18/08/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

We Need A 'Moto G' Of Windows Laptops

I believe Windows laptop manufacturers can take a page out of Motorola's guidebook to create a bang-for-the-buck, trustworthy model like the Moto G, instead of hiding some genuinely decent models within a clusterf**k of options that are hard to differentiate for an unsavvy customer.

Rohan Naravane

The last time I used a Windows laptop was before 2010. It's been half a decade since I switched to a Mac and haven't looked back. The most difficult question I have to answer today is when someone asks me, "which laptop to buy under Rs. 50,000?". If one wants to spend more than that, then it all boils down to deciding which Mac is the best for that person. Now that you're probably going to raise the fanboy alarm, wait a second and let me raise it for you.

Haan, mein fanboy hoon! (Yes, I'm a fanboy!)

We could get into the whole Mac vs PC debate, where I'll say ten things about the Mac like great design, a familiar keyboard, industry-best trackpads, fantastic displays, amazing battery life & standby time, quality app ecosystem, reliability, excellent multi-touch gestures and swag.

Following could be your comebacks, choose as you please -- overly expensive to buy, underpowered base models, expensive warranty extension, expensive accessories (like Rs. 2,000 for a flippin' VGA converter cable), doesn't run Windows apps, "complicated and unfamiliar", "everything is ulta (reversed)", no basic ports like HDMI (or even USB in some), almost zero upgradability, expensive to repair etc.

After being a participant to these arguments many a times, I still am pretty clear that my next computer will be a Mac. Because all those nice things I said about Macs before have created a seemingly impenetrable layer of trust with this product.

'Trust' is seemingly what is missing from Windows laptops. While I'd be happy to recommend a Mac to everybody in this world, everybody won't (or can't) spend the kind of money required to buy a Mac.

Android phones had a similar problem till 2013; Phone makers would put the latest and greatest features in high-end, high-margin smartphones. While the entry-level segment was filled with handsets that seemed to be watered-down on purpose to upsell their big brothers. Apple obviously didn't care about low-end products (unlikely it ever will) and continued owning the high-end spectrum with their iPhone. Motorola changed the Android phone makers' mentality when they announced the 1st generation Moto G towards the end of 2013.

The Moto G back then set a new benchmark for how good an sub-$200 (Rs. 12,000) smartphone can be. It had features like a 1280 x 720 pixels HD display (back when the rest had 800 x 480 pixels), it had 1GB of RAM (when 512MB was the norm), it's battery was reasonably sized to power it for a day. Also, it had a clean stock Android user experience without the typical unnecessary clutter that usually was shoved down by manufacturers for the sake of differentiation. It wasn't deemed to be a flagship killer, but it was rather loaded with all the things that made it the most trusted entry-level smartphone, selling a million units in half a year.

What Buying a Windows Laptop Today Looks Like

Head to the laptop sections of popular Windows laptop makers HP, Dell or Lenovo. All of them have about half a dozen series or sub-brands (like Inspiron, XPS, Vostro etc) that are segmented according to different use-cases. This is like how they use to classify phones as "business phones" or "music phones" or "camera phones" back in the day. Within these series, there are a few sub-series usually denoted by a number (for e.g Dell Inspiron 3000 / 5000 / 7000). Now within these sub-series there are a bunch of models, having slightly different configurations with an increasing price tag. And all these SKUs have an unfriendly model ID attached to their name. Imagine walking into a store and asking for a HP 245 G3 Notebook PC (J9J28PA).

Bottom line, there is no easily identifiable good, better, best model to buy.

I believe Windows laptop manufacturers can take a page out of Motorola's guidebook to create a bang-for-the-buck, trustworthy model like the Moto G, instead of hiding some genuinely decent models within a clusterf**k of options that are hard to differentiate for an unsavvy customer.

It's 2015, and...

It is 2015 and people still think opting for a 'Core i5' or 'i7' over a 'Core i3' is the only factor in deciding a laptop's performance, when it is known that RAM and a Solid State Drive (SSD) play an equally important role in the general speediness of a computer. Just try a Macbook Air for instance -- it's no black magic that the swift response isn't due to the "puny" 1.6GHz Core i5 Dual-Core chip, as much as it is due to the fast SSD at work.

And why must people be lured to buy a laptop with a graphics card with "2GB of RAM", when most of them are going to use it for tasks that do not require it? This is basically up-selling to people out of their fear for buying anything underpowered instead of offering them a logical solution.

It is 2015 and I am yet to come across a Windows laptop that has a genuinely comparable trackpad to that of a Mac. When Android phones could bring the touch sensitivity and response of the iPhone within a few years, I'm dumbstruck as to why this can't be done. There's no better time than now, as Windows 10 has introduced similar multi-touch gestures that Mac users have had the pleasure of using for years.

It's not like the Moto G is the best value for money phone today. In fact, a Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime is competitively spec'd to the 3rd generation Moto G and costs almost half the price. But you'll still hear people talking up the Moto G 3rd Gen as the best thing to buy under Rs. 15,000. That's trust. That's a set of meaningful features like water resistance, long battery life, a good design and a clean stock interface that trumped over a flashy spec-sheet.

It almost seems as if the downturn of PC sales and the smartphone domination has the laptop makers beat, only resorting to age-old practices that they know. But I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as the Post PC era and that computers will always be in demand. Apple's Mac lineup of computers have made a strong position for themselves in the expensive computer market. It is time for PC makers to create great, reliable computers for the rest of the world.

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