3 Problems Facing the Surface 3 Pro

Every time it seems like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) finally got the point that the PC business isn't the future of the company, they go and make a product like the Surface 3 Pro. The main page of the Surface page says this product is "the tablet that can replace your laptop." In particular Microsoft calls out the MacBook Air as a comparable device. Unfortunately, Microsoft is missing the point. In fact, the Surface 3 Pro has three specific problems right out of the gate.

You can't be serious
A quick trip to the Microsoft Store shows that the company thinks the Surface 3 Pro can go head-to-head with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) MacBook Air. Let's get straight to the point, this is a terrible comparison and on the surface (pun intended) Microsoft's device is at a serious disadvantage.

This is the first problem the Surface 3 Pro is facing, unrealistic expectations of the tablet-hybrid's value. The Surface 3 Pro compared to the MacBook Air is almost laughable if you look at the three devices (the 2 Air models vs the Surface) side-by-side.

Specs

MacBook Air 11 "

Surface 3 Pro 

MacBook Air 13"

Hard drive

128 GB

64 GB

128 GB

Weight

2.38 lbs.

2.4 lbs. (with cover)

2.96 lbs.

USB 3.0 ports

2

1

2

Price

$899

$929 (with cover)

$999

Microsoft can't have its cake and eat it too. The Surface 3 Pro isn't comparable to the MacBook Air without the Type Cover. If we include the type cover, the Surface 3 Pro is actually $29 more expensive than the MacBook Air 11". This is the more accurate comparison as the 11" Air has an 11.6" screen compared to the 12" screen of the Surface 3 Pro.

Given that both products have similar battery life, the big question is, do consumers want a heavier than average tablet that has relatively worse specs than the MacBook Air for more money? I really don't think that is a question Microsoft wants an honest answer to.

You can't be serious: Part II
If we expand the search for comparable products to the Surface 3 Pro, the problem appears to get even worse. This is the second problem facing the Surface 3 Pro, there is serious competition already offering similar capabilities at lower prices.

Looking at other products from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and accessories from Logitech that can be paired with the iPad lineup, makes the Surface 3 Pro look like an even worse value proposition.

Hewlett-Packard's Split lineup offers similar capabilities to the Surface 3 Pro, yet at lower prices. In fact, the cheapest Split version costs just $599.99, which is a 35% discount to the new Surface. If customers are looking for another alternative, a $100 Logitech iPad Air keyboard plus a 32 GB iPad Air for $599 gives the user a lighter tablet with similar specs to the Surface 3 Pro for about 25% less.

The bottom line is, there are many options that offer a similar experience to the Surface 3 Pro at lower prices.

The worst part of it all
The worst issue facing the Surface 3 Pro is, Microsoft is going after the wrong market with the device. According to IDC Research, worldwide PC sales are expected to decline by 6% in 2014 and continue to decline through 2018. In addition, if the Pro is aimed at business sales, Microsoft should be aware that IDC thinks business tablet sales will still only be 18% of the total market by 2018.

It's different when Hewlett-Packard goes after PC sales with the Split lineup and multiple hybrid devices. The company still gets about 30% of its revenue from the PC business. With another 20% of HP's revenue coming from printing, the company has a vested interest in keeping the PC business alive.

Between Samsung taking market share in the tablet business, and Apple trying to take the remaining market, Microsoft is already facing an uphill climb. However, the Surface 3 Pro is priced too high to compete with traditional tablets, and yet Microsoft isn't in a position to take market share with a premium priced tablet.

Just when it seems like Microsoft is finally getting the point that the PC business can't be the company's future, it releases a product like the Surface 3 Pro. It's a good thing that Microsoft is doing well with other products like the Xbox One and Office 365, because this one looks like a dud.

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 7:11 PM, MAUCOL wrote:

    A) the price is wrong! the Pro 3 costs $799

    puts this entire review into perspective! if you cant be bothered getting the price right what else did you not bother to get right!

    review's like this put journalism to shame!

  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 7:47 PM, butthead2u wrote:

    Your right, it doesn't compare, it's better! Can be a tablet w/o the key board getting in the way. Apples going down, down, down, just like the last time Steve left! Apple was a fad, investors who don't get that are going to be sorry!

  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 8:46 PM, jdmeck wrote:

    It's not an iPad.

    It's not an iPhone

    It's not an iMac.

  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 8:47 PM, jdmeck wrote:

    And the keyboard thing, is an Apple patent. That's why it looks like the iPad cover.

  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 10:23 PM, tjc206 wrote:

    This article can't be serious.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 8:24 AM, jikad wrote:

    So, to sum up your article your only objection is 'high' price. It is a premium quality device for premium price. It is not made by Apple, you have to live with it even if it's hard to swallow for you.

    The thing, which a lot of 'journalists' like you seem to conveniently forget, is that Microsoft several times said they don't want to compete with hardware. The reason for Surface line of products is to show OEM partners that it can be done and how Microsoft thinks it should be done. Surface exists to inspire partners. So, it cannot have low price tag, because partners would be angry and Microsoft does not want them to get angry, but to cooperate.

    Microsoft is doing this intentionally. When Windows 8 came to market, OEM hardware partners did not do their homework and there were not enough devices available on market. Microsoft wants to avoid this situation in future. So, they try to inspire market. And I think they are doing it the right way. I will definitely buy Surface Pro 3, because it is a perfect device for mobile worker that I have been waiting for. Surface and Surface 2 were close, but not there for me. Surface Pro 3 is the right device for me - tablet and ultrabook in one.

    So, first get the facts and write your articles AFTER!

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 9:55 AM, snommis69 wrote:

    @MAUCOL while I agree this article has genuine problems, the price he listed is correct, as the author specified the price was with a Type Cover ($129).

    That said... YAWN. Another MS bashing article. jikad has it right.

    All these articles also ignore a basic truth - for business, the Surface is the clear winner for one big reason - seamless Active Directory integration.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 5:29 PM, kongqueror wrote:

    Your comparison table is really flawed - no mention of screen resolution. And when you add that to the comparison, it really invalidates your entire argument on price vs. features. With your samples, an 11" Mac Book Air user is stuck with a low resolution of 1366 x766, the 13" Mac Book Air user is stuck with a 1440 x 900 screen. To reach the same resolution as the SP3 (2160x1440), you actually need to get a Mac Book Pro Retina which is 3.46 lbs and starts at $1299. Also, the SP3 can really target 3 areas - the tablet, laptop, and desktop space. It can replace all of them.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 2:20 PM, tycoonbob wrote:

    Your first point has already been invalidated. The Surface Pro 3 is not $929, but $799. Huge difference, comparatively. Also, I personally don't care that it only has 64GB of storage versus 128GB. It's a portable device and not a primary device (same as the MacBook Air in my opinion), so use one of the many other storage solutions IF you actually need more than 64GB on a Surface (external, cloud, etc).

    Second point, you say that you can get a cheaper solution with an iPad Air and a keyboard? So now you compare Windows 8.1 Pro to iOS? Is that a serious comparison? If iOS fits you're needs to begin with, you probably aren't looking at a Surface Pro but instead a Surface RT, or Android. Surface RT 2 sells for $449...which wold be much more comparable to an iPad Air.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 4:56 PM, Ogrehulk wrote:

    Okay..I have currently 3 x iPad 2 and a Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. I have to say that for serious work, I use the Surface Pro. Any real productivity apps that you might want on an iPad seem to cost $9.99 and up? Mostly I use it to play games and listen to music like a big iPod.

    The Surface Pro only has 64 GB and 1 USB port, BUT I use the 64GB for the system and an external USB 3.0 SSD to hold my Adobe and other large software. Do not notice much slow down and I get everything done. If I need a mouse, I use a blue tooth. It's not rocket science. It's nice to be able to travel with a device that can work and sync with my laptop AND be 1/3 the size so I can travel on planes, take it to conferences, etc...

    I have been a dual Apple/PC user since Win95. I would not give up either. For either have different purposes at different times.

    Can't wait to get my S3; we'll see if I like the 12" or not.

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