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back to article Microsoft Surface 3 Pro: Flip me over, fondle me up

The touchscreen Surface Pro 3, unveiled on Tuesday, is Microsoft's latest attempt to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets. Panos Panay claims Surface Pro 3 is one device to rule them all Panos Panay claims Surface Pro 3 is one device to rule them all "It starts with dreaming the impossible," gushed Microsoft CEO Satya …

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Who ate all the pies?

Compared to an iPad or a top end Android tablet like the Note 10.1 2014, the Surface looks like a real porker. Its screen is too small to use for an extended period and it isn't usable with the keyboard except on a flat surface.

I can't see this doing much better than the previous iterations, of which I have only seen about 10 in the flesh compared to more iPads than you could shake a stick at. Windows 8.1 really isn't that bad compared to most previous iterations of Windows but this device sits uncomfortably between a consumption only device like the iPad and proper laptops on which you can actually do real work. It may not flop as badly as the first iteration of the Surface, but I confidently predict that it will flop nonetheless.

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Pint

Re: Who ate all the pies?

With an attitude like this, it's no wonder that Microsoft decided against paying you millions as a Surface consultant.

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

@Preston - lol - but don't you think that is actually the problem. Microsoft didn't hire him. Microsoft hired yes men. And you also need some no men. Because when your no men say yes, you've probably cracked the serious flaws. Whereas the yes men just want to keep getting paid so just keep saying yes.

My problem is, the top end one costs as much as a macbook pro of a equal if not better spec. Way more than an mac air. Screen will be better in either case (apple do seem to have lovely screens the monkeys!).

Now, granted they are aimed at businesses not consumers (a flaw btw!) - look at what apple have done. They got the consumer and now we see Macbooks and ipads in business. Something that even 3 years ago would be a real rarity.

MS (IMHO) need to stop inventing the laptop-tablet. Sometimes I want a tablet. Sometimes I want a laptop. Sometimes I want a hammer, sometimes I want a screwdriver. I can use a decent screwdriver as a hammer but it doesn't give the best finish, and is cumbersome but for a quick job we've all done that!. Sometimes that doesn't work and that's when I get the hammer. Also, putting a screw in with a hammer just is overkill. Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer.[well MS have in my analogy] It doesn't need inventing. I am happy to own both.

Apple (and samsung) have set the bar. Microsoft are way off the mark with this one. I don't want my desktop apps on my tablet. Its a dreadful device to write a document on, but a great device to read one on. Until they get that.....and laptops....really...what percentage of people actually use on on their lap to do anything serious for any period of time.

Oh...I think I need a lie down.....my rant has got out of control...

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

Oh yes they did

Not just hammer and screwdriver, but also knife, saw and tooyo'oenoo' (*) too.

Or if you want just a hammer-screwdriver

(*) tooyo'oenoo' = pliers, as I'm sure many of us are aware due to other articles here on el-reg.

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Linux

Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

You can hammer a screw, but you can't screw a hammer.

- ancient Chinese proverb -

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

I'm sure if you feed that into Google you will find a fair few examples of people screwing hammers...

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JDX
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Re: Who ate all the pies?

THe iPad doesn't have a 12" screen or a full-blown i7 CPU. These are totally different devices, as was mentioned this is competing more with MacBook Air than iPad Air.

Seems like it could be a big hit in business, I don't think this version is really a consumer-oriented device but a business device... interest in Surface Pro has mainly been from that market.

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

You're forgetting the 3 Rules of Engineering:

1. Always use the correct tool for the job.

2. The correct tool is always a hammer.

3. Any tool can be used as a hammer.

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

And more than a few hamdrivers

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

What is better:

12'' vs 10.6'': The 12'' format is basically DIN A4 from the useable "real estate". Having using the S/P2 "grandfather" (ASUS EP121) and 10'' tablet pc (Dell, Samsung) that is quite a bit of difference for use as a "digital college block"

As for the S/PROs before that, have they, as opposed to the RT variant, really been a flop? Here in germany they can even be found at the Metro owned chains of electronic shops

More variants in power and price from a i3 that is placed nicely against the Lenovo and HP Baytrails (TPT10, EPad 1000) in price with some more power and a faster SSD all up to an i7 that plays against Thinkpad Yoga and Q704

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

@ HollyHopDrive

Ever used a tablet pc (as opposed to a tablet)? It's quite a bit different in capabilities with the stylus adding both the option to use desktop software (works fine since 2003) and taking notes / sketches at a precision of a fine pointed (and pressure sensitive) pencil. Add in a very mature "handwriting->computer readable" software and this is a fine piece of equipment for conferences etc.

Put it in a dock, add a USB keyboard and it can replace 90+ percent of the notebooks and desktops (FPS style games and heavy duty software development are the exception)

Oh and the screwdriver hammer has been invented - called a Leatherman IIRC

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who ate all the pies?

"Compared to an iPad or a top end Android tablet like the Note 10.1 2014, the Surface looks like a real porker"

But those are not proper PCs - or running fully featured OSs - they are primarily game playing and media consumption devices. They might do for execs that just need to read email (although personally I would never allow something as insecure as Android in the corporate environment. IOS at least does the basics in that respect.)

This is a real computer running a fully featured and touch optimised OS. That is 9mm think (that's only 1.5mm thicker than the latest iPad - which has vastly inferior specs. and capabilities) and lasts ~ 9 hours on a single charge. And has a larger screen and simultaneous 4K output capability. Businesses will likely be forming a queue for it. And I suspect it won't do too badly with consumers either - likely constrained only by the high cost....

I have pre-ordered one anyway.

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

"You can hammer a screw, but you can't screw a hammer."

You can shag a cash machine though:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/20/tennessee_atm_outrage/

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

Knifewrench! Practical and safe!

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

Yes, it's a real computer running a real OS.

Just like...

Thousands of existing models of laptops.

The only difference being - it is marginally slimmer than the slimmest existing laptops from Lenovo, Apple etc at the expense that you cannot comfortably use it on your lap, or on the tray of an aeroplane or train seat.

For the same price I would prefer an ultrabook or Air with a hinged keyboard.

And it is bigger, heavier an more expensive than tablets, which are not full computers.

So what is so great about it?

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Unhappy

Where's the docking station?

Now that they've moved the USB, power & Display Port to the right hand side, they can do a real docking station, unlike the joke one they did for the Pro2.

With a flat/wedge dock, the screen becomes a mouse/mouse-mat replacement for a desktop experience

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

>>And it is bigger, heavier an more expensive than tablets, which are not full computers.

So what is so great about it?

Because whilst it does neither use case 100% as well as a dedicated form-factor, it does both of them 80% as well and that is a major convenience and cost saving. I have the Surface 2 (not even a Pro) and it's replaced the majority of my laptop needs. I'll take the laptop if I know I'm going to be setting up somewhere for a day's work. But with the Surface I can do lots of the work I would do on a laptop (Excel, Word, Outlook, SSH into servers) without having to lug a larger device around. Consequently I do laptop-activities in places I would never normally have my laptop with me.

Similarly, I no longer have to carry around a separate tablet device - this is quite good enough. So lighter than carrying two devices, more convenient and considerably cheaper. And whilst it may not be quite as light as an iPad, it's still not heavy. And it's only going to get lighter so inevitably hybrid devices will get better and better at eating up the tablet space as well.

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Re: Who ate all the pies?

You know it's funny. I remember most of these same objections when phones started to have cameras in them. Neophobes insisted it was rubbish to have a single device when they could carry a camera AND a phone and dedicated devices were better.

And then technology got to the point that phones could do camera work adequately well for most people. Sure, if you're totally focused on photography, you'll have a dedicated DSLR alongside your phone. But for everyone else, they use their phone.

Now tablets / hybrids are able to compete with laptops and history repeats with the same arguments repurposed. MS are ahead of the curve here, that is all.

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Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

"You're forgetting the 3 Rules of Engineering"

Close;

1. Always use the correct tool for the job.

2. If it moves and it shouldn't, Hammer

3. It it doesn't move and it should, WD40

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Happy

Re: Who ate all the pies?

Trusty Flickhammer!

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Re: "2. If it moves and it shouldn't..."

gaffer tape

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who ate all the pies?

Probably because it is a real computer not a Tomy Tablet?

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Coat

Re: "Nobody invented the screwdriver hammer"

I think you meant:

2. If it moves and it shouldn't, Gaffer Tape

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Anonymous Coward

Off topic - Re: Who ate all the pies?

There's the proper physical tool and there's also the lock-in MS provide and their adherence to the idea of cloud computing. People have varying degrees of acceptance of these but open formats and increased control, or the ability to totally control what your system does, is not the direction that MS is driving the herd toward.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where's the docking station?

@Stephen:

They did announce a docking station for it; engadget had brief coverage at http://www.engadget.com/2014/05/20/surface-pro-3-accessories. It's similar to the one for the Pro/Pro2; however with the placement of the USB and display port on the Pro3, the dock actually adds ports since it doesn't block any. The power port is now the expansion port: 12 of its 40 pins are used for power (and talking to the power brick) and the rest for expansion. However, I'm not sure whether the display port on the Pro3 works along with the one on the dock. Also, they are both mini -- don't know why they don't go with full size display port on the dock, but it's not looking like they will. And again, overpriced at $200.

Not sure what you mean by "a flat/wedge dock" compared to the Pro/Pro2 dock.

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just not interested...

If my own feelings are anything to go by, microsoft is in trouble.

To either love or hate a product is still a reaction.

This generates indifference...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: just not interested...

The most interesting thing was all the audience (press hipsters on a Microsoft jolly) were tweeting from their Macbooks....

Surface was dead yesterday, it's still dead today, It's just another defunct Microsoft product line that's the only news.

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Re: just not interested...

Microsoft are stuffed.

If you do want legacy windows apps, you don't need a touchscreen or windows 8.

If you want fancy touchscreen apps, they are being written on iOS and android.

I can see no way back in for Microsoft. I am amazed their earnings have held up so far.

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Re: just not interested...

I was very interested in this ... until I saw the price tag. I immediately went from "me wanty!" to "no thank you". I am willing to bet I am the majority. Windows 8 works well with tablets and phones (and that is where it needs to be permanently confined) and so that is not the issue with adoption. The problem is with the price. Between $800 and $1950. It is nice, but it ain't that nice.

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Re: just not interested...

That was exactly my thought too. I really like it, but not at those prices. It may well find a market but I suspect it's going to be a fairly niche one. On the upside, those Surface 2 tabs should drop in price pretty soon.

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Re: just not interested...

"If you do want legacy windows apps, you don't need a touchscreen or windows 8."

But if you want a fully featured touch screen OS, Windows 8 is your only choice. Touch and guesture based control is clearly the future. For instance: http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/07/those-giant-fox-news-touchscreens-are-microsoft-perceptive-pixel-displays-running-windows-8/

"If you want fancy touchscreen apps, they are being written on iOS and android."

As well as for Windows 8. Microsoft are now monetising key apps like Office on lower end platforms like IOS and Android too though.

"I can see no way back in for Microsoft. I am amazed their earnings have held up so far."

Microsoft are ahead of the competition here - no one else has the touch and gesture technology across the whole stack - it's just taking a while for the world to catch up - but it will. Microsoft sell far more than just desktop OSs by the way.

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Re: just not interested...

@ Sartori

Since Lenovo and Fujitsu offer similar units at similar/higher prices there are at least three companies that think it is worth the investment. And unlike MS the other two are not trying to push the OS and are both into Android as well. HP is in the market as well the Elitepad 1000 competes against the i3 version of the S/P3

Compared to their offers the prices are decend to good. Even more if you take into account that some of the units offered by the competitors are Baytrail not i3 or better. GSM/LTE is a "to be debated" point for this class of unit. Often they operate in a "WLAN rich" environment. And if that is not enough, a battery powered MIFI router will solve the problem nicely(1)

(1) Users of smartphone could use those as an alternative. But for me the beauty of a tablet pc is to get rid of the smartphone and go back to the "load sunday phone all week" phones

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Anonymous Coward

Re: just not interested...

•Intel Core i3, 64 GB and 4 GB of RAM - $799

•Intel Core i5, 128 GB and 4 GB of RAM - $999

•Intel Core i5, 256 GB and 8 GB of RAM - $1,299

•Intel Core i7, 256 GB and 8 GB of RAM - $1,549

•Intel Core i7, 512 GB7 and 8 GB of RAM - $1,949

+type cover keyboard - $130

The entry level core i3/4Gb/4Gb model is priced on the high side at $929 (including the essential keyboard) but believable given Microsoft appears to want to keep volumes low so as not to offend the OEMs.

However 64Gb of non-expandable storage hardly meets the needs of most 'pro' users so the de-facto entry level is the next model up i5/4Gb/128Gb at $1129.

Now the pricing starts to go weird with an extra $250 if you want 8Gb RAM and 256Gb of storage (the retail price of the parts used adds well under $100 so you are really being screwed for non-user-upgradable). Given that this is the model most suited to 'professional' use, $1429 counts as expensive compared with competitors.

I understand the Core i7 version is dual core not quad but I've no seen any information what the $250 extra for the i7 upgrade for i5 is actually buying in terms of performance.

Given the retail price of mSATA SSD, the extra $400 to fit 512Gb rather than 256Gb is simply a joke in poor taste.

Personally, I think it looks like a well thought out product and the kind of device I expect to be using in years to come. But priced to fail unless there are really a lot of potential 'pro' customers happy with performance typical of a conventional $400 laptop.

Possibly the pricing was intended to apply to faster equivalent 'Broadwell' based products, then when Intel slipped 14nm until late 2014 somebody forgot to update the spreadsheet. I've no theory for the SSD nonsense.

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Re: just not interested...

The i3 unit is interesting if compared to the Lenovo TPT10 and Elitepad 1000 units. Smaller SSD but it is faster, bigger screen and more powerful CPU. And the price is "close" while build quality on the S/P series so far was good (Back/sides attract scratches but that's it)

And the bigger models compare to the Thinkpad Yoga price wise. Better than the Q704 and lighter than the Lenovo.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: just not interested...

Their earnings have held as they have over a dozen different billion dollar units (at least until the last re-org shuffled things around). Plus the second biggest cloud offering.

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I'm interested

Interested enough to wait and see if there's a fire sale at some point.

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Pint

"...nine hours battery life from a single charge..."

Okay. How many hours from a double charge?

PS: The tablet will be terrible in some all-consuming way not yet mentioned. They'll have forgotten the Off switch, or headphone socket, or something equally daft. You watch.

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Re: "...nine hours battery life from a single charge..."

17 but you run the danger of bursting the battery. So only use it when the Fandroids are charging

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It's okay

Everyone who bought a Surface 2 will snap up one of these. So that's what, two or three thousand people?

Buy that Microsoft stock kids.

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Re: It's okay

Isn't that what they said about Surface 2? Didn't exactly happen. ;-)

Anyway, that last picture in the article defines the Surface problem perfectly - it just doesn't work as a combo device without a desk, or desk like surface to rest it on.

It's a heavy, large tablet (compared to the tablet competition) that you can't type on at speed without a solid, largeish surface to do it on (unlike the laptop competition).

And it's priced waaay to close to some very versatile competition in the laptop sphere if you're prepared to give way a relatively insignificant amount (compared to usability issues) on weight and battery life - anything from cheaper 'semi-ultrabooks' to Macbook Airs are just as portable realistically (IE you don't notice them in your backpack/bag), and at least on them you can hold them to your lap with your palms as you type (as I'm doing with my Macbook here).

MS keep getting it just wrong enough to make Surface Pro a non-option for almost everyone who doesn't have a very MS specific usage case involving touch and extreme portability.

And that's why it just keeps on failing, but they are so close - if they would just use a proper physical interlock for the keyboard, then that big usability problem of typing at speed (or at least, without the tedium and annoyance of constant corrections that comes with all touch interfaces) goes away, lower the price slightly and and suddenly it's a pretty compelling device.

Steven R

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Re: It's okay

I've a Surface 2 Pro, and can easily type while sitting without a desk. Probably people complaining should really try before speaking. And you can type much faster than on any tablet without a physical keyboard.

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Re: It's okay

You're right, it's nearly what I want, but not quite. For work I want a light laptop, windows based so I can run my software, but to not degrade performance-wise when I install and uninstall stuff, I want Office bundled, I want my life to be easy. I'll pay for that, but slightly less than they are charging. I suppose I want a windows/android hybrid weighing nothing but tiger powerful for cheap. I'll read the reviews, I'll weigh it up seriously, but right now it's almost what I want, I think, but not quite.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's okay

"Buy that Microsoft stock kids."

Luckily I did. It's the highest it's been in over a decade...:-)

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Re: It's okay

"It's a heavy, large tablet (compared to the tablet competition)"

It isn't heavy for a 12" tablet. And it's much lighter than similar laptops.

"you can't type on at speed without a solid, largeish surface to do it on (unlike the laptop competition)."

No longer true - Microsofts latest touch / slide keyboard beats Swype on Android for speed!

"if they would just use a proper physical interlock for the keyboard"

It doesn't need it. The snap together maglock is great to use and very secure. No idea where you got that comment from.

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Re: It's okay

It's a light, sturdy ultrabook that allows me to choose distance between screen and keyboard and that I can use to quickly take notes, make sketches/drafts, annotate documents etc. All without hiding behind the "Chinese TFT wall" and with a fingerprint free screen easily handed around the conference table for all parties to add data.

Price wise it competes nicely with Thinkpad Yoga or the T/Q series units from Fujitsu

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Screen too small?

Strange, the 11 to 12 " size is almost proven the preferred 'usable' size.

As sure as that Apple phablet, Apple will almost certainly have theirs arriving once 9" sales go downwards.

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Re: Screen too small?

Really? Surface 3 looks like another assault on the ultrabook market and Intel discovered back in 2012 that users found 13" too small. Over in tablet land even Apple eventually went smaller than 10" because buyers want smaller devices - 9" seems the upper limit on comfortable tablet use in many situations.

My gut feeling is there's an 'uncanny valley' between 10" and 14" that puts of buyers/users (unless an Apple is painted on). MS see an unexploited niche but forgot to ask why it's unexploited.

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Re: Screen too small?

I actually rather like my 13" laptop (16:10 ratio, rather than 16:9). I am looking to replace it by a 13-14", no bigger. I am also very happy with my 10" ASUS transformer pad. That seems to be a MUCH better format for a tablet/laptoplet(or notebooklet) than this offering from MS, and gives me 15-16 hours of use (with less grunt, but I get that from my laptop. I do not mind having two or three devices, but maybe I am weird (i.e. not the category the marketeers are interested in)

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JDX
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Re: Intel discovered back in 2012 that users found 13" too small.

That's why Apple (http://www.apple.com/uk/mac/compare/notebooks.html) currently only sell a single laptop with a screen size above 13", dropped the 17" one altogether, and brought in a new 11" line. And gained market share at the same time.

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