Microsoft Courting Business Users for Surface Pro 3
- By Kurt Mackie
- October 10, 2014
Microsoft on Thursday announced a new Surface Pro 3 promotion and support program for business users, even as media reports speculate whether the company would discontinue the product.
A DigiTimes report on Thursday floated a rumor that Microsoft would kill off its Surface tablet-PC line. That rumor was shot down in an announcement by Brian Hall, general manager of Surface at Microsoft, who offered a quote attributed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella indicating that Microsoft is fully behind its Surface line.
"Microsoft is putting its full and sustained support behind the ongoing Surface program as one of a number of great hardware choices for businesses large and small," Nadella stated.
Nadella's indication of support for Surface is perhaps needed given the potential confusion associated with the company's CEO transition. Former CEO Steve Ballmer had declared Microsoft to be a "devices and services" company in 2012, but Nadella modified that characterization in July of this year, stating that Microsoft was really a "productivity and platforms" company, which seemed to downplay the hardware aspect.
Microsoft's Surface rollout early on was described as a sort of design example for its hardware partners about what could be built with Windows, according to Ballmer's characterization back then. A $900 million write-down associated with poor Surface RT sales last year perhaps added to the speculation about Microsoft's true commitment to the product.
Microsoft Complete for Business
The announcement by Hall, though, showed that Microsoft is actively engaged in carving inroads to the business market with its support plan for the Surface Pro 3. Hall announced a new "Microsoft Complete for Business" program for the Surface Pro 3 that offers a "3 year extended warranty, accidental damage protection, faster exchange service and Surface setup support for customers."
Hall indicated that the Surface Pro 3 currently supports Windows 8.1. However, the devices will be capable of upgrading to Windows 10 when Microsoft releases that next-generation operating system. Microsoft has indicated that it plans to release Windows 10 sometime next year.
Microsoft also has designed its Surface Pro 3 Type Covers, Surface Pro 3 Docking Station and various Surface Pro 3 accessories to be compatible with the next-generation Surface product, when that gets released, according to Hall.
Microsoft is now offering a $150 discount for organizations buying the Surface Pro 3, Type Cover and Docking Station bundle of products in the U.S. market. The offer will be extended worldwide "in the coming weeks," according to Hall. The bundle has to be purchased through Microsoft's authorized Surface resellers to get the discount.
The Microsoft Store lists the retail price of the Surface Pro 3 (64 GB of storage with Intel i3 processor) at $799.00, with a Surface Cover sold separately at prices ranging between $129.99 and $199.99. The Docking Station is also sold separately at $199.99. Those are retail prices, so the business pricing might be different.
For a first look at the Surface Pro 3, see this RCP article. A recent Seeking Alpha article offered a positive review from the financial press perspective. Microsoft recently noted that some Adobe Creative Cloud graphics-intensive products, such as Illustrator, are now touch-enabled on the Surface Pro 3.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's hardware partners/competitors have been busy preparing their own Windows 8.1 PCs, including lower cost units, for distribution this fall. Those Windows 8.1 machines, unveiled at the IFA conference in September, are expected to compete with low-cost Android and Chromebook devices.
Google Chromebooks, which run Web apps, haven't made too many inroads into the business market so far. However, the company recently signaled some ramped-up efforts in that regard. Google announced enhancements to its "Chromebooks for Work" program this month. The program includes identity management capabilities and virtualization support.
Devices with Chromebooks for Work support can leverage single sign-on access via the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standard. Chromebooks are supported by various identity solution providers, including "CA SiteMinder, Microsoft AD FS, Okta, Ping Identity, SecureAuth, and SimpleSAMLphp," Google's announcement indicated.
Google is also improving certificate management for wireless networks and enabling IT pros to push settings and bookmarks to end users. Citrix Receiver has been optimized for Chromebooks, enabling access to Windows virtual desktops. Google is even claiming that Chromebooks can support 3-D graphics-heavy apps via Nvidia and VMware solutions.
The Chromebooks for Work enhancements are priced at $50 per device per year. Google currently offers the program in U.S. and Canadian markets, but it may expand the program.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.