Has Microsoft’s tablet PC finally come of age? Earlier this week Microsoft said Surface revenue hit $1.1bn for the most recent quarter – up 24 percent year on year – driven by Surface Pro 3 and accessories. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said of the rise: “The value proposition of being the most productive tablet is resonating.”
The company revealed that the third version of the Surface, the two-in-one device first launched two years ago, is selling faster than previous versions. “Surface Pro 3 volumes are pacing over three times the rate of what we saw with Surface Pro 2,” said Microsoft CFO Amy Hood.
So can it be finally said that Surface is a success? It depends on which metrics you use.
Microsoft’s third shot in the tablet-that-can-turn-into-a-portable-PC category represents a huge improvement over its earlier attempts. I called the first Surface Pro, released in February 2013,“brilliant, quirky, and flawed,” and argued that it “has enough flaws that many potential buyers will either say no outright or play wait and see.”
Last fall’s Surface Pro 2, released in conjunction with Windows 8.1, was basically just a spec bump that added a Haswell processor (improving battery life) and gave the trademark Surface kickstand a second angle.
Surface Pro 3, on the other hand, is a complete redesign that maintains the original Surface Pro vision (and a few of its quirks), while tackling its biggest flaws head-on.
Like its predecessors, the Surface Pro 3 isn’t for everyone. It’s also hard to categorize. Lining it up next to a conventional laptop or a full-size tablet results in an odd set of comparisons and, inevitably, reviews that focus on the mismatches.
I attended last week’s launch event in New York City and came home with a sample of the Surface Pro 3, provided by Microsoft, which I’ve used extensively for the past 10 …
It’s often been said (though it probably isn’t true) that Microsoft gets things right on the third try—version one sucks, version two is barely adequate, and version three is the one that finally makes a mainstream splash. Does the Surface Pro 3 have what it takes to define a market and hit the big time?
Unlike the Surface Pro 2, which essentially stuck a new processor in an old system, the Surface Pro 3 is all-new. Unlike the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3 is a reaction to and acknowledgement of at least some of the criticisms leveled at the Surface product range.
And unlike the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3 is squarely and unambiguously aimed at laptop users. Introducing the new system, Microsoft cited “proprietary Microsoft research” asserting that 96 percent of iPad users also carry laptops. Not necessarily the most credible source—we asked the company if it could provide any information on how it arrived at this figure, but none was forthcoming. Still, we feel it does capture an essential truth. The exact proportion may vary, but many tablet users are also laptop users.