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Surface 3

So on May 2, Microsoft will be holding an education focused event. The rumor is the event will cover Windows 10 Cloud and a new computing device from Redmond.

Now the device will NOT be an update to the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

It will also not be the long rumored Phone.

Many are taking cues from an early DigiTimes rumor saying Redmond will be premiering a Surface clamshell device. That rumor said this device would sell for $1,000 and be positioned as an entry model. Given past devices there is debate on whether this PC will be a straight up laptop or something like the Lenovo Yoga (folds into a tablet).

This is just my take on what may go down beginning with the software.

Windows Cloud

Windows 10 Cloud is a new version of Windows in the vein of Home or Business. Microsoft has not been public about Cloud; it hasn’t stated its existence and what we know comes from leaked information. What we do know is Cloud is a fairly locked down version of Windows 10 that only runs software coming from the Windows Store. Also for a price, a user can upgrade the system to full Windows.

On paper Windows Cloud resembles Windows RT; the early ARM based version of Windows 8 that ran only WINRT based apps. Now that where that comparison ends because Cloud can run apps in the modern Windows store that includes x86 applications and apps built on UWP (the updated version of WINRT). Also those apps run in windowed mode which RT did in a limited fashion. So beyond that we don’t know much about Cloud. It’s a locked down variant of Windows.

The thing with Cloud is its widely considered to be a competitor to Google’s ChromeOS. ChromeOS is an OS based of the Chrome browser; the apps you run are web apps and some Android apps (depending on the device). Unlike MacOS and Windows Chrome is a lightweight system; like a mobile OS. Google does most of the maintenance and updating without user input. ChromeOS and Chromebooks basically offer what most of us do with computers now; the browser. While ChromeOS has had some traction in the consumer market it has had serious success in education.

So Cloud exists because of ChromeOS but what does that mean for May?

Windows Cloud is just one part of Microsoft’s possible education play. I say that in part because most of the leaked info about Cloud doesn’t limit it to devices aimed at schools. There is also a version of Windows aimed at the Education market which no one has said is being merged with Cloud. So in my opinion Cloud if its shown off will be a new initiative around offering lower cost entry devices. The education angle will come in the form of new services and updated applications. Things like OneNote, Word, Sway, and Intune for Education.

 

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Surface Cloudbook

So what about hardware?

Now my personal opinion is there is a 50/’50 chance this event will see no branded Microsoft hardware but PCs from partners. I say this if the event’s focus is on Widows Cloud. But if there is a new Surface device this my idea on what it will be.

Given the focus of the event, past Surface devices, and Windows Cloud I think the device will likely be similar to the Surface 3. It won’t be based off the current Surface Pro as that is too large for kids in Elementary and Middle school. I am going under the assumption that this PC will be positioned as a device that can grow with the child; also work for younger students. So I do think the screen size will be around the 10 inch mark; 11 would be pushing.

Second if we go with the rumor about the clamshell; then this device will look like the Lenovo Yoga Book. This device will be a deviation from what we think of as a Surface device, but not by much. I expect it will use the same aspect ratio use touch, and function like a tablet. The difference will be if the keyboard stays attached. There is a possibility that this may look like a smaller Surface Book. If the keyboard stays attached we could see a new design around a Yoga styled device. I expect a pen will be included. Also if this is an education facing device we may get the first non Magnesium built Surface. Like the Surface 3 this thing will run on a mobile Intel chip (possibly Qualcomm).

 

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Lenovo’s Yogabook a possible guide to Surface Cloudbook

 

My best guess is the May 2 event will focus mostly on Windows Cloud and it’s benefits to education. I’m also guessing Cloud will be a free offering and Cloud devices will be aggressively priced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So this week the Surface 3 finally went on sale in stores and online and I once again wade through the reviews (both written and video).

Since the release of the very first Surface I have noticed a pattern in a lot of the reviews that almost become cliché. Actually it reoccurs so much you could make a Bingo game out of them. I am not saying they aren’t making valid points but at some point even they have to know they shooting the proverbial dead horse and move on. So this is my list of things said about the Microsoft Surface aka Surface Review Bingo (Surface 3 edition).

Lapability

Now this is the part of the review that either comes at the end or sometimes is the whole review, especially when the Surface was new. Now this problem I blame on the Surface team itself; for giving a name to how well a tablet could sit on one’s lap. It seems like every review has to remark on it. How well it does or doesn’t and how some wish it were a laptop.

Is it a PC or is it a Tablet

This is the part of the review where you can tell how the whole of the review will go down. This part is also tied to the discussion on apps. Now the issue with the Surface for most reviewers is it doesn’t really conform to how a tablet is defined. Most tablets are defined by the iPad; a light, keyboard-less device that runs a mobile (phone) OS and apps which you touch the screen to use. A tablet (most times) doesn’t have or require a keyboard. The Surface is a tablet, but it also functions like a PC. The Surface also has an optional keyboard which makes it more of a PC; many reviewers will tell you it is required and thus the debate continues.

Apps

Now if a review mentions how to use the Surface or “real” Windows you have reached the apps portion of the review. Let’s get this out of the way, there are not a lot of apps (software written for tablets/phones) in the Windows store, and what is there is a mixed bag. When apps are talked about it usually ends up as, “don’t buy this to use as a tablet, you’ll be disappointed”. They’ll also mention again how you will need the keyboard because you’ll want to use the desktop which isn’t touch friendly and thus you need a keyboard.

“Real” Windows

Now up until the Surface 3 the Surface line was divided between the ARM based Surface line the Pro line that ran on Intel. The ARM version ran a ARM based version of Windows called Windows RT which only ran tablet apps and not the one’s built for PCs. The Pro line though runs on Intel which REAL Windows; desktop programs like Photoshop, iTunes, and Chrome. Real Windows has none of the limitations Windows RT did except not suitable for touch, not scaling well to certain screens, a tad on the insecure side. But hell its REAL Windows.

Why doesn’t Microsoft just include the Keyboard?

So the Microsoft Surface comes with a set of accessories. One of these has been the TypeCover which as it’s name implies is cover that also doubles as a keyboard. The keyboard section in the review usually goes like this, ” We love the keyboard, but wish it was included with the Surface. We also wish that there were a version that was a real keyboard attachment to turn this into a real PC.” Sometimes I wish they would say it’s optional (because it is).

Now these are just some of the re-occuring themes, motifs, and memes that will litter the next Surface review you read. I am not pointing them out to say they are wrong; only that they exist. I may even use one or two myself.

Last week Microsoft watcher site WinBeta put up a post talking about a successor to the Surface 2 called the Surface 3. Unlike the previous non-Pro Surfaces the 3 would run on an Intel chip and thus run Windows 8.1 and not Windows RT (the ARM version of Windows). It would be a smaller device that was essentially a smaller model of the Surface Pro 3 (Pen enabled and using a 3:2 screen ratio). The WinBeta article described the new tablet coming out before Windows 10 for a lower price point.

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Now I was getting ready to write up something on the Surface 3 when Microsoft up and decided to unveil the Surface 3 with a quiet un-announcement. Instead of holding an event, gathering the press and presenting the Surface 3, Microsoft launched quietly with a few YouTube videos and interviews. Today has been filled with the obvious headlines about the death of Windows RT and a few articles on the $900 million write down on the original Surface tablet. There were even the occasional pieces written by Apple watchers.

The Surface 3 is exactly what I thought Microsoft would do and honestly what I wanted to see. While I’d love to see Microsoft keep an ARM option, the move to an Intel chip is logical. The market has responded to Intel Windows tablets and thus Microsoft has to answer. Moving to Intel means running the x86 version of Windows which removes the issue of app availability. The big question will be around Microsoft’s choosing the new Intel Atom x7 chip over the more powerful Core M. Core M is closer to the full power Core i-Series of chips and will be on the upcoming Apple MacBook; basically it gives you major computing power but allows for a fan-less design. Personally I think the new Atom was chosen because it’s a purer mobile chip, price, and Core M’s marginal benefits (battery and heat).

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So the Surface 3 is the Surface Pro 3 shrunk and without a fan. Like the third iteration of the Pro model the Surface 3 uses a 3:2 aspect ratio packed in a 10.8 inch frame. The screen size is about .4 inches bigger than the Surface 2 but also smaller (taller) than the 2 because of the aspect ratio. The 3:2 ratio makes the new Surface easier to use as a tablet in portrait while still keeping it laptop friendly. The Surface 3 has a resolution of 1920×1280 on a Full HD Plus ClearType display (means it’ll be a good screen).

The new Surface will sport a new charging port and accessories. The Surface 3 will be charged by Micro USB, commonly used by smartphones and other devices. The port can also be used for data. The move ends the use of the proprietary plugs use in the previous Surfaces. Some have been upset that the device isn’t using USB-C but in my opinion this makes more sense.

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With a change in screen size the Surface 3 will have a new TypeCover to match. The new cover will be the same as the one used on the Surface Pro 3; it has the extra strip of magnets that lifts the keyboard and makes the Cover stiffer for typing. You can still use older TypeCovers but they won’t close and fold up to fit. One new thing with the Cover is it ditches buttons used to access the Charms bar which will be going away in Windows 10. The Surface 3 will be the first non-Pro model to use a pen, however the pen won’t be included. The Pen is the same N-Trig one used on the Pro but now it comes in multiple colors (Silver, Black, Blue, and Red). The Pen will be sold for $50 and the keyboard $130 (price w/tax). There will also be a $200 Dock available.

The Surface 3 will come in four models: 2GB Ram/ 64GB storage (WiFi) (3g/LTE) and  4GB Ram/ 128GB storage (WiFi) (3g/LTE). The LTE version will be launching a month after the initial May release with Verizon and T-Mobile as the first mobile partners. The WiFi models will go on sale May 5 and will go for $499 or $500 with tax for the base model. As of now you can go to local Microsoft Stores and check the device out.

images: Microsoft