With Surface Book, Microsoft targets Apple -- and OEMs

Unveiling a line of pricey, high-end laptops, Microsoft may be eyeing its rival's hardware market while seeking a way to keep Windows afloat in case its partners give up on the OS.

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Microsoft's rollout of its Surface Book line of Windows laptops looks like a clear shot at Apple and a move by the company to insulate itself from trouble down the road should any of its big OEM partners bail on Windows 10 hardware.

The high-end Surface Book, which Microsoft executives explicitly compared to Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops, is a keyboard-equipped laptop that can twist into a slate or snap apart entirely to serve as a tablet.

"What if you wanted a Surface, but you wanted a laptop Surface? What if we did a laptop?" asked Panos Panay, Microsoft's top executive for its Surface portfolio, during a two-hour Oct. 6 presentation in New York that also saw the unveiling of the Surface Pro 4. "We made the ultimate laptop. We made Surface Book."

Mac-like prices

The five-model lineup starts at $1,499 and tops out at $2,699. Those are, not surprisingly, in line with Apple's MacBook Pro prices, which start at $1,299 and top out at $2,499. (Build-to-order options push Apple's prices even higher.)

Microsoft immediately began taking pre-orders ahead of the Surface Book's retail debut.

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