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The destiny of Microsoft Surface: What to design from Surface 3 and Surface Pro 4

Just over 10 months ago, Microsoft launched a Surface Pro 3 in New York City. While a initial dual generations of Surface tablets were certainly clunky, a SP3’s purify lines and bright, forceful design have carved out a niche in a 2-in-1 marketplace that no other manufacturer has matched.

Yearly chronicle updates are inevitable, though we consider that Microsoft doesn’t devise to renovate a Surface Pro 3 radically. In fact, here’s what we consider Microsoft competence do: recover an “updated” SP3 with an ultra-low-power processor in a nearby future, afterwards exhibit a significantly redesigned Surface Pro 4 in a tumble to coincide with a launch of Windows 10.

Surface Pro 3 Surface pro 2 Mark Hachman

Microsoft done a thespian jump from a Surface Pro 2 to a Surface Pro 3.

As for ascent specifics, it’s only a matter of joining a dots—and for clues we demeanour to Intel, not Microsoft. Intel touts a fifth-generation, 14-nm Core chips (aka “Broadwell”) as drop-in replacements for a progressing 22-nm “Haswell” chips inside a Surface Pro 3. This suggests Microsoft could refurbish a existent Surface Pro 3 low and with few engineering tweaks.

Intel’s redesigned Skylake chips, due this fall, should need new motherboards. This presents a good event for crafting an whole new era of Surface tablets—whose executive offered point, we believe, could be a apartment of apps built on Windows 10, abyss cameras, and services like Microsoft Hello.

Prioritizing battery life in a ‘refreshed’ Surface lineup

Before we excavate into a adorned new features, let’s demeanour during battery life, one of a many vicious specs for any mobile device. I’ll take a Surface Pro 3 over a MacBook Air any day, though even a many constant fan contingency concur that a MacBook Air still handily outpaces a SP3 in terms of battery life—and even some-more so with Apple’s updated MacBook. 

But with Intel’s Broadwell chip, Microsoft has a possibility to tighten a gap. Intel says that a Core M chip can extend battery life by an additional 1.7 hours compared to a complement powered by a Haswell-based Core i5, a chip that powers a mid-range Surface Pro 3. Intel’s new “Cherry Trail” Atom chips extend battery life even further.

intel core m comparison Intel

Intel’s Core M chips offer poignant battery-life improvements; Intel’s Atom chips, even more.

In our possess processor-intensive battery tests, a SP3 lasted about 4 hours, nonetheless you’ll get some-more life if we extent yourself to light web surfing and bureau work. Still, Apple says that a new MacBook can final 8 or 9 hours, so Microsoft could use some additional oomph here. That competence come in partial from a smaller Broadwell processor module, that requires about half a space as a Haswell chip. Who knows, Microsoft competence be means to precedence additional space for a incomparable ability battery.

I consider it creates ideal clarity for Microsoft to pattern a Surface lineup formed on Intel’s 14-nm chips, with an Atom or Core M charity on a low end, and Core i3, i5, and i7 chips for a fastest, many feature-laden versions.

And if Microsoft is dynamic to embankment ARM and Windows RT for good, this could be an event to rethink a elementary Surface tablet—we’ll call it Surface 3—as an Intel-powered device. we consider that this is going to happen.

Some would remonstrate that a elementary Surface code has been irreparably damaged, though we disagree. One of a offered points of a elementary Surface has always been prolonged battery life, and to grasp that life, Microsoft has relied on low-power ARM chips. But suppose a fanless Surface 3 powered by a Core M or Atom chip. It would be light, and it would final long—key offered points to business travelers. And, of course, it would run customary Windows apps.

If we were Microsoft, I’d deliver a new Surface 3 nearby Microsoft’s Build discussion subsequent month, announce a “refreshed” Surface Pro 3, and grin coyly and serenely when reporters ask about a arriving “Skylake” processor.

Behind a scenes, however, I’d also have my engineers busily redesigning a Surface Pro lineup in expectation of a subsequent Intel processor, Skylake, and a wire-free destiny Intel believes in.

microsoft hello login screen

Microsoft’s Hello should be one of a flagship facilities of Windows 10, during slightest from Microsoft’s perspective. Identifying users around their face or fingerprint has had churned success in a mobile space, however.

Say Hello to a Surface Pro 4

It’s critical to remember that Skylake represents a new Intel architecture, not a routine shrink. Instead of poignant reductions in power, Intel is earnest to renovate a whole PC knowledge by eliminating wires: replacing ethernet with 802.11ac, ditching energy cords for wireless charging, and even including LTE support for joining on a go.

Microsoft already markets a series of wireless charging accessories for a Lumia phones, though I’m not wholly assured that a Surface will ever embody that feature. Consider a geometry: A Surface inscription is generally propped during an angle, while wireless charging works best when a inscription lays prosaic opposite a charger. 

Regardless, we consider a truly torpedo further in Surface Pro 4 will be a abyss camera. It’s a pivotal partial to Microsoft’s prophesy of computers that commend us via sight and sound.

IDF Dell Venue 8 7000 Mark Hachman

Depth camera are already partial of other tablets, such as this Dell Venue 8 7000.

You competence already be informed with abyss cameras if you’ve been following Windows 10. The new OS will include Microsoft Hello, a accessible name for a biometric technologies that have already seemed on Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy phones, and other handsets. Hello uses possibly a fingerprint reader or infrared abyss camera to “scan” your face, identifying yourself to a computer. From there, Windows validates your temperament to Microsoft services, and around a web.

For Surface Pro 4, Microsoft could try a series of opposite abyss camera options. It could opt for a chronicle of a camera found in Kinect for Windows. It could also use Intel’s RealSense 3D camera, a chronicle of that is already embedded inside a Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet. Microsoft execs have also told PCWorld that they can use existent Webcams to grasp a same effect.

Surface Pro 3 stylus pen Mark Hachman

Useful, though clunky. Can’t this stylus be stored inside a chassis?

If we were Microsoft, I’d be tempted to launch a revamped Surface Pro 4 around a launch of Windows 10 this summer. If Microsoft were to launch a rested Surface Pro 3, however, that would jam all those Surface releases right on tip of one another. Instead, I’d boat a rested Surface Pro 3 “designed for Windows 10” before a Windows 10 launch, and wait a few months to announce a Surface Pro 4 that’s “optimized for Windows 10,” maybe to coincide with a a commencement of a mercantile year in October.

And I’d also deliver a pivotal hardware tweak: I’d finally container the Surface stylus inside a chassis, Galaxy Note-style. It’s a elementary preference that’s prolonged overdue.

Evolving Microsoft services to compare a hardware

If consumers accept Hello as a approach to equivocate regulating passwords—and while some positively won’t, we design many will—Microsoft can seize that user seductiveness by adding associated authentication services. We already know that Microsoft’s Cortana partner will listen attentively for oral commands. But Hello’s ability to brand and determine we have incomparable implications: Imagine grouping your Surface Pro 4 to “Buy now” while browsing an Amazon page, for example.

Keep in mind that all we share above is only crystal-ball prognostication. While Windows 10 will be everywhere during Microsoft’s BUILD conference, we don’t know for certain what Microsoft’s hardware teams have planned.

But Microsoft’s proclamation of Hello and a further of a RealSense abyss camera in Dell’s inscription fills me with certainty that eventually a Surface line will embody such a camera. And if we consider a Surface Pro 3 embodies what a good inscription should be, afterwards demeanour out—an even improved one is coming.

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