If the classic rule of thumb is to be believed, Microsoft’s latest Surface hardware will be a winning move. If it takes three iterations to get everything right, then today’s reveal of the Surface Pro 3 will lead to success for Redmond.
To be fair, all the signs are there. The Surface Pro 3 is designed with a specific target market in mind, the applications and functionality that were demonstrated on stage sent clear signals as to their potential use; and the messages in terms of slogans, words, and comparisons were all clear.
If Microsoft truly wanted to take on the consumer tablet space, then the rumored Surface Mini would have shown up today, and be pushed like crazy. Not a mention of the potential 7-inch device was made. Instead the latest Surface machine will ship with a 12-inch ClearType Full HD display.
As Forbes’ Parmy Olson points out, the Surface Pro 3 is aiming at the ultra-portable laptop market. In the current environment, if you’re talking ultraportable, you are talking MacBook Air. The comparisons started relatively quickly, with a little aside from Microsoft’s Panos Panay noting the number of MacBook Airs that were in the room. You then had the conspicuous use of the MacBook Air on a set of scales balancing off against the Surface Pro 3 – and in a touch of showmanship, first without the additional keyboard and then with the keyboard attached, because everyone in the audience was asking the same question.
Also note the two key and repeated phrases: “the tablet that can replace your laptop” and “the full power of a PC”. In terms of positioning and branding the Surface Pro 3 is a tablet, but at the same time Microsoft stressed that, more than any other tablet on the market, this was also a laptop replacement that offered far less compromise than any other option.
The demonstrations of the Surface Pro 3 software certainly showed off the gee-whizz features, including a heavy reliance on the stylus pen, Microsoft’s OneNote application (in my opinion finally getting the credit it deserves), and the media output (both audible and visible) of the hardware.
What was in the foreground of all of these demonstrations was collaboration. A lot of collaboration. Be it sharing some quick notes through OneNote or a movie script going through redrafting, this was not a presentation of a standalone computer, this was a piece of kit that was designed to be used in a group, for productive purposes. The Surface Pro 3 pushed the idea of a full desktop PC in tablet form, a metaphor that was reinforced with the inclusion of Photoshop as a demo app. If there’s an app that says professional usage, it’s Photoshop.
These point will not have been lost on countless IT departments and equipment purchasers across the world. This is a modern tablet, but it’s also a Windows 8 machine, it fits in with all your existing server and management software, and it’s going to be something that will be attractive to your staff.
Microsoft has already sold the Surface Pro 3 to a number of companies, including the BMW Group, The Coca-Cola Company, and LMVH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), noting in the press release that the Surface Pro 3 will be “a core device” for these companies either as a laptop replacement or in “innovative ways to leverage its unique capabilities as a powerful tablet.”
Microsoft has chosen their battleground well. Rather than push against the rising tide of cheap consumer tablets such as the iPad Mini, Nexus 7, or Kindle Fires, Redmond has decided to pass on that battle completely and are looking to those who still want to buy a laptop, who still need that flexibility in their lives, and who need the management and cloud services that Microsoft offers.
That’s not as sexy, nor as big, as the consumer tablet space, but it’s an area where Microsoft has expertise and connections. It’s also an area that can offer them a clear win in the short and medium term. CEO Satya Nadella now has the flagship hardware to bind all those promises together and deliver an end-to-end solution. I’m sure the Surface Pro 3 will find its way into the hands of many consumers, but Microsoft knows the real prize is enterprise.