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Surface 3 Unveiled, Will Hit Retail Shelves in May

Microsoft on Tuesday took the wraps off the Surface 3, the thinnest and lightest version of its tablet.

The Surface 3 runs Windows 8.1, weighs just 1.37 pounds and registers at a paper-thin .34 inches. It is expected to retail for $499, which includes a one-year Office 365 subscription. It will also be eligible for a free upgrade to the new Windows 10 operating system once Microsoft releases it this summer.

Microsoft is currently taking pre-orders for the device, which will be available to test at Microsoft's retail stores starting on Wednesday, according to a blog post by Panos Panay, corporate vice president of the Surface product line at Microsoft. Retail purchases will start on May 5.

The Surface 3 is powered by Intel's quad-core Atom x7 processor. Unlike the Surface Pro 3, which Microsoft released last year, the Surface 3 is not aimed at those engaging in compute-intensive tasks. Instead, according to Microsoft, it's more suited for everyday productivity functions such as e-mail, Web browsing and other traditional office tasks.

"If you do very demanding work -- things like editing and rendering video or complex 3D modelling -- then the power and performance of a Surface Pro 3 is for you," Panay said. "If the majority of your work is less intense -- working in Office, writing, using the Internet (using IE, Chrome, or Firefox!), and casual games and entertainment, then you'll find that Surface 3 delivers everything you need."

Though it runs the low-power, system-on-a-chip Intel processor, Panay said the Surface 3 can run the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 Pro, making it suitable for business users and students. Panay emphasized the Surface 3's appeal to enterprise users, noting that its customers include BASF, Prada and the University of Phoenix.

Microsoft claims that the new Surface 3 will get 10 hours of battery life even when running video. The company also has eliminated its proprietary charger, instead offering support for a Micro USB charger.

The Surface 3 comes with a 3.5 megapixel camera in the front, while its 8 megapixel rear-facing camera comes with a new autofocus feature. The Surface 3 will also work with the Surface Pen, though that will cost extra, Microsoft said.

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.