Posted by Matt Egan 23 May 2014
Surface Pro 3: fabulous feat of engineering, mediocre product
Surface Pro 3 is a fabulous feat of engineering, but it will make a mediocre product. No one will buy it.
It's a crazy world in which Microsoft is the innovator that makes amazing hardware products, and Apple is the manufacturer of mass-market consumer goods... but reader, that is the world in which we now live. This week Microsoft announced Surface Pro 3 in an event that was eerily reminiscent of Apple in the bad old pre-iPod days. Lame fanboy cheering? Check. Pitching to tech journalists rather than the public you expect to buy the thing? You betcha. A room full of people using rival products? 100%.
And like Apple pre-Steve Jobs 2.0, Microsoft was announcing great tech. But great tech that will struggle to find an audience outside of a small niche.
I have yet to lay hands on the Surface Pro 3, so I am speaking from my experience of using other Surface Pro devices and the words of my colleagues in our Surface Pro 3 review. And my early conclusion is that Surface Pro 3 is a stunning achievement. (See also: Surface Pro 3 vs iPad Air tablet comparison review.)
To make a 12in slate that thin and light. To get all-day battery life from a full-spec power PC. To create a true laptop/tablet hybrid. To create a device that you can hold in one hand on which you can truly edit photos and videos.
These are all laudable aims and impressive achievements of engineering. But they don't a successful product make.
I remember when AMD and Intel used to take out advertisements to boast about the fact that their processors were now officially the fastest. It mattered to a certain type of geek, but to most tech users what has always mattered is not having the fastest devic, but having a device that is fast enough.
Now Microsoft is showcasing a device that can be both laptop and tablet. That is an impressive boast and I expect it will be beautifully realised, but I'm not sure it fulfils a user need.
I can't be only one who travels with a laptop and a tablet (and a smartphone). I'm a mugger's dream. But I don't recall ever wishing that I could roll up those devices into one gadget. I like having the right tool for the right job - especially if that job is playing Football Manager on train.
As much as I respect Surface Pro 3, I am happy to make myself a hostage to fortune. I, Matt Egan, on 23 May 2014 predict that Surface Pro 3 will not be a major success in terms of its own sales or as an inspiration for similar products from other Wintel manufacturers. Although the combination of laptop and tablet is impressive, the additional cost and the fact that it is not quite as good as either a laptop or a tablet (at being a laptop or a tablet) will mean that people don't buy it. I just don't think there is demand for a hybrid laptop and tablet, any more than there is for a combination laptop and smartphone, or laptop and iPod (or laptop and toaster).
No-one *needs* a tablet. But they are nice things to own. And they will remain so, in addition to the laptop that fulfils functional and professional needs.
I may be wrong. I'd like to be wrong. I'd *like* a Surface Pro 3: but I won't be buying one. Also see: 20 best budget laptops 2014