but I'm not convinced that's true.

This machine is the perfect computer for college campuses. It looks good, it's light and it boasts a whopper 14+ hour battery life, which is unheard of. There are two typical Microsoft decisions with this thing that make no sense, however:

  • Surface Laptop runs a cut-down Windows 10 S, which can only run Windows Store apps. For $50 you get full Windows, but that's ridiculous.Weirdly, Microsoft is giving away the full version for free until the end of the year.
  • There's only a single USB-A port. Wha?At least you don't need dongles, I guess.

It's been a long time since I've been excited about computers at all. The 2016 MacBook Pro was a tiny iteration on the same old thing, but Microsoft is all-in on changing the game with its industrial design, which started with the Surface Studio late last year.

Most impressively, it seems to be listening to customers at the same time as building machines that look good. Gone are the days of clunky plastic, and weird design decisions — Microsoft is paying attention, and it's actually got a fighting chance against Apple.