Business users who are tired of hunting for available and presumably safe WiFi network connections for their Surface Pros will soon have a new option, announced Microsoft on Oct. 31.
Unveiled during the during the software giant's Future Decoded conference in London, the new Surface Pro with LTE Advanced model will allow users to connect to compatible 4G cellular networks beginning next month. "Surface Pro with LTE Advanced is the latest addition to the Surface family and will begin shipping to business customers in December 2017," said Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices in a blog post.
"With a Cat 9 modem, Surface Pro with LTE Advanced is the fastest LTE-enabled laptop in its class," claimed the Microsoft hardware executive. "It delivers global connectivity with support of 20 cellular bands so you can work, study, create or relax uninterrupted."
Microsoft is basing its claims on LTE Advanced download speeds of up to 450 Mbps (megabits per second), compared to the 300 Mbps speeds typically attained by rival LTE laptops and two-in-one devices with 12- or 13-inch screen sizes, which generally feature a Cat 6 modem.
Surface Pro with LTE Advanced follows on the heels of the recently-announced Surface Book 2, an updated version of the two-in-one laptop Microsoft first launched in 2015. This time, the 13.5-inch device is joined by a 15-inch model that provides users with a bigger canvas for their work or their creative endeavors (it also supports the company's Surface Pen on-screen stylus and Surface Dial peripheral).
Despite Microsoft's checkered hardware history, the business-friendly line of Surface hybrid devices and PCs has made fans out of many corporate technology buyers. The Redmond, Wash. technology giant is focusing on growing its cloud business and venturing into artificial intelligence (AI) and other cutting-edge fields, but its enterprise device ambitions appear to be bearing fruit.
On Oct. 26, Microsoft reported better-than-expected first quarter (Q1), fiscal year 2018 earnings. The company rang up sales of $24.54 billion, beating analyst expectations of $23.56 billion. Surface revenue jumped 12 percent on an annual basis, a gain that Microsoft CFO Amy Hood credited to "sales of the new Surface Laptop in both the commercial and consumer segments," during an investor's conference call.
Microsoft officially debuted the Surface Laptop in May during an education-themed media event in New York City before its June 15 ship date.
Built to compete with Chromebooks—albeit not in price considering the $999 entry-level price—the Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S, a version of Windows that only supports apps from the Microsoft Store (formerly the Windows Store app marketplace). This limitation can be lifted by upgrading to Windows 10 Pro.
The device features a touch- and stylus-capable 13.5-inch PixelSense display and cuts a trim profile when closed (14.47 millimeters at its thickest point). Borrowing from the company's premium Type Covers for the Surface Pro, the Surface Laptop includes a keyboard section that is draped in Alcantara, a suede-like synthetic fabric used in the interior of some luxury cars.
Buyers like what they see and apparently feel, according to Microsoft. For the current quarter, Hood said the company expects "revenue to be slightly up from Q1 as we continue to transition to the new Surface Pro, ramp Surface Laptop and launch the Surface Book 2."