Microsoft is betting the future of its PC hardware business on enterprises with the introduction of a high-end portable called Surface Pro 3 that has a larger screen and more processing power than previous Surface devices, and makes no attempt to go toe-to-toe with the iPad.
The device is bigger than a Surface Pro 2, sporting a 12-inch touch screen rather than 10.6, is built around a range of Intel Core (Haswell), low-power processors. Battery life is ranked at 8 to 9 hours. It's thinner and lighter than Surface Pro and has a longer battery life as well.
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"Even with an Office version for the iPad, there was still a need to offer full corporate functionality that the iPad couldn't readily achieve," says Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates in a blog."Directly targeting the high end of the enterprise market with full Windows compatibility across all apps is an area where Microsoft can win and it doesn't need to sell tens of millions of this device to be successful."
With support for all legacy Windows apps plus the modern Windows Store apps that cater to touch, Surface Pro 3 can fit immediately into corporate environments as a laptop replacement by adding a docking station that supports a 4K monitor. It sports a removable keyboard cover with a larger trackpad.
"We are not interested in competing with our OEMs with our hardware," says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "We are trying to spark new categories of hardware. It is a device that takes the best of the tablet and the laptop and enables any individual to be able to read and be able to create and write, to watch a movie and create a movie."
A major change is the kickstand that holds up the device when it is in laptop mode. With Surface Pro 2 there were just two positions that the kickstand could hold. The new device has a kickstand that can be stopped at any angle up to 150 degrees so the screen can be viewed optimally regardless of the height of the surface the device is sitting on and the height of the user.
The detachable keyboard has a hinged edge that can be magnetically snapped to the base of the screen in addition to the magnetic attachment that properly aligns the keyboard and the main device. The effect of this second connection is to stiffen the bond between the two halves so it doesn't flex and so feels as stable as a conventional laptop, says Panos Panay, vice president of Surface computing.
The screen has an unconventional aspect ratio 3:2 rather than 16:9 on Surface Pro 2 in an effort to make the dimensions closer to that of a sheet of paper, Panay says.