Can a Surface Pro 3 (or any Windows 8 tablet) replace your laptop?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | May 26, 2014 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Microsoft introduced its third generation Surface Pro as "the tablet that can replace your laptop." Really?

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Yes

or

No

Eileen Brown

Eileen Brown

Best Argument: Yes

72%
28%

Audience Favored: Yes (72%)

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Welcome to the Great Debate

    This week Ed Bott and Eileen Brown face off over what Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 can really do. Are the debaters ready?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    I'm set

    The new Surface Pro 3 is an outstanding machine.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Let the games begin

    We're not ready for a revolution, yet.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is third time the charm?

    Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 3 after the first two iterations of Surface received a lukewarm reception from the market. What has Microsoft done with the third generation that is going to change minds and win over new converts?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    More than incremental improvements

    The old joke is that Microsoft gets things right with version 3, and that stereotype actually applies here.

    This device is extremely thin and light, unlike the previous Surface Pro versions, which felt clunky. It has a high-res screen that is actually larger and easier to read than its predecessor, which makes its lightweight package an even more impressive feat. The trackpad on the new Type Cover works well. And it really does offer enough battery life to last through an entire working day.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    The kickstand

    One of the main enhancements that make the Surface Pro 3 more flexible is its kickstand. You can now position its 12-inch screen to suit any angle of working you want; Surface Pro 2 only had two kickstand options. Microsoft is touting Surface Pro 3 as “the tablet that can replace your laptop” while positioning the device against users who own both a MacBook Air and iPad.  Users that are tired of lugging around both a laptop and a tablet could consider the Surface Pro 3 as their new primary device

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's making the headlines?

    What are the headline features of the Surface Pro 3 and how will they help it compete against other tablets?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's a great notebook

    The new kickstand, which allows you to prop the screen up at almost any angle, represents very solid engineering. But I would call out two features that really make this device stand out.

    The first is the change in aspect ratio from 16:9 to 3:2. That change allows for more working area when you're using it as a PC, in landscape mode. But more importantly, it makes the device easy to hold in portrait mode for reading and reviewing documents.

    The second is the tight integration with Microsoft OneNote. Click the top of the pen (which is included with the Surface Pro 3) and a new OneNote page opens immediately. For anyone who spends a lot of time in meetings, this is a very big deal.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    The big screen

    The Surface Pro 3 has a larger screen than the Surface Pro 2 which has a 10.6 inch screen. The Surface Pro 3 is almost 40 percent larger with a 12-inch screen. Both of these devices have really crisp display and resolution. Its screen – at 2160 by 1440 pixels – has a 3:2 aspect ratio.

    The Surface Pro 3 is also lighter than the Surface Pro 2 by a quarter of a pound. At 1.76 pounds it weighs less than the 2.38 pound MacBook Air.  However, you do need to factor in the weight of the keyboard for a true weight comparison against the MacBook Air. Surface Pro 3 has a low latency stylus. This pen is made by N-trig instead of Wacom which supplied pens for previous devices. Finding a place to clip the pen to the tablet every time you set up your station can be annoying however. Its friction hinge lets you place the kickstand in any angle you want it to up to 150 degrees.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Same direction?

    With Surface Pro 3, Microsoft is largely continuing the same product strategy that the Surface has used from beginning. It's simply a more powerful iteration. Do you think Microsoft was wise to do that? Is it on the right track or do think the company should have changed its tablet strategy?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Right track

    It's worth noting that the Surface line and the Windows software that powers it are only a little more than 18 months old. The software has made tremendous strides in that time, and now so has the hardware. We are finally close to seeing the original Surface vision realized. (The same was true of the original iPhone or iPad, which look downright primitive today but evolved quickly while staying true to their original vision.)

    It’s also worth reminding everyone reading this that the topic of this debate is not just about the Surface Pro 3 but about other, similar Windows tablet/PC hybrids. If the Surface Pro 3 misses the mark on some checklist item, surely there's another premium device from a Windows OEM that will be a better fit.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Stay the course

    Microsoft has always released enterprise products for the long term. It announced its server strategy for the enterprise when perception about the company placed it firmly as a supplier of consumer and desktop products. Continually reinforcing its strategy of being ready for the enterprise has changed perception as its server products have been adopted in mission critical scenarios.

    Microsoft will continue to tweak its current strategy but will have no dramatic deviations from direction. This approach will continue to demonstrate to its Enterprise customers that they can trust Microsoft’s commitment to its strategy and that they will not be let down suddenly if they choose Microsoft for the enterprise.

    Changing direction now and positioning its tablets as a purely consumer play would make enterprise customers perceive that its devices were not yet ready for the enterprise in the marketplace and damage perception about the brand.

    Microsoft is in the tablet race for the long run. The challenge is getting the workforce to change its own ways of working and collaborating before tablets will start to become the de facto device at work.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Apple envy

    Is Surface Pro 3 more of an iPad or MacBook Air competitor? Why would Microsoft go in this direction?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's not an either/or

    I suppose if one has to make this comparison, then Windows 8.1 hybrid devices like the Surface Pro 3 are most comparable to a MacBook Air. They're personal computers, capable of running full desktop productivity software, which is something you can't do in the tightly sandboxed iPad environment. And that's not to mention the USB 3 ports and the availability of MicroSD cards for data storage.

    But when you're done tweaking the numbers in that very important spreadsheet you can remove the Type Cover, push the kickstand back, and watch a movie or play a game. Just like an iPad.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    It's something new

    Microsoft wants to take market share and reduce iPad’s dominance. Although Google devices are gaining in adoption, Microsoft wants to gain a strong foothold in the tablet market with its own offering. It wants to bring a similar look and feel to its tablet range as it has on its PC’s. The familiarity in its look and feel will be comforting to users who do not want to use an array of operating systems yet want an ultra-portable device that they instantly recognise and understand how to use.

    The Surface Pro 3 is lighter than your laptop but heavier than your iPad and MacBook Air. Microsoft hopes that users will start to use the Surface Pro 3 as the one device that does everything a user needs.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Better at business?

    How about the enterprise? Can Surface Pro 3 do a better job of winning over the enterprise than its predecessors?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Welcome to the age of BYOD

    At this price point, it's unlikely that any businesses are going to be buying this device by the truckload. But as a full-fledged Windows PC that can integrate seamlessly into a managed enterprise network, the Surface Pro 3 has to be a serious contender for executives and IT pros who want a single light and powerful device.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    For road warriors

    I think that the Surface Pro 3 has no better chance than any of the other Surface Pro models released so far. Sure it’s a faster tablet than its predecessor – but so is every new device that is launched to market. Surface Pro 2 offered a mid-level Core i5 processor. Surface Pro 3 offers a range of cores from the i3, 4Gb of Ram and 64Gb of solid state storage right through to the i7, 8Gb of Ram and 512Gb of solid state storage.

    Well managed enterprises, wishing to standardize on one chipset will find the multitude of hardware options challenging to update to the latest versions as Intel release chipset revisions.

    Users that have a fixed desk tend to be task-based workers who do not travel from location to location. These desk bound users will not need the form factor of a touch based ultra-portable tablet device.

    Workers that have jobs that require them to spend most of their day in front of a spreadsheet or document will want to add an external screen to their device to see their work without squinting. External, ergonomically designed keyboards enable users to type all day reducing the risk of repetitive strain injury and backache.
     
    Organizations wishing to standardize on one desktop to manage might wish to dispense with the UI and use the traditional desktop view instead for ease of management. Other organisations may wish to make their line of business apps available to download from the Windows Store, keep the Metro Interface for all workers and introduce live tiles for all apps.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The winners

    Which types of business users are most likely to benefit from Surface Pro 3?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Mobile, mobile, mobile

    The whole point of this category of devices is to be extremely mobile. Anyone who spends time in airplane seats and on trains, not to mention the inevitable waiting in airports and train stations, should be taking a long look at this instead of a conventional laptop.

    This is also a superb choice for any executive who spends their day going from meeting to meeting. The Surface Pro 3 is light enough to carry around without feeling like a burden. And the fact that it resumes in less than a second means you can be productive instantly.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    I agree

    Businesses that could benefit from Surface Pro 3s will likely have a mobile workforce.  Road warriors that travel to visit customers would benefit from using tablet devices to design, draw or graphically explain concepts to customers. The Surface Pro 3 with its pen, touch and keyboard could give more flexibility to designers and illustrators who want to use graphics to explain their design concepts to business customers.

    Mobile workers that travel to different offices and locations might also benefit from issuing Surface Pro 3’s to their workforce. Its ultra-portability and low weight makes it less cumbersome to carry around

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Reality check

    With more companies embracing BYOD, can Microsoft legitimately hope to see a large number of individual professionals buying Surface Pro 3 and bringing it into their businesses?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    We'll see

    One of the biggest trends of the last few years is toward allowing executives to choose which mobile device they want to use. That could be a MacBook, but increasingly there are other options, powered by Windows. Surface Pro 3 doesn't have to sell 100 million or even 10 million units to be a success. It just has to validate the category of high-end hybrid tablet/PC devices.

    For what it's worth, I suspect that word of mouth and one-to-one demos will be the most important part of Microsoft's marketing for this device. TV ads only go so far, but seeing (and touching) this very thin, light, and powerful device will be invaluable.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Works at home too

    Businesses are becoming more and more amenable to the BYOD way of working. Enterprises with secure, well-managed infrastructures can easily manage an array of devices on their networks. Virtualization – either at the operating system or application -- means that workers can access the line of business applications from any device that connects to the network.

    All workers are consumers in their free time and wish to use the device that they are most comfortable with. At home, users are more likely to sit with a touch device, tablet, phone or phablet in front of the TV than a laptop computer. Their consumer behaviour at home will influence their choice of device at work. Consumers will demand similar devices and specs to the devices they already use at home. This will drive hardware adoption in forward looking organisations.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Pros

    What does Surface Pro 3 do better than any other tablets?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Just look at that pen

    A few tablets come with styluses. These make decent mouse replacements and they allow artists to do some interesting things.

    But the pen on the Surface Pro 3 is a powerful all-around productivity tool. Yes, artists can create some impressive works with it, but so can business people. The integration with OneNote, including the ability to clip parts of a screen, is first-rate. So is the ability to read and annotate documents while holding the device in a way that feels natural.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Well positioned

    Surface Pro 3 has an array of positions for easy screen reading. There is no kickstand on an iPad meaning an external stand needs to be purchased. Surface Pro 3 has a stand enabling the device to be positioned in any position you want.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How to beat the competition

    What does Surface Pro 3 do better than the leading laptops?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Travel, of course

    The sheer portability of the Surface Pro 3 is amazing. At 800 grams (1.76 pounds), it weighs as much as the original iPad and about half of the 13-inch MacBook Air. When you click in the Type Cover and place it on a desk or tabletop, it's as functional as any laptop.

    In August, when the Surface Pro 3 is ready for sale worldwide, you'll be able to buy a docking station that lets you connect to external monitors, peripherals, and power with a single motion. Not many laptops have that ability to transform so quickly into a very capable desktop.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Wake up to its assets

    It is lighter and more powerful than most laptops. Changing from touch to type is easy and its wake up time is really fast compared to laptops.

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Start the revolution?

    Is the market ready to embrace a converged laptop/tablet device? What evidence is there to support that?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Why not?

    An IDC study published last fall found that only 8.7 percent of all tablets were being purchased to replace laptops. And if you want confirmation of that data, just walk through an airport filled with business travelers and count how many have a tablet (usually an iPad) and either a Windows notebook or a MacBook.

    Having to carry two devices means carrying two power adapters and having to keep both devices in sync. It means if you take out the wrong device, there's always something you can't do. But up until now there hasn't really been a device that can perform well in both roles.

    I'm pretty sure there's a market of business travelers that will welcome the simplicity that comes with having a single device—not to mention the lighter bag.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes

    Why?

    The market is not yet ready for this convergence. Many companies use virtual machines, remote desktop services, application virtualisation, thin clients and embedded operating systems across a range of hardware. Organisations with aging hardware often find that repurposing their legacy devices with Windows thin PC enables them to use their old hardware as thin clients and reduce their new hardware device costs.

    Converged laptop / tablet devices promise that they will become the ultimate and only device that users will need -- but the reality is a little different. Some types of business require desktop devices with massive graphics power to drive CAD / CAM software; other businesses require devices for intensive sessions of data input. There is a huge array of laptops to choose from but a limited choice in tablets that could replace all business needs.

    Companies aiming to incorporate tablets will not only have to buy just the Surface Pro 3’s. Most users will additionally require a Surface Pro cover, pen, pen loop and docking station. These accessories add to the all-up cost of the device – especially when scaled up to thousands of units across an enterprise. All of the added extras mean that a top end configuration of the Surface Pro 3 could be significantly more costly than its laptop equivalent.

    Surface Pro 3 devices are not internally configurable or expandable or upgradeable – unlike the laptop. This could prove challenging for companies recovering from the economic difficulties of the last five years who do not want to purchase a complete new piece of hardware but who might want to extend the life of an aging laptop by adding RAM at considerably lower cost.

    One day we will all be using tablet devices both at home, and at work. But like the introduction of laptops into the office environment, this will be slow, staged and will depend on user adoption and market requirements in the new world of work 

    Eileen Brown

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks for joining us

    I'd like to thank Ed and Eileen for their great work in this week's debate. Thursday morning, our debaters will post their closing arguments and later Thursday, I will reveal my choice for the winner. Please check the great comments and don't forget to vote!

    Posted by Jason Hiner

Talkback

156 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • For Work Purposes

    I think a Pro 3, or even a Pro 2 could replace my work laptop. I do not think it can replace my personal laptop. The big difference is that I play games on my personal laptop (an Alienware).
    Zheldon
    Reply 121 Votes I'm for Yes
    • Already Has

      I had an original Surface Pro. It easily replaced my lap top. In fact the pen worked so well with OneNote it also replaced my 3 pound paper portfolio. The screen however was a little bit to small. I went next for a hybrid, 15" Sony Flip. It is a little bit to large. A 12" or 13" should be about right. I would never ever get a regular laptop again.
      MichaelInMA
      Reply 97 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Absolutely Not!

      The Surface line (all versions), represents an abysmal value for the consumer.

      You're paying twice the going rate of a decent laptop, in order to be hamstrung by:

      * An awkward device
      * An kludgy and unnecessary kickstand
      * Limited RAM
      * Cooling fans on a wannabe tablet
      * The worst OS in history
      * Limited Storage (why is the 64-gig still around, when Windows takes up half of that?)
      * Paying extra for a hot pink keyboard that won't even last a couple months
      * Microsoft's hideous record with Surface firmware updates
      * Microsoft's hideous record making hardware (RROD anyone?... how about an XBox One?)
      * Hell... Microsoft's hideous record making software!

      MS needs to leave the hardware business to the professionals. Their niche is making crappy software.
      orandy
      Reply 133 Votes I'm Undecided
      • LOL

        Did Steve Ballmer molest you as a child?
        RalphKramden
        Reply 147 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Actually, I think he is Steve Basllmer's love child

          or something like that..... :)
          William.Farrel
          Reply 81 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Ballmer's Play Boy?

          "Did Steve Ballmer molest you as a child?"

          RalphKramden;

          Your reply is simply PRICELESS.
          Alfred Soyemi
          Reply 37 Votes I'm Undecided
      • If you don't care abuut weight and battery life ...

        ... then YES you can make price the issue. But, if you want to own both a PC and a tablet, you are paying the same total price for two devices instead of just one.
        M Wagner
        Reply 111 Votes I'm Undecided
        • @M Wagner

          Therein lies the rub, the Surface is a half-a$$ tablet, and an overpriced, wannabe laptop!

          In essence, the Surface represents the very worst of both worlds.

          For $2000 I could get a gaming laptop and a very nice tablet, or an ultrabook and a high end tablet, or a decent bargain laptop running Windows 7 (a much better OS), a cheap tablet, and pocket the other 1200 bucks... end of story.
          orandy
          Reply 104 Votes I'm Undecided
          • Yet, with the Surface 3, you get a replacement for all the devices

            you mentioned, and you only have to carry the one device (Surface 3) around, while it would be very awkward and cumbersome and a pain in the neck, to carry all of those other devices you mentioned.

            Plus, you'd be getting the best OS every written for any device, that being Windows 8/8.1, no matter how biased you are against Windows 8 or anything from Microsoft.
            adornoe@...
            Reply 101 Votes I'm Undecided
          • Let's Not Get In A Conversation About Just How Bad Windows 8.x Is...

            Suffice it to say that the software counterfeit capital of the world, China, won't even touch it... that should tell you something right there!

            As far as the Surface replacing your laptop and tablet, dream on!

            Win 8 is just Windows NT with a gerryrigged, clumsy touch interface, that doesn't support ANY software written for touch, unless you want to try using touch with Windows programs written 10 to 15 years ago.

            Only small parts of Office support touch to this very day!

            So using Surface as a tablet is like putting skateboard wheels on a surfboard... good luck with that.

            As far as Surface replacing a laptop, I can't stop laughing long enough to respond to that.

            :0 )
            orandy
            Reply 111 Votes I'm Undecided