It was just last week that rumors about Microsoft revealing a new Intel-powered competitor to Apple’s iPad first appeared. Now it appears Surface tablet with an Intel processor that Microsoft will show case is the Surface Pro 3, a refreshed rival for Apple’s Macbook Air.
To be clear, these aren’t just rumors. Instead they stem from posts made to Microsoft’s own support site. A support article added to the website yesterday makes reference to the camera inside a ‘Surface Pro 3” explicitly.
That suggests that the Intel-powered Surface device that rumors indicated were on the way, is in fact just a follow-up to the Surface Pro 2 Microsoft released last year instead of an entirely new Surface addition to the Surface line-up.
Of course, Microsoft doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation. As such, it is very unlikely to say anything officially about the references made in the support document before it takes the stage at its event.
If it’s true and Microsoft is preparing to release a Surface Pro 3 then the company is going to have to seriously justify the upgrade for most users. Microsoft’s updates to the Surface Pro line last fall included the Surface Pro 2, a slightly more powerful version of the original Surface that was able to run a lot longer thanks to a less power-hungry processor than what was included in the original version. Other than that and a two slightly updated cameras, there wasn’t a big reason for users to upgrade to the Surface Pro 2. That being said, the Surface Pro 2 is a much more viable alternative to a laptop and tablet because of that key improvement.
Every Surface Pro device also includes a pen and digitizer so that users can take hand-written notes. Users can also plug-in a display and use the device as a drawing tablet for apps like Photoshop too.
What key improvements Microsoft will make for the Surface Pro 3 remain unclear, but there are a couple of changes that users have been dying for. The processor update inside the Surface Pro 2 may have increased the 2-in-1s battery life to near notebook capacity, but the device still seems to have a weight problem. Because it uses the internals of a laptop, it has fans, making it feel thicker in the hand than a normal tablet. All of those laptop components are tucked into a device with just a 10—inch screen, making the Surface feel like a brick with or without its keyboard accessory. Hopefully, this Surface 3 could be thinner and lighter than what’s available today.
Last year, Microsoft also added a two-step kickstand so that Surface users could reposition the device for a better viewing angle. That was also something that Surface Pro users complained about initially. Microsoft could add another position in the Surface Pro’s kickstand so that users have yet another comfortable angle to gaze at the device’s high-definition display from.
The Surface Pro catching on with users is a key part of Microsoft’s comeback strategy in tablets. Shortly before Windows 8 launched then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declared that the company wanted to morph from a firm that was mainly known for producing software to one that provided services and devices for customers. A key part of that strategy was creating a device that Microsoft itself controlled the user experience on. That way Microsoft could build an end-to-end user experience without having to go through its hardware partners like Lenovo and Dell.
Last year Ballmer confirmed that Microsoft didn’t develop the Surface Pro because it was worried about its hardware partners taking on Apple’s iPad. Instead, the company became increasingly concerned that Apple’s MacBook laptops were encroaching on the high-end Windows notebook space.
That’s a trend that started after Apple introduced MacBooks that use Intel processors. Today, MacBooks can be loaded with Windows just as easily as Apple’s Mac OS. This allows MacBook buyers to get the best of both worlds. Apple’s hardware is generally considered to last longer and be more durable than competing devices made for Windows. On the other hand most of the world’s essential apps run on Windows.
Thankfully, potential Surface 3 buyers won’t have to wait long before finding out what new features will be in the tablet. Two weeks ago Microsoft announced that it was holding a “small” Surface related event in New York City. Rumors also indicate that Microsoft is preparing to release a Surface tablet that has a display of around 7-inches to 8-inches. This device would also allow Microsoft to compete in the mid-range tablet space that’s currently dominated by Apple’s iPad Air and Google’s Nexus 7.
It’s unclear whether the Surface Mini will run the same Windows RT software that keeps users from installing desktop applications or a full version of Windows 8 like most 7-inch & 8-inch devices from Microsoft’s hardware partners. If Microsoft does reveal a Surface Mini, it’s likely that it will also reveal a Surface Touch Cover or Type Cover to match the device’s smaller footprint.
Users at home will be able to stream the entirety of Microsoft’s “small” New York City Surface reveal beginning at 11 a.m. on May 20th.