We've heard the promises before. But Microsoft claims that its new Surface Pro 3, introduced Tuesday, is finally the tablet to replace your laptop.
With the new 12-inch device, Microsoft has widened its tablet ambitions, aiming to more aggressively chase competitors such as Amazon, Google and Apple to pick up a share of the laptop market. Ahead of the event, there was some question as to whether Microsoft's heart is really in the tablet race, given how hard it's been for the company to gain traction against Apple's iPad and other tablets. But onstage at the New York event Tuesday, Microsoft Surface design lead Panos Panay said that the company is devoted to innovating in the tablet space and is designing devices that can replace bulky laptops.
Microsoft had promised that the first-generation Surface Pro would be the only computer consumers would need. But so far neither Microsoft, nor any other company, has been able to deliver on such a tablet boast. Still, the company was unequivocal in making that claim again on Tuesday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the tablet that can replace your laptop," Panay said, holding up the 1.7-pound device.
With the third generation of the device, which runs a full version of Windows, Microsoft has addressed many of the concerns that plagued earlier models. The tablet is larger, but actually lighter, than the Surface Pro 2, and it has a smoother, sleeker design. The firm also redesigned the tablet's kickstand and its connection to the optional Type Cover to improve stability when the Surface is held on a user's lap. The type cover, which has a keyboard, also got a makeover to improve the sensitivity of its touchpad.
Panay also talked up the quality of the device's construction, which he tested by nonchalantly dropping the device from shoulder height on the stage. (Surprise, it didn't break. You have to be sure about a demo like that before you attempt it.)
He then waxed rhapsodic about the device's technical specs -- fast Intel processors, a sharp screen and a stylus that, at least on stage, mimicked the fluidity of pen-and-paper writing. The stylus has a button on the bottom that users can click to activate the Surface. Click again, and the device will automatically send your notes to Microsoft's OneNote note-taking software.
The Surface Pro 3 will go on sale Wednesday, starting at $799.
Microsoft laid out a lot of promises at the event, which it will have to meet in order to chip away at the firm lead that Apple's iPad and tablets running the Android operating system have taken in the tablet market. According to analysts at Interational Data Corporation, Windows tablets hold a "small" share of the market, though they have seen growth thanks to low-cost devices made by partners such as Asus. Growth in the overall tablet market, meanwhile, slowed to single-digit gains in the first quarter of 2014, which may explain why Microsoft is looking at the laptop-replacement market.
Company observers were also looking to the event as a bellwether for the fate of Microsoft's tablet-only operating system, Windows RT -- which didn't even get a mention -- and the fate of the Surface line itself under new chief executive Satya Nadella. In the few months Nadella has spent at the helm, he's been credited with breathing new life into the company by publicly acknowledging its reputation as an innovation laggard. With Nadella's software and networking background,
While Microsoft celebrated its hardware additions in Tuesday's event, Nadella made clear that hardware is just a part of Microsoft's overall mission to bring its software and services to more users. He said the company looks at the Surface line as an example to other Microsoft hardware partners -- firms such as Asus, Sony and Toshiba -- to show off everything that its Windows operating system and software can do.
"We are not building hardware for hardware's sake," Nadella said. "We're not interested in competing with our OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] when it comes to our hardware."