Will Microsoft Launch Another Surface Pro Tablet This Year?

Bridging the gap between tablets and thin laptops, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) recently unveiled an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) -powered  aesthetically pleasing stunner -- the Surface Pro 3. In terms of raw computing power, it outperforms the Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPad Air and competes fiercely with conventional laptops.

Needless to say, Microsoft is toiling to capture a substantial share in the tablet market. And in order to execute this strenuous task, Microsoft might be developing another Surface Pro tablet, slated for a 2014 year-end release.

The story so far
It's worth noting that Microsoft has followed a biannual release schedule for its Surface Pro lineup over the last two years, as illustrated in the table below. Companies looking to establish a foothold in an industry tend to follow this strategic launch schedule to stay ahead of peers. Prolonged use of this launch strategy, however, can lead to a loss of consumer confidence.

 

Launch

Processor Used

Surface Pro

February 2013

Ivy Bridge

Surface Pro 2

October 2013

Haswell

Surface Pro 3

June 2014

Haswell

Plus, the Surface Pro 3 is much like its predecessor in terms of power-efficiency. For instance, Surface Pro 2 and Pro 3 use Intel's mobile line of Haswell processors, which is why their battery life is quite comparable, according to AnandTech. More importantly, the battery life offered by the latest Pro 3 tablet is approximately 36% less than Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) full-fledged early 2014 MacBook Air, and about 44% less than an iPad Air. 

With the rapidly growing impetus on power-efficiency and prolonged battery-life, Microsoft might be looking to equip its next iteration of Surface Pro tablets with the power-efficient Broadwell chips to remain competitive.

Boosting battery life
At its September event, Intel demonstrated that its 14nm Broadwell chips consume about 30% less power than their similarly clocked 22nm Haswell counterparts. In addition to shrinking the overall power-draw, these chips also reduce the amount of heat generated. 

Needless to say, x64-based laptop and tablet manufacturers would quickly strive to equip their latest offerings with the highly efficient Broadwell chips to gain a competitive edge. Since Microsoft is marketing its Surface Pro tablets as future laptop replacements, it might want to prolong the battery life by proactively adopting Broadwell chips. To do that, however, Microsoft will have to act quickly.

Intel aims to bring its Broadwell chips to the market by the end of 2014. Speculative reports suggest that Apple won't be able to equip its late-2014 Macbooks and iMacs with the next-gen Broadwell chips. Microsoft will, therefore, be able to narrow the battery-life gap between its Surface Pro line-up and Apple's conventional laptops by launching a Broadwell-equipped Pro 4 tablet sometime later this year.

Foolish final thoughts
The Surface Pro line-up plays a vital role in Microsoft's growth strategy. Currently available low-power ARM-based offerings aren't powerful enough to compete with full-fledged Intel Core processors, and consumers are forced to use a separate laptop -- or a computer -- to execute CPU intensive tasks. The Surface Pro, however, bridges that gap and merges the functionality of both the devices.

Microsoft, therefore, appears to have a solid chance in disrupting the tablet market. If the Surface Pro line-up succeeds, the pick-up of Intel-powered Windows-based tablets will generate sizable software and licensing revenue for the software giant.

But to reach there, however, Microsoft must quickly fix its battery issues to boost its practicality-factor -- something that determines the adoption and retention rate of a mobile technology. For this reason, it is highly probable that Microsoft will launch a power-efficient Surface Pro tablet by the end of this year -- which should, in theory, generate incremental unit sales.

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