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Partners Applaud Surface Pro Battery Life, LTE Support, Processor

Surface reseller partners were enthusiastic about elements of the lightly refreshed Surface Pro that Microsoft unveiled Tuesday morning at an event in Shanghai.

Panos Panay, corporate vice president for Microsoft Devices, unveiled the unnumbered Surface Pro, which delivers a number of mostly incremental improvements over the aging Surface Pro 4 that it replaces. The new Surface Pro is available to order now and will begin shipping June 15.

"I'm really excited for it," said Trevor Ferguson, the manager of SHI's Microsoft hardware team, in a telephone interview. "What really jumped out was the enhanced battery life, as well as the LTE support," said Ferguson, who came in to work early Tuesday morning to watch a Web feed of the launch from China.

Microsoft is claiming 13.5 hours of battery life for the Surface Pro, a figure the company says is a 50 percent improvement over the Surface Pro 4 and claims is 35 percent longer than an Apple iPad Pro. The LTE Advanced functionality, which won't ship immediately but is coming later this year, represents the first time that capability has been available in a Surface Pro model. LTE support was a popular feature of the now unavailable Surface 3 tablets, Ferguson noted.

The new Surface Pro can be used at a nearly flat angle like its larger cousin, the Surface Studio.

Combined, the battery life and the LTE support will make the Surface Pro a much more mobile-friendly device, Ferguson said. "If you think about it, most people now are working on the go. More people are traveling and they want to be connected wherever they are," he said.

Wendell Layne, business development manager supporting Windows 10 migrations at St. Louis-based World Wide Technology (WWT), also welcomed the updated device, saying the 7th generation Intel Core processor will make the biggest difference for WWT's customers. "To me that's probably the biggest update because that brings with it a lot of new capabilities," Layne said.

Other features that caught partners' attention were the new kickstand hinge that allows the device to be pushed back to a 165-degree angle that mimics the working angle of the desktop Surface Studio, the new ability to use the Surface Dial on the screen rather than as strictly an off-screen accessory, and the improved screen resolution.

The incremental release comes after a financial quarter (Q3) in which Surface sales had slipped 26 percent, with Surface Pro sales specifically being singled out as "lower than expected" by Microsoft in its call with financial analysts. Yet Layne said the relatively low-key upgrade to the Surface Pro this time may be intentional.

"You have to look at the bigger picture Microsoft is trying to accomplish. Microsoft is essentially trying to push their OEMs to advance the devices that are out there to support Windows 10," he said. "They don't want to put HP and Dell out of [the PC] business. They're essentially giving their partners an opportunity to catch up and provide better devices."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 23, 2017 at 4:35 PM