Microsoft Launches Surface Pro 3 in NYC; Mini Tablet a No Show

The Surface Mini was nowhere to be found, but Microsoft did unwrap a massively upgraded new version of its business tablet, the Surface Pro 3.

NEW YORK—Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to the stage in an industrial part of lower Manhattan to kick off the launch of the Surface Pro 3. The highly anticipated Surface Mini was a no-show, however.

Before offering a glimpse of the new hardware and divulging its technical specifications, Nadella discussed Microsoft's hardware strategy. Anchored by empowerment, his company's approach to devices is to "enable people to dream and get stuff done, get more out of every moment of their lives."

Microsoft is "not building hardware for hardware's sake," added Nadella. Rather, the company aims to "build experiences that bring together all the capabilities of our company." Broaching the thorny topic of facing off with hardware partners, Nadella asserted that Microsoft is "not interesting in competing with our OEMs when it comes to hardware."

Panos Panay, head of Microsoft's Surface division, followed Nadella to introduce the Surface Pro 3. Arguing that tech buyers are being asked to choose between the portability of a tablet and the productivity of a laptop, "today we take the conflict away," Panay said.

Meant to bridge the gap between tablets and laptops, the Surface Pro 3 sports a 12-inch, 2,160-by-1,440-pixel resolution touch screen. "We call it 'Pixel-Free,'" said Panay, referencing the visual fidelity offered by the pixel-packed screen.

Microsoft also managed to squeeze a high-end Intel "Haswell" Core i7 processor into the Surface Pro 3 (available in i3 and i5 flavors as well). Built-in storage options include a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD).

A new friction hinge now props up the screen at practically any angle, including a new, nearly flat "canvas" mode that promotes pen input. New type covers now feature a secondary magnetic latch that clicks onto the bottom edge of the screen, adding stability when the device is used on one's lap.

OneNote, Microsoft's note-taking app, is deeply integrated with the Surface Pro 3. Showing off how the tablet doubles as a frictionless note-taking device, Panay clicked the tablet's stylus, causing the Surface's screen to light up with the OneNote app open and ready to accept pen input. Another click of the stylus captures notes, uploads them to the cloud and syncs them across devices.

The Surface Pro 3 hits the sweet spot for enterprise mobile devices, according to Jack Gold, principal analyst at IT research firm J. Gold Associates. "Directly targeting the high end of the enterprise market with full Windows compatibility across all apps is an area where Microsoft can win and it doesn't need to sell tens of millions of this device to be successful," he said in a research note sent to eWEEK.

Microsoft won't need to post iPad-like sales numbers to achieve success in the tablet market, said Gold. "Rather, it can sell a modest number (perhaps 2-3 M) and still claim major success in validating the viability of the Windows tablet market."

Surface Pro 3 goes on sale on May 21. Prices start at $799.

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 network of...