4G LTE Version of Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet Nears Release

After its debut in Japan, businesses in Europe can get their hands on the 4G LTE-connected version of Surface 3 in the next few days. The U.S. will follow.

Microsoft Surface 3 tablet

The mobile broadband-enabled version of Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet is making its way to the United States and other countries in the coming weeks after a brief, two-week stint in Japan.

"We're happy to announce Surface 3 (4G LTE) will become available to business customers through the first partner operators on July 3 in Germany and the United Kingdom, and later, in France and Spain," Brian Hall, general manager of Microsoft Surface, said in a July 1 announcement. Participating carriers include Deutsche Telekom, Orange Business Services, O2 and Movistar.

Explaining why businesses are getting the 4G LTE-capable Windows tablet first, Hall reported seeing "particular excitement for our LTE-enabled Surface 3 with businesses and their sales forces, which is why this initial announcement is focused on business availability. We're already hearing from customers that have deployed Surface Pro 3 that sellers are saving hours per week in many cases."

Two configurations are being made available for business customers, one packing 64GB of storage and the other 128GB. Both ship with 4GB of RAM and run Windows 8.1 Professional, with a free upgrade to Windows 10 when it launches July 29. Among the operating system's many new enhancements is Continuum, an adaptive mode-switching feature for tablets and two-in-ones.

After the device starts appearing in offices and cubicles, consumers will get a crack at it. Sometime after the device starts appearing in European offices and cubicles, U.S. businesses and consumers will get a crack at it.

"Following availability to business customers in these markets, we're also looking forward to offering Surface 3 (4G LTE) at retail and through commercial resellers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States in the coming weeks," Hall revealed.

Microsoft first unveiled the Surface 3, a sleeker follow-up to the productivity-focused 12-inch Surface Pro 3 tablet, on March 31. The device sports a 10.8-inch touch-screen and weighs 1.37 pounds.

In a statement at the time, Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface, described the new device as "the thinnest and lightest Surface we've ever shipped."

Prices start at $499 for the 64GB, WiFi model, which includes a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The 4G LTE option adds $100 to the cost.

Although Surface failed to dethrone Apple iPad when it first launched in 2012, its fortunes have been improving since Microsoft had begun targeting the device at business users and consumers seeking a Windows experience in a tablet form factor.

In April, the company reported that Surface sales jumped 44 percent to $713 million during its fiscal 2015 third quarter, thanks in large part to the success of the Surface Pro 3. "With Surface we saw 53 percent constant currency revenue growth, driven by strong retail sales and attach of accessories," Amy Hood, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said during an April 23 earnings call.

Microsoft is banking on the smaller Surface 3 to provide a similar lift. "In computing and gaming hardware, with the addition of Surface 3, we expect revenue to be $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion" in the fourth quarter, Hood forecast.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...