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With Surface Pro 3 Launch, Microsoft Aims To Replace Laptops

Confounding many analysts' expectations, Microsoft did not launch a "mini" Surface at Tuesday's New York City press event; instead, it unveiled the 12-inch Surface Pro 3.

Microsoft positioned the Surface Pro 3's launch as a major event. "Our goal is to create new categories and spark new demand for our ecosystem," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in his introductory remarks. "Today is a major milestone in that journey."

The Surface Pro 3 is "the tablet that can replace your laptop," said Surface Corporate Vice President Panos Panay, who gave a demo of the new device at the event. The Surface Pro 3 is slightly bigger than its predecessor, the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2, but has the feel of a full-size laptop. At just 0.36 inches thick and weighing 1.76 pounds, the Surface Pro 3 is also thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 2. While the Surface Pro 2 only came with an Intel Core i5 processor, the Surface Pro 3 is available with different Intel Core processors -- the i3, i5 and i7. The 12-inch ClearType full HD display also offers a much higher 2160x1440 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio.

The Surface Pro 3 with the new pen accessory.

The Surface Pro 3 systems are enterprise-ready in that power users can now get a configuration with an i7 Core processor and up to 8GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. For those with more moderate needs, an i3 Core processor is also available with as little as 64GB of storage. The Surface Pro 3 can get up to nine hours of battery life, Microsoft said.

Microsoft will start accepting pre-orders on Wednesday, and the devices are slated to ship on June 20. Pricing will vary by configuration, but at the low end, a Surface Pro 3 with an i3 Intel processor, 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM will retail for $799. At the high end, a Surface Pro 3 with an i7 Intel processor, 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM will retail for $1,949. All models include the new aluminum Surface Pen, which offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. This fact sheet (.DOCX) gives more information on pricing.

Available as optional accessories for the Surface Pro 3 are a docking station ($199.99) and the Type Cover ($129.99). Notably missing from the accessories lineup was the Power Cover, which was offered with the Surface Pro 2. Company officials wouldn't say if a Power Cover for Surface Pro 3 is in the offing.

Microsoft's Panos Panay demonstrating the Surface Pro 3 at the launch event Tuesday.

With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft addresses several key issues found in older Surface models. For instance, the new Surface Pro 3 Type Cover can click into place in such a way that it prevents the tablet from wobbling in a user's lap, which was a complaint with previous models. The Type Cover also features an improved track pad, and the built-in kickstand can also be adjusted to any position.

Emphasizing that the Surface Pro 3 is targeted at commercial use, Microsoft said it is working with some key ISVs, including SAP, Dassault Systèmes and Adobe.

During his presentation, Panay also invited Adobe's Michael Gough onstage to reveal plans to optimize the Adobe Photoshop CC for touch on the new Surface Pro 3.

"It's a creator's dream come true," said Gough, who is Adobe's vice president of Experience Design. "It's really, really easy to interact with the screen, the penĀ  input is natural, the performance is great [and] the hardware and software [are] working together. My favorite is how easy it is to move around."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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