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Will Microsoft Corporation’s Surface Pro 3 Be a Hit and Prove Tim Cook Wrong?

Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) recently announced Surface Pro 3, aimed at being the ultimate two-in-one device for productivity and for play, is set to go on sale in just a couple of days. Will Surface Pro 3, which Microsoft pitches as the "tablet that can replace your laptop," be a smash hit when it finally hits the shelves on June 20 or will it be a dud?

 What do the reviews say?

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 in all of its glory. Source: Microsoft

To try to get a sense of how successful this product may be, let's take a look at a review from popular technology site Engadget. According to the review, the Surface Pro 3 is fast, thin, and light for the kind of punch it delivers, has a "gorgeous" display, and the keyboard can be propped up at a more comfortable angle than the original Surface Pro 2's keyboard allowed for.

But on the negative side, the keyboard is inferior to what a clamshell comes with (to add insult to injury, Microsoft charges consumers extra for it), it's uncomfortable to use on the lap (which really gets in the way of it being an effective laptop), and has "middling" battery life.

While Engadget praised it as Microsoft's "biggest and best tablet yet," the reviewer cautioned that it will need a better keyboard in order to actually fulfill its promise of replacing your laptop.

So, a decent tablet and a mediocre laptop? Sounds like a flop

The ASUS T300 Chi is less compromised in many ways than the Surface Pro 3. Source: ASUS

While Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) Tim Cook may have gotten some flak for pooh-poohing the idea of two-in-one notebook/tablet hybrids (going so far as to claim that such devices are akin to merging a toaster and a refrigerator), his wisdom is starting to begin to shine through as we continue to see more two-in-one devices hit the market.

Whenever you have a device that tries to be multiple things, there will necessarily be trade-offs versus using tailor-made devices for particular usage models. For example, it's going to be very tough to beat an integrated keyboard with an external one that detaches in an integrated device.

Further, on the tablet side of things, there will be compromises as well, since a Surface Pro 3 sans keyboard is still not as slick and as usable as a pure tablet as something like an iPad Air or a Galaxy Tab S will be.

There's longer-term hope, though
That said, as processors improve, and as the hardware design teams at the various OEMs continue to experiment and try new things, the convergence will eventually start to make sense and such devices could in fact be the new mainstream.

Intel's Llama Mountain takes another step forward to proper convergence. Source: Intel.

To illustrate this, Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC  ) prototype two-in-one based on its upcoming Broadwell chip called Llama Mountain looks to get very close to the "ideal" two-in-one design as many of the compromises on the tablet side of things go away (fans, potentially battery life, and so on).

Foolish bottom line
It won't be long now before the Surface Pro 3 gets released to the public and the initial "feel" for the demand for this device can be more broadly understood. Whether it'll be a flop or a winner -- well, that's anyone's guess. 

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Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 12:26 PM, jdmeck wrote:

    If you are a Windows user, it's probably good. But if you have higher standards, it would be a step down.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 1:55 PM, tjc206 wrote:

    Windows is for early adopters. Apple is for sheep.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 2:27 PM, ChrisKash wrote:

    What hit? It will be a SUPER DUPER HIT. With its price ranging between $800 & $1950 the entire world will buy it. Why would the world's population most of whom do not make that much money for an entire year buy an iPad at $500 or any other cheaper tablet? At Microsoft their theory is the poor is the rich - they will pay 10 times more for a product than would a rich person. They will most certainly capture the tablet/pc market with this product line. They will surely sell all of the 10 pieces that they manufactured. And they will beat Apple who sells only 9 million tablets a month.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 5:18 PM, wsmckenz wrote:

    Actually, it's not at all like merging a toaster and a refrigerator. It's more akin to merging a 1/2 ton truck and a car. There are lots of possible bad combinations, but it's entirely possible at some point, that you come up with the SUV and define the next huge market segment.

    Not saying anything at all about this particular model, but there's nothing at all wrong with looking for that special design that appeals at both levels.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 6:08 PM, JJ82 wrote:

    Its a NICHE item.

    Its too big and too expensive as a tablet.

    Its too small to be a laptop.

    This thing is for students and artists as a notebook/ultrabook replacement. thus, niche.

    I would never get something with such a small screen for actual, real work nor for gaming, the screen size would cause eye strain after looking at that tiny thing for too long, not to mention even attempting to have two programs side by side.

    Good luck using MS Office on this thing for any length of time.

    This is nothing more than MS once again showing they don't have a grasp on the mobile market and are losing their grasp of the PC market with their ignorance of telling people this thing will replace their laptops.

    Just how terrible are the heads of MS anyway? To lose all knowledge of their own markets...

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 6:21 PM, ConstableOdo wrote:

    I don't get it. Consumers pretty much ignored the previous models and now you're saying all of a sudden they'll want this model. Why? How is this Pro version so much better than the other Pro versions? Just because you like a device or think that there are others who like it, it still doesn't mean that lots of people are going to buy it. It may be a fine device but may not suit the needs of most consumers who have other alternatives. Microsoft seems a little lost with these hardware ventures when their main talent is designing software.

    I'm not going to make any arrogant predictions about how this new Surface Pro is going to be a failure or anything of the sort but it certainly seems like it will do no better than the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2. Microsoft is always trying to push this idea that one device can do everything really well but usually a lot of inevitable compromises end up ruining that idea in practice. They'd have to be really lucky to get just the right mix of features to make this device successful in sales.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2014, at 9:31 PM, npco543 wrote:

    "So, a decent tablet and a mediocre laptop? Sounds like a flop"

    The entire argument for why the Surface makes a supposed mediocre laptop is based on using it on one's lap. Seriously, how often do people really use a laptop on their lap? Outside tech journalists blogging at product events, probably not very often for most people.

    Take away that one singular argument, and the Surface then performs very close to traditional laptops in pure laptop mode, and carries all the benefits of the hybrid/convertible form factor.

    I have the Pro 2, and it's hands-down the best mobile system I've ever owned. Incredibly versatile, surprisingly powerful for it's modest size and when compared to buying a separate comparable laptop AND a separate tablet, actually a decent value.

    As for consumers supposedly ignoring it, they've largely ignored the Windows RT based Surfaces devices, not the Intel based Surface Pros. Pro 2's have been in short supply pretty much since their release, and Microsoft is now on the 3rd generation. They're apparently selling in sufficient numbers to warrant Microsoft's continued development of the device.

    I'm starting to suspect the extremely vocal naysayers in pretty much -every- -single- -article- about the Surface are on Apple's payroll, because the Surface Pro single-handedly threatens Apple's two primary product categories - iPads and MacBooks.

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Ashraf Eassa

Ashraf Eassa is a technology specialist with The Motley Fool. He writes mostly about technology stocks, but is especially interested in anything related to chips -- the semiconductor kind, that is. Follow him on Twitter:

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