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Is Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 a laptop killer?

May 21, 2014

Smartphone screens have been getting bigger while tablets have been getting smaller. Until yesterday, pretty much everyone thought that Microsoft's newest product announcement would be that it was coming out with a smaller version of its Surface tablet — wrong. Instead, the technology giant debuted the Surface Pro 3, a new hybrid PC/tablet with a 12-inch screen.

"So many people carry both a laptop and a tablet but really want just one device that serves all purposes," said Panos Panay, corporate vice president, Microsoft Surface, in a statement. "Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop — packing all the performance of a fully powered laptop into a thin, light and beautifully designed device. You'll love being able to carry a single device for your next class, workday or weekend getaway knowing you have all the power you need."

[Image: Surface Pro 3]

The starting price for the new device, which runs Windows Pro 8.1, starts at $799 and goes up to around $2,000. The Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch HD display, is powered with a fourth generation Intel Core processor and has up to nine hours of battery life. Features include "a new multi-position kickstand" that allows the user to choose viewing angles from zero to 150 degrees and "new click-in keyboards that come in five colors with 63% bigger track-pads." The device will go on sale in the U.S. and Canada in Microsoft Stores on June 20.

Initial reviews have been mixed, but the ultimate question is whether consumers, as Microsoft posits, want one machine to handle what they are now accomplishing with two.

An article on the CNN site recalled Apple CEO Tim Cook's response to combining a laptop and tablet from 2012. "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but you know those things are not going to be probably be pleasing to the user."

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:MSFT] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

Will Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 become a disrupter in the tablet and laptop markets? What will the implications be for business users?

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Instant Poll:

How likely is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to disrupt the current tablet and laptop market?

Comments:

I think it's the logical extension of the tablet for home users. I think business will remain the domain of actual laptops and (maybe) desktops.

For home users, I do think it's the future. But at that price point, it's not what I'd call "disruptive." I'd just call it evolution.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

It's anyone's guess, but I hope it does. Seems like the best of both worlds - a great tablet and a laptop, or hopefully work like one.

As we discussed recently, trying to get things done on an iPad can be frustrating. For entertainment, it's fine, but navigating a web site is a hit or miss. I have family and friends that are hardcore Apple fans and Apple can do no wrong, and even they really like the Surface. I am in the market to lease a car and trying to "build my model" on my iPad had me running for my laptop. Perhaps the Surface will be the answer. The other big plus for the Surface, is Office applications. No compromise on the Surface. They work and work correctly.

Finally, It's about time that Microsoft has a win. It's been a long time since they've had one, especially in hardware.

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

I think the price point has to come down to PC ranges, but the idea is right on the money. Am I the only one who finds a separate tablet superfluous? It simply cannot deliver the functionality of a laptop so it is currently a reader and entertainment device, although I would hope for so much more.

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Joel Rubinson, President, Rubinson Partners, Inc.

No. A 12-inch Surface Pro is still a Microsoft product, and their products aren't traditionally disruptive. For any 12-inch tablet to be truly disruptive, it has to be competitively priced and fully vetted on how it integrates into the application/existing appliance ecosystem and how consumers relate to the user experience. Remember, iOS was designed for a small screen - how does it operate on a 12-inch device?

Sylvain Perrier, President and CEO, Sylvain Perrier

Being a focus group of one, I will be an early adopter of the Surface Pro 3. One platform and now I will only need two devices, the phone and Pro3.

I just wish they had not broken it down into separate pieces. I would have liked to see it packaged as it is presented, with keyboard and case or cover.

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

The definition of laptop and Tablet computers will continue to converge in direct proportion to the "smaller more powerful" evolution of display, processing, storage and battery technologies. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is just another evolution in this process. In the continuing mobile device arms race, it is only a question of when Apple will release a device that is effectively a hybrid between an iPad and MacBook Air. The convergence of laptop and Tablet PC is further compounded by the convergence of mobile devices and Tablet PCs.

Is Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 disruptive - no, but it does pressure Apple and Google and Amazon(?) and a host of mobile device manufacturers to respond in a timely manner. After all, it's not a race unless there's competition with at least two participants!

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

Some consumers will replace their laptops with a Surface 3, but it will not be the great disrupter in the tablet and laptop markets. And in reality, what difference does it make? The iPad was disruptive in that it created a completely new tool for computing and accessing the Internet. The Surface 3 looks like a good tool for some, but it is not disruptive.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Less is more. When a single device is completely usable and doesn't compromise functionality, it wins. Now can we get a cell service on the tablet and make calls?

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Peter J. Charness, SVP America, Global CMO, TXT Group

No, I do not own a tablet yet. Can you believe it? I just can't see spending on a tablet unless or until it can replace my PC and all the functionality that I need.

They are getting close, but still no cigar. Price point here is a bit high and I really need to do some power work on my PC. Still waiting...for my 2 cents.

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Microsoft is on the right track again. As impressive as this is, I do not see it replacing the laptop. Maybe this is one giant step to the future.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

No. This is a tablet masquerading as a notebook. There are already notebooks out there that are tablet like - not much of a revelation there. MS needs to come out with a killer app or unique feature on their device instead of just "making it bigger." Too many consumers already enjoy their cellphones or phablets and have started to opt out of these...that is where the market is going.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

For the baby boomer population, the perceived necessity of a standalone keyboard input device is something few will let go of. Generation X and Millennials are aware of and comfortable with the voice recognition capabilities which are improving at a good pace.

I think Microsoft is searching to restore what the market is finishing with, laptops. The third party keyboards for tablet sales might be worth a look just for market readiness reasons. The real issue within this discussion is Microsoft's continuing lost awareness of market trends and direction. This along with very slow overall IT market sales in F/Y 2014 is a reason for investor concern.

'gjarnoldjr'

Business users want a functional lightweight product - tablets can't do enough for many people, especially those who still work in spreadsheets and PPT. This could be a useful product for a number of folks, as a tablet and laptop along with other electronics seems like too much stuff. The price point will have to be more competitive for wider acceptance. MS heading in a better direction here, but not truly disruptive from what we have seen so far.

Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

It is just a matter of time before someone comes along with a "better mousetrap." This could be it. The Surface Pro 3 is lightweight, thin, powerful, etc. It appears to be an option that will consolidate two, if not three technologies. Apple has to always be looking over its shoulder to see how close competition is. They have to keep innovating to stay ahead. I think the MSFT Surface Pro 3 will keep competitors pushing the envelope of innovation.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

For me the key feature may well be the yet-to-be released docking station. If I can snap a Surface Pro 3 onto my office desk and carry on with my large external monitor, standard keyboard, external drive and network and power connections, this may be a good next solution.

Then again, the i7 versions with sufficient storage to run Adobe Creative apps get kinda pricey, especially once the required accessories are added in (keyboard, docking station, pen and maybe cables).

Wouldn't it be great if MS cooked up a dedicated home-office pro bundle for folks like us... I'd volunteer to beta test. *wink*wink

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

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