Surface 3 Thoughts

Microsoft just recently introduced the Surface Pro 3. Just like its predecessors it strikes me as a solidly engineered, high-quality product delivering on something no one really asked for. This time around Microsoft was careful to emphasize the Surface Pro 3 as an alternative not to Apple’s iPad, but rather the Macbook Air (and obviously other laptops as well, but Microsoft could never admit to that without disgruntling its hardware partners).

I still remain unconvinced that there’s significant demand for a tablet-laptop hybrid, especially in a form like Surface Pro (I think if tablet-laptop hybrids were to succeed, something like Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga has a better chance at success). Most laptops today are much better at doing laptop-y things than the Surface. iPads are undoubtedly much, much, MUCH better at doing tablet-y things than the Surface. This tension is well exemplified by how Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President of Surface Computing, stressed the improvements made to the kickstand hinge, enabling more flexible viewing angles: The original Surface Pro kickstand only supported one viewing angle, the Surface Pro 2 kickstand supported two different viewing angles, and the brand-new Surface Pro 3 supports flexible viewing angles. This could be a solid improvement, except that laptops have supported flexible viewing angles for as long as I can think back. It basically took Microsoft two iterations and more than 18 months to fix a weakness they designed and created themselves.

I will admit that I wouldn’t mind the Surface’s aspirations as a full laptop replacement if I didn’t believe that these aspirations compromise the Surface’s qualities as a tablet. As it is, the Surface Pro in all its iterations strikes me as a tablet that’s trying so hard to be a laptop that it becomes a worse tablet for it.

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