Microsoft bets on Surface Pro 3 as laptop replacement
NEW YORK — Introducing a larger, lighter, more “lapable” version of its Surface tablet, Microsoft defied the expectations of many who had thought it would be announcing a smaller tablet.
Surface Pro 3, introduced at a media event on Tuesday in New York, may be an example of Microsoft getting ahead of the curve for the first time since the tablet market took off.
“You could make the comment that when Surface Pro and Surface RT launched was exactly when the market had shifted toward smaller sizes,” Tom Mainelli, an analyst with research firm IDC, said of Microsoft's first branded tablets, which made their debut in late 2012.
“If Microsoft came out with an 8-inch tablet today, I'd make the argument that they came out with a smaller tablet just as the market is shifting toward larger sizes,” Mainelli said, referring to the growing popularity of larger-screen smartphones.
Whatever the case, Microsoft has a lot to prove with this latest generation of Surface.
It still needs to grow its tiny share of the tablet market and show that its vision of 2-in-1 computers designed to be both laptop and tablet is what people and businesses want.
Windows tablets hold about 4.5 percent of the worldwide tablet and 2-in-1 market, and Surface holds a 1.3 percent share, according to IDC.
The Surface Pro 3 may not dramatically move the needle for Microsoft's tablet market share — but it should help, Mainelli said.
“I was very impressed by the device,” he said. “It has the potential to really jump-start the 2-in-1 category.”
The introduction of a larger device rather than a Surface Mini — at least for now — may reflect new CEO Satya Nadella's strategy of focusing on what Microsoft can uniquely do. That would be producing hardware that emphasizes productivity and that connects to the company's growing array of cloud services.
Nadella started the event with a brief appearance onstage, saying Microsoft is not interested in building hardware purely for hardware's sake.
Rather, the company's focus on hardware starts with an “obsession of empowering every individual to do more and be more. That is what we at Microsoft are all about,” he said.
Panos Panay, a Microsoft vice president in charge of Surface computing, declined to say whether the company is working on a Surface mini, saying just that it's working on a wide variety of products.
It was Panay who gave most of the morning's presentation, introducing the specifics of Surface Pro 3, which Microsoft executives repeatedly emphasized was a laptop replacement.