What we learnt from Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 announcement

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Microsoft have this evening unveiled the Surface Pro 3 – their latest tablet/laptop combo and get this… it’s rather impressive.

So what’s new?

So the Surface Pro 3 is the next step up from the Surface 2. For a start – it’s a couple of inches bigger, with the Pro 3 sporting a full 12″ display in a 3:2 aspect ratio (compared to 4:3 on the iPad and 16:9 on the older Surfaces). As you might expect, it is full HD.

There’s several different processor options, but all are 4th generation Intel, has a front facing speaker, and MS claim there’s a nine hour battery life if all you do is surf the web.

As you might expect, it runs Windows 8.1 RT edition.

Oh, and there’s a pen.

What can we read into this about Microsoft’s broader strategy?

The pitch today was essentially the culmination of what Microsoft have been banging on about for ages: it wants this device to replace both your tablet, and your laptop.

To this end, they spoke about the device being as much a laptop than a tablet – making direct comparisons with the Macbook Air, rather than the iPad (which you might assume to be the natural comparison).

With previous devices, this has seemed a little confused – why would you want to run an operating system that is a weird mish-mash of features designed for touch or touchpad/keyboard? With the Pro 3, you can almost see the vision coming together.

Is there an irritating buzzword they used to describe this?

Absolutely. “Lapability” was the word used by Microsoft’s Panos Panay, and is a word that deserves to be as taboo as “phablet” should be.

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The L-word is used internally at Microsoft to describe how easy the Surface Pro 3 is to use as a laptop, on your lap – and this is where one of the major improvements come from. Panay was at pains to point out that the company had put years into developing the hinge on the back that allows you to stand it up. Unlike other tablets, which when used with a stand have you choose between perhaps two positions, the hinge on the Pro 3 is “full friction”, so can rest in any position – meaning you can work however is most comfortable.

Similarly, the new keyboard-stroke-case now latches on to the bottom of the Pro 3 using magnets, to secure it in place. Which certainly makes it appear a more effective laptop replacement than the first two Surface iterations ever did.

Apparently the touchpad has also received a big upgrade – Panay essentially admitted it was crap on the earlier models (he also admitted during the presentation to being a bad father… but to explain that, I guess you had to see it).

What about the pen?

Now this was interesting. Microsoft has re-invented the pen. Ostensibly a stylus, the device they’ve come up with does much more. Designed to feel more like a pen than a stylus (in terms of size and weight), you can make notes all over the screen like you can with, say, the Samsung Note 3, but what makes this cool is that there appears to be some intelligence. Rather than have to float your hand precariously above the screen as though you’re performing keyhole surgery, Microsoft claim that you can rest your hand on the ‘page’ as you would with a normal pen and paper.

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The pen also has a clicker on the top – but it is probably wise if you’re not in the habit of clicking it as you would a normal pen, as this can trigger other functions. For example – in OneNote a click will save your notes and upload them to the cloud. Click it when using the camera and it will load up the image in OneNote for you to crop, and even trace over.

Perhaps the coolest function though was being able to use the clicker to wake the Pro 3 itself, and have it throw you straight to OneNote, for if you’re note-taking on the go.

Anything else?

Pricing will start from $799 – so expect similar pricing over here. We’ll let you know when its available.

James O’Malley