Microsoft Aims High by Going After MacBook Air With Surface Pro 3

NEWS ANALYSIS: Forget about iPad versus Surface comparisons now that Microsoft has made it clear that it's aiming for another market entirely—the MacBook Air.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet

When Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3 tablet in New York on May 20, it made one thing abundantly clear. The new Surface is not an iPad killer—but then it's not intended to be one at all. Instead, Microsoft is aiming squarely at the MacBook Air, Apple's ultra thin and ultra light Ultrabook.

In fact, when Microsoft's Panos Panay demonstrated how thin and light the Surface Pro 3 is, the measurement was against the MacBook Air. And this was after he spent some time talking about how many, if not most, people carry both a laptop computer and a tablet, one so they can consume data and another so they can get work done.

The idea behind the new Surface Pro 3 is to provide a laptop that can be both a tablet for consumption of content and a work platform. To do this the Surface Pro 3 is vastly changed from the earlier versions.

The biggest change is that the new Surface has a 12-inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, versus the 16:9 ratio on earlier Surface tablets and on most Ultrabooks and laptops. The screen is more nearly square and mimics the shape of a pad of paper. The new Surface Pro 3 also sports higher-end processors and a very high definition screen with 2160 x 1440 resolution.

Creating content and getting work done in general are supposed to be easier with the new model's type cover and touchpad that are larger than with the earlier models. Then there is the stylus that Microsoft says feels more like a real pen. The pen is tightly integrated with Microsoft's OneNote software so that the tablet turns on and runs OneNote with the click of a button on the stylus.

The new Surface runs Windows 8.1, as did earlier versions of the Surface. However, Microsoft has worked with application vendors, including Adobe, to produce versions of their software that specifically support the attributes of the Surface Pro 3.

In short, the idea behind the Surface Pro 3 is to replace your laptop and tablet with a single device that will be lighter and cost less than two devices designed for different purposes. Meanwhile, the device is 0.3 inches thick and weighs less than 2 pounds, type cover included.

But will the Surface Pro 3 really replace a laptop and a tablet? And will people buy it? A lot will depend on just how good the type cover actually is. Microsoft claims it's better than the previous versions, but whether it's better for you depends on how you use it.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...