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Microsoft announces Surface Pro 3, Surface Mini MIA

Microsoft announces Surface Pro 3, Surface Mini MIA

The Surface Pro 3 boasts a choice of powerful Intel processors - cooled by a fan - and full-fat Windows 8.1, but whither the planned Windows RT-based Surface Mini?

Microsoft's Surface-themed event last night came with a surprise and an inevitability: the expected launch of the large-format Surface Pro 3, but the disappearance of the previously-leaked Surface Mini.

A suggested by a leak prior to the event, the Surface Pro 3 family of tablets are fully-fledged computers featuring Intel processors and the full-fat Windows 8.1 operating system. Based on a 12" form factor - a considerable boost over the previous Surface Pro 2 - the tablet boasts a 2,160x1440 resolution capacitive display with bundled digitiser pen capable of sensing pressure. As expected, the tablet is available in numerous editions ranging from the entry-level Intel Core i3-based version, priced at $799 in the US, all the way up to a Core i7 behemoth. Each model includes a fan to cool the CPU, although Microsoft makes the claim that it will run for the most part without the fan kicking in.

The new exterior is larger than its predecessor, meaning no existing covers will fit; a redesigned Touch Cover and Type Cover - the former having a built-in keyboard with no tactile feedback and the latter adding a small amount of travel to the keys - were announced alongside the device, neither of which will be bundled as standard. A new kickstand is included, along with the ability to create a 'wedge' from the Touch or Type Covers to provide an inclined typing surface more reminiscent of a traditional laptop.

Interestingly, the Surface Pro 3 isn't to be a replacement for the Surface Pro 2. Microsoft was clear at the launch event that the two devices will be sold side-by-side for some considerable time, in an apparent echo of Apple's tendency to keep last-generation iPad products around as more budget-friendly alternatives to the latest and greatest devices. It could be argued, of course, that this is in fact evidence of the poor sales Microsoft has been facing for its own-brand hardware, and the continued presence of the Surface Pro 2 in its stores an attempt to clear existing inventory even after its successor is launched.

The big surprise of the event was the absence of the Surface Mini. Leaked earlier this year thanks to Amazon, the device was to be a 7in ARM-based tablet running Windows RT. The device was close enough to release that third-party manufacturers had already begun building cases and other accessories, but Bloomberg reports that former Nokia boss Stephen Elop personally killed the product off - and further claims it is evidence that Windows RT, the ARM-compatible cut-down operating system that was to be Microsoft's big entry into the tablet market, is now officially to be counted among the walking dead.

More details and pricing for the UK launch, scheduled for August, are available on the official website.

22 Comments

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ChaosDefinesOrder 21st May 2014, 10:42 Quote
the hoiking up of the keyboard is a fairly funky design and certainly had me thinking "that's pretty neat" when I saw the video/advert...
loftie 21st May 2014, 11:30 Quote
Quote:
The new exterior is larger than its predecessor, meaning no existing covers will fit;

They don't cover the product or fit in that sense, but they do apparently fit in the connector and work.
Cei 21st May 2014, 11:30 Quote
There's some clever design going on - the ability to change the keyboard profile for one, and the ability to totally convert to tablet mode by removing the keyboard for another. However there's a bunch of limitations to the design that I can see...

- Removable keyboard mandates the kickstand, which means it has to be on a flat surface to be stable.
- The kickstand also means you can't set the display at any angle as you can with a 'normal' laptop.
- Cost. The base unit is expensive, but the keyboard is an additional £109, making the bill even higher. It needs to be bundled, as the Surface 3 without its keyboard isn't a good sell.
- Microsoft are also being disingenuous with their marketing. One minute they're comparing it to the iPad Air and other such tablets, the next to the MacBook Air and ultrabooks, all depending on which flatters them the most. They then massage figures - every website is going on about how the Surface 3 weighs 800 grams, but ignores the keyboard that adds another 300g, bringing it in line with the 11" MacBook Air.

I think this is a positive move by MS, but at the price they are (£1109 for the i5/256 model, plus another £109 for the keyboard) they're going to be a tough sell. They're more expensive than Apple's offerings (£999 for i5/256GB, 13") and there are other cheaper ultrabooks around as well.

Good riddance to Windows RT though. They needed to have gone for the full desktop OS from day one.
sandys 21st May 2014, 11:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei

- Removable keyboard mandates the kickstand, which means it has to be on a flat surface to be stable.

Yep my main issue with it
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei

- The kickstand also means you can't set the display at any angle as you can with a 'normal' laptop.

Its multiposition so might not be too bad, will depend on tablet weight and how it balances
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei

- Cost. The base unit is expensive, but the keyboard is an additional £109, making the bill even higher. It needs to be bundled, as the Surface 3 without its keyboard isn't a good sell.

Definately a sticking point as I rarely use my current one with out keyboard, but my keyboard has broken on my current machine and its ~£150 for a replacement (hence deciding to replace entire machine as Atom not enough grunt) but on my w510 this does add additional ports and a second battery to double life so you accept the additional weight but this makes MS cover look expensive and heavy considering the w510 keyboard is barely 200gs more, I guess they use it to help feel/balance.

Size is good though I wanted something under 30cm wide, I wish they could thinout bezels more you could probably get that screen in around 27cm.
Cei 21st May 2014, 11:43 Quote
From what I saw, the kickstand has three angles? The two that the Surface2 can do, and the new 150 degrees?
loftie 21st May 2014, 11:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
Good riddance to Windows RT though. They needed to have gone for the full desktop OS from day one.

I've never understood the hate towards RT. Maybe it's a 'you have to use it to know it' kind of thing. The Pro line has never run RT though, and it doesn't seem like RT is dead. From what I remember WP and RT are planned to become one OS.

Edit
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
From what I saw, the kickstand has three angles? The two that the Surface2 can do, and the new 150 degrees?

I believe the SP3 has 1 angle (maybe both of the 2 in SP2), but after that it can lock at any position. I think Anand may have covered it.
sandys 21st May 2014, 11:46 Quote
Nexxo 21st May 2014, 11:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
There's some clever design going on - the ability to change the keyboard profile for one, and the ability to totally convert to tablet mode by removing the keyboard for another. However there's a bunch of limitations to the design that I can see...

- Removable keyboard mandates the kickstand, which means it has to be on a flat surface to be stable.
They put quite a lot of thought into that not having to be the case.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
- The kickstand also means you can't set the display at any angle as you can with a 'normal' laptop.
Kickstand now has continual friction hinges, which means you can set it at any angle between 0 and 150 degrees.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
- Cost. The base unit is expensive, but the keyboard is an additional £109, making the bill even higher. It needs to be bundled, as the Surface 3 without its keyboard isn't a good sell.
Agree on the bundling, but even without the base model is only $100,-- more than a 64Gb iPad. For a lot more functionality and power.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
- Microsoft are also being disingenuous with their marketing. One minute they're comparing it to the iPad Air and other such tablets, the next to the MacBook Air and ultrabooks, all depending on which flatters them the most. They then massage figures - every website is going on about how the Surface 3 weighs 800 grams, but ignores the keyboard that adds another 300g, bringing it in line with the 11" MacBook Air.
Microsoft is pitching this as a replacement for iPAd plus MacBook Air combo, so the comparison is valid. Moreover by using counterbalance scales, Panos graphically demonstrated that a Surface Pro 3 plus keyboard is still lighter than a Macbook Air.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
I think this is a positive move by MS, but at the price they are (£1109 for the i5/256 model, plus another £109 for the keyboard) they're going to be a tough sell. They're more expensive than Apple's offerings (£999 for i5/256GB, 13") and there are other cheaper ultrabooks around as well.
I think you need to add the price of an iPad to that Macbook Air.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
Good riddance to Windows RT though. They needed to have gone for the full desktop OS from day one.
Closing the RT desktop was an epically stupid move. There was no reason why the Surface RT could not run desktop applications ported to ARM. Indeed with the jailbreak, that is exactly what I did and it worked quite smoothly even on a Tegra 3. Then Microsoft broke the jailbreak again with Windows 8.1 RT. :(

I think that the RT-based Surface Mini launch was cancelled partly because Terry Meyerson (no fan of RT) is merging it to become a more powerful Windows Phone and Phablet/mini-tablet OS, essentially, and partly because Office Gemini (the Metro version) is not finished yet, which would have been the USP for the Surface Mini. I mean, you can't have Office for touch on the iPad and Android and not have it on the Surface Mini. Moreover as hardware gets only thinner, lighter and more frugal from here, it makes sense to pursue the full-fat PC-in-a-tablet device market.
loftie 21st May 2014, 11:55 Quote
Yea Anand does have a decent preview on the SP3 if you're interested. I agree with him about the colours needing to be better if they're going for the creative market.
Cei 21st May 2014, 12:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
They put quite a lot of thought into that not having to be the case.
I'll wait for the reviews, but I still can't see how the kickstand is going to be stable when using it on your lap for example.

EDIT: Anand says this:
In my brief time with the review unit I still found it to be less stable than a laptop, but it's a far closer approximation to the laptop experience than it ever has been before.

So yes. It's still not stable.
Quote:
Kickstand now has continual friction hinges, which means you can set it at any angle between 0 and 150 degrees.
Ah okay, when I read the articles it wasn't clear.
Quote:
Agree on the bundling, but even without the base model is only $100,-- more than a 64Gb iPad. For a lot more functionality and power.
True - although you forgot the £109 keyboard, making the difference £189. You'll also lose a huge chunk of disk space to the Windows install/reserved partition. The Surface3 base model is essentially 32GB or so, not the ful 64GB. Apple have always overcharged for storage prices, something they really need to change. Arguably, the bottom end Surface3 is the most sensibly priced, but the i5 and i7 models are way way way too much.
Quote:
Microsoft is pitching this as a replacement for iPAd plus MacBook Air combo, so the comparison is valid. Moreover by using counterbalance scales, Panos graphically demonstrated that a Surface Pro 3 plus keyboard is still lighter than a Macbook Air.
No, they selected their choices. The 11" MacBook Air weighs exactly the same as the Surface3+keyboard (2.41lb to 2.38lb). Obviously Microsoft's answer was to chose the 13" MacBook Air model...

Don't get me wrong. Apple need to do something with the Air to compete, and have needed to for a while. They need to up the resolution to the 'retina' style at a minimum, but I can't see them adding a touchscreen as OS X simply isn't designed for that.

I'm not sure where they're pitching this. Marketing seems to be suggesting the Surface3 as a laptop replacement, but one that happens to have a touchscreen (which is becoming more common). I don't think it's as a tablet replacement, simply because 12" is too big for most people in that role.
Quote:
I think you need to add the price of an iPad to that Macbook Air.
Why? This is essentially a laptop with some nifty features. Tablets are supposed to be small and portable, whereas this at least is pretty large.


EDIT:
Don't get me wrong, this is a well designed device that inspires a level of techlust. I just think it's a bit too expensive, and practicality as a tablet might be limited due to size. If I was buying a Windows ultrabook I'd be paying close attention to reviews though.
Corky42 21st May 2014, 13:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
I think you need to add the price of an iPad to that Macbook Air.

But how many people want or need a tablet that can be a laptop, or a laptop than can be a tablet ?
My guess is the market is very small.
loftie 21st May 2014, 13:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
No, they selected their choices. The 11" MacBook Air weighs exactly the same as the Surface3+keyboard (2.41lb to 2.38lb). Obviously Microsoft's answer was to chose the 13" MacBook Air model...

Not true. They're pitching it to replace both. MS argues that people carry around an iPad and a light laptop ala the MacBook Air. So instead of having both, you have one, the Surface Pro 3. In cases where you'd whip out your iPad, you take out the SP3, in cases where you'd pull out the MB Air, you take out the SP3+KB.

The iPad Air + 11 MBA is ~ 1lb more than the SP3+KB. The sum of the cheaper of both of these cost £1148, SP3(128GB) costs £849+£110(?) for the cover so £959(?).

Yes there are benefits to having both the tablet and the light laptop. Battery, and storage space as an example. But not everyone wants to carry around multiple devices. A good example of this is media players. I know of no-one who carries around a media player and a smartphone ( except me when I'm going away ). Sure there will be people out there who do, but the number will be low, and probably limited to the tech enthusiasts.

This to me is Microsoft's biggest hurdle. To me, techies won't care too much about switching between tablet and laptop, it's not particularly hard to do, and it's not really an obstacle. And if there is a tech benefit to owning both, techies will be able to take advantage of that. The people who would find it a lot easier to have everything on one device, i.e. average Jo, won't buy it because Apple products "just work". They stick to what they know and it's hard to pry them off that. Look at smartphones, iPhones and Galaxies. I'm not saying they aren't good, but there are a lot of very good phones, arguably better, that just don't get bought in the same quantities.

The people who will look at the SP3 seriously, are those looking for an Ultrabook.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
Tablets are supposed to be small and portable, whereas this at least is pretty large.

Steve Jobs said that 10" was the minimum size for a tablet. Not that I necessarily agree, but I think a tablet can be as big or as small as you want it to be.
Cei 21st May 2014, 13:55 Quote
I don't know many (?any) people who carry around a laptop and a tablet - it's usually one or the other. Mainly a tablet, for the key fact that a tablet is smaller and lighter than a laptop, and usable in more situations (ie: standing up, no desk etc). I went for an iPad mini (and I know people with the Nexus 7 for the same reason) because it's small enough to not be intrusively large in my bag on a daily basis.

The Surface3 is going to be like carrying round a laptop the entire time - both in terms of size and weight (admittedly a small laptop, but still). That goes against some of the ideas of a tablet - although if it works for you, great.

Jobs' rant was about smaller tablets. He said that 7" ones would be "Dead on arrival", and nothing about larger. Thankfully he was wrong. Tablets can indeed be any size, but if you look at sales numbers there's a clear preference amongst people buying them. There may be a reason nobody has gone for a 12" tablet so far...

You're also right. Those looking at S3 will be those looking at ultrabooks. The tablet side of the S3 is a sideshow.
Nexxo 21st May 2014, 15:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
But how many people want or need a tablet that can be a laptop, or a laptop than can be a tablet ?
My guess is the market is very small.

I would guess the people who are tired of carrying around a laptop and a tablet. Of which I see many on the train to and from London.
Corky42 21st May 2014, 15:46 Quote
Well that must be some strange train :D Because i see mostly people using smart phones, with the odd Netbook.

According to StatsCounter, Desktops make up around %70 of the market, Mobile is %24, and Tablets only make up %6 of the market.
sandys 21st May 2014, 15:58 Quote
I carry both but its a case of work machine and personal machine, if my personal was good enough I could work on it which is why good external display support is a requirement for me.
Corky42 21st May 2014, 16:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandys
I carry both but its a case of work machine and personal machine, if my personal was good enough I could work on it which is why good external display support is a requirement for me.

If you have both a tablet (personal) and a laptop (work), why the need to spend £100 on a Touch Cover, as you mention here.
sandys 21st May 2014, 16:42 Quote
I prefer to write with a physical keyboard even doing my own stuff, the only time I don't need keyboard with when I am media consuming where tablet mode is fine, even then I initiate with keyboard and the remove or twist it back as I don't like smudge on screen, i'm for ever wiping it after use and no that's not from the dodgy sites I visit and how I choose to entertain myself :D

In addition the keyboard of course protects the tablet in your rucksack.
Corky42 21st May 2014, 16:49 Quote
To each his own :)
Myself i would have just bought a USB stick for a tenner to transfer my typing from the device with the keyboard to the one without.
sandys 21st May 2014, 17:08 Quote
That far too inconvenient at home and impossible at work due to security, and when I am travelling not commuting I only take one thing, missus would kill me if I took the work machine with us anywhere :D
Nexxo 21st May 2014, 17:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Well that must be some strange train :D Because i see mostly people using smart phones, with the odd Netbook.

Next time get a First Class upgrade. :D
loftie 21st May 2014, 19:00 Quote
The Windows logo on the Surface is a button for the start screen right?

On a different note, I liked the launch trailer for the SP3, it reminded me of the original Surface teaser trailer which I thought was awesome.
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