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A PC Under the Surface

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The tablet that can replace your laptop. That was the rallying cry at a Microsoft press conference held this week in New York.

This was to announce the new Surface Pro 3 which is larger in screen size than its predecessors, but thinner and lighter to its nearest laptop rivals (and it should be compared to a PC, not a tablet).

It’s a tablet any way you look at it, but underneath this device has the power and processing speed to put it up there with the performance of an everyday business device.

Satya Nadella introduced the Surface Pro 3 by saying it was Microsoft’s intent to build a device that “takes the best of the tablet, and the best of the laptop. It should enable any individual to read, create and write. Watch movies and make movies. Enjoy art and create art. That’s the device that we want to create.”

Nadella also said that he didn’t want to compete with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) with this device, but instead “create new categories and spark new demand for our entire ecosystem”; essentially creating something new for their customers.

And this is something new. A stat came up at the conference that 96% of people who own an iPad also own a laptop. You still need both.

The Surface Pro 3 was demonstrated by Panos Panay (Microsoft’s Vice President for Surface Computing) and he used the term ‘lapability’ (yes, he went there….) to describe how the device worked exactly like a laptop, when it’s on your lap.

It all hinges (bad pun, sorry) on the flexible mechanism that connects the device to the separate keyboard, which means you can set it at any angle you need.

Microsoft received a landslide of criticism for their trackerpad on previous versions of the Surface keyboard – it just wasn’t usable for fiddly work like spreadsheets and making word documents, rendering it utterly pointless. They’ve now made the trackerpad 68% larger, and reduced friction by 78%. They’ve reinvented it.

It seems everything they’ve updated for the third generation Surface – larger screen size (this device is 12” in diameter compared to the 10.6” of previous versions), the lightweight nature but still packing a punch with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, the keyboard functionality, and much more which you can see if you watch the full demo – has been done to essentially replace your laptop and your tablet with this one device.

Will it work? Sales of the Surface so far have been underwhelming, and we haven’t heard about any new versions of the basic RT for a while, suggesting Microsoft might be trying to brush that one under the carpet.

The Surface Pro 3 is an ultra premium model and is priced as such (it starts at £639.00 for the 64GB, Intel i3 version. For the 512GB Intel i7 version you’re looking at £1649.00). So price-wise it’s putting itself up there with the likes of the 13” MacBook Air, but with the added aspect of having tablet portability.

It’s therefore going after a market as yet uncreated – those who want one device to do everything from. It’s all going to boil down to whether people actually can do everything they want, and that’s whether they’re using it in the field, or in the office on a docking station.

Addressing this, Panay said that they wanted to take the conflict away for consumers. So when you walk into a shop and the sales person comes up to you and asks, “What do you need your device to do?” you can get the right answer to “I want it to do everything, especially at that price...”

Ironically, it’s a Steve Jobs quote that came to mind when I heard this part of the conference:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”

So, despite creating a new market with this device, it is a customer focussed approach from Microsoft this time. Yes, it’s a gamble. But I for one am looking forward to talking our FD into letting me have one.

To see the full demonstration of the Surface Pro 3 (including a pretty cool section on how it works with Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud), follow this link:

And here's how the device is being marketed:

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