Microsoft Aims High by Going After the MacBook Air With Surface Pro 3
The 12-inch screen is a vast improvement as is the aspect ratio. Current laptop screens, which seem to be mostly sized for watching movies rather than performing actual work, don't really suit a lot of people, me included. The new Surface screen has a lot more useful real estate than do current tablets. It's worth noting that the screen is a lot closer in shape to what Apple uses for the iPad, which seems to work better for a tablet. The price of the Surface is another issue. Fully loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor and a half gigabyte of storage, the device will set you back more than $2,000 if you include a type cover. This is MacBook Pro territory. It's also a lot more expensive than a number of really nice touch-screen laptops already available. The $1,949 price of the basic i7 device doesn't include the type cover, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison with those other laptops. But even at that price, there's something to be said about one device that can take the place of two. During a recent weeklong travel interval I hauled around a briefcase laden with a Lenovo T-430 laptop with an extended battery and an iPad. I used the iPad to play music and read books from Amazon. I used the laptop to write my column for eWEEK and perform other work-related tasks.This means that I'm probably an ideal candidate for a Surface 3. But I already have a laptop and I already have a tablet (actually, I have seven tablets if you count the half-dozen my wife has accumulated). Do I really want to go out and drop a couple of grand on yet another tablet? Actually, a year from now, when my current laptop expires from one too many trips into the overhead luggage bin, I might. But will Microsoft manage to sell huge numbers of this new model on the hopes that people who currently already have a laptop and a tablet will rush out to replace them? Maybe, but this will happen only if the new Surface Pro 3 has some compelling applications that make it worth its keep. Even the cheapest Surface Pro 3 costs about as much as one and-a-third iPads, for example. So it needs to be worth more than just taking the place of another tablet.
I could have used the laptop for music and reading, but the 16:9 screen doesn't lend itself to reading, and I'd have to put the laptop away during takeoff, landing and turbulence. I could keep the iPad at hand the whole time. I also could have used the iPad for writing, but I don't like the iPad touch-screen keyboard, mostly because it's too small.