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