Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy - InformationWeek

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6/23/2014
02:45 PM
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is finally available. But just because you can replace your laptop with the Surface Pro 3 doesn't mean everyone will want to.

some of them let you use your finger to draw on the screen -- but writing on the Pro 3 is in another league, almost like applying a pen on a pad of paper. That might not excite people who spend most of their time looking at spreadsheets or typing code on a keyboard, but for others, it's a blockbuster feature.

When the Pro 3 was introduced, for example, Microsoft previewed a pen-optimized version of Final Draft, one of the leading screenwriting programs. Many Hollywood jobs, from mailroom internships to studio leadership positions, involve heavy script-reading duties. Today, many script people share notes by tediously applying digital annotations on a PC, or by printing out a forest's worth of physical copies, marking them up by hand, and typing up summaries. With the Pro 3 and Final Draft, they'll be able to write notes directly on the screen and share with collaborators without printing a page.

Thanks to the Surface Pro Pen, the Pro 3 boasts a unique tablet experience.
Thanks to the Surface Pro Pen, the Pro 3 boasts a unique tablet experience.

Doctors can use the pen to take notes while doing rounds, and to draw on diagrams to help patients understand concepts. Moreover, they can flip into laptop mode to input new information, saving them the time of running back to a PC station. Given the potential for better patient interaction, faster turnaround times, and greater overall productivity, it's no surprise that medical institutions such as Seattle Children's Hospital and Pittsburgh's UPMC are among the early Pro 3 customers.

Sales reps can use the Pro in almost the same ways doctors can -- as not only a laptop, but also a highly portable note-taking and presentation tool. If you're the on-the-go type, meanwhile, the device makes it much easier to capture spontaneous inspiration. By pressing a button on the pen, you can wake the Pro 3 directly into OneNote, enabling you to jot down an idea quickly before you get distracted. Handwritten notes can also be converted to text, which, like the deep OneNote integration, eases the transition between pen and laptop modes. If you're constantly running between meetings or dashing from one cab to the next, it's a unique and useful combination of assets, even if it doesn't come with a clamshell form factor.

So where does that leave you as a would-be buyer? If you're looking for a device that will build on your current workflows, the Pro 3 will be hit and miss. But if you're looking for a device that can enable new ways of working, it warrants a serious look.

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2014 | 4:57:44 PM
Re: shopper report - Microsoft Surface Pro 3
@LEdwardsAK,

Thanks for all the comments! Cool that you are enjoying your Surface. Here are a few thoughts.

"The issue regarding it an iPad replacement, why not?"

You bring up several good points, but I think there are several reasons. For some people, the Surface Pro 3 could replace an iPad; as you demonstrate, there are ways to mitigate the app issue. I think some people would hesitate to consider it an iPad replacement for the reason you cited—they're attuned at least somewhat to the Apple environment, and even if they're interested in a Surface Pro 3, the synergies between, say, the user's iPhone and iPad might get in the way. But I also think the ergonomic issue I alluded to in the article is valid. Each device encourages you to use it and hold it in different ways, and depending what you like to do, that might be a big difference, or no difference at all. The Surface is great as a note-taking tablet, but for web-browsing and apps, I find iPads easier and more comfortable to hold. For apps that involve interacting with your environment via the camera, I also find the iPad more agreeable. Likewise, UI can't be discounted. In the Surface's tablet mode, you're using Live Tiles and Modern Apps. Some of this looks and feels like iOS, and some of it doesn't. You can learn either UI, and they're both basically fine—but Apple has always had the edge when it comes to luring people in via the UI, and though iOS has its messy points, I think that's still the case, by and large. It's fine to be utilitarian and to not care personally about the aesthetics of the UI—but just as some people scoff at Apple's showy animations or claim illness after looking at iOS's parallax effect, there are millions of others who feel empowered by Apple products precisely because the UI works for them. For the preceding reasons, I was careful in the article not to say that one tablet was better than the other, per se—only that they're different. I can imagine some people preferring one to the other, some people being indifferent, and some people (with big device budgets) using both. Like I said, I can see individuals replacing an iPad with a Pro 3, but I can't see that in general.

"I have paired it with the Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Bluetooth mouse because I generally favor using a mouse over trackpads of any size for my day-to-day work."

Has the new Surface Pro 3 trackpad swayed you at all? The ones on earlier Type Covers were worthless, but the new one is pretty nice. A mouse still helps, though.
 
"Also the clicker on the pen can be reprogrammed to do other actions such as opening another program instead when clicked."

Good point! Thanks for pointing that out.

" In the end its all about choices..."

Agreed. I don't think one can definitively say that the MacBook Air or the Surface Pro 3 is better than the other. They're both nice devices, and they'll both have a place. It's good to be able to choose more than one kind of great device at any given price. It lets us personalize our workflows and encourages the device-makers to stay on their toes. After all, even an Apple die hard has to hope the Surface Pro 3 does well enough to encourage Apple to hurry up with those Retina MacBook Airs, right?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2014 | 4:16:03 PM
Re: Reveal Any Compensation From Micro$oft...
That's fine. I won't try to debate you, especially since your post's paucity of specific complaints leaves little to debate. But I think it's a little funny you find this article so outlandishly pro-Surface, given that it includes several paragraphs that explain why someone might prefer other devices, including the MacBook Air.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2014 | 4:11:15 PM
Enterprise or bust
Some of the features cited here make a good case for on-the-go workers -- quick access to Office, namely OneNote, and the pen functionality. But I don't think consumers will ever buy into this and maybe that won't matter to Microsoft as long as enterprises start using it. It's priced at the same level as the MacBook Air (Surface Pro 3 is more expensive when you go head-to-head on specs) so it can't really win over consumers on price. It's a unique device but still a tough sell. The iPad comparisons never made sense to me.

But here's one short-term strategy that could work.

Microsoft offers $650 store credit for MacBook Air for Surface Pro 3 trade-in
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2014 | 3:12:38 PM
shopper report
Did you go play with the Surface pro 3 in a store this past weekend? Let's hear from you.
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