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

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 goes on sale soon -- will it be a hit?

Jun 17, 2014 at 12:03PM

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?

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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

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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.

Llama Mountain

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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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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