Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph goes hands-on with Surface Pro 3

Ben’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I still don’t get the product though.



  • Sandra

    I’m totally ambivalent to this because of the OS, but the kickstand would get a lot of use from me on an iPad. Not worth the extra weight, though.

    • JohnDoey

      The thing is, the device really is almost useless without a keyboard (unlike iPad) so you don’t just need the kickstand, you also need a desk to put the device on and to support the type cover keyboard.

      Notice that in all the advertising and even this video above, you see Surface units sitting on desks and tables. You don’t see anybody using it while standing or sitting in a chair with no desk.

      • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

        No, it isn’t “almost useless” with the cover/keyboard.

  • http://www.tenfingercrunch.com Michael Bartholomew

    It’s a laptop that requires a tabletop and has a subpar keyboard and touchpad. And judging by their comparison with a Macbook Air, they want this to be a laptop replacement. But to me, it just feels like the device is still an awkward compromise between a laptop and tablet.

  • DrewBear2

    I don’t know if this is possible anytime soon, but imagine a MB Air (full keyboard/trackpad) with a detachable 12″ Retina touchscreen. When attached it would run OS X; detached it would switch to iOS. Aside from the dual OS challenge, both halves would need to house CPU & battery. Otherwise you get the compromised product that is the Surface.

    In the here-and-now real world I have both a MB Air 13″ and an iPad mini Retina. The price of both combined is less than what my 2004 MB Pro cost. Also, the two device combo allows for 15-18 hrs. of various computing tasks.

    • Alex Hon

      Similar to how apps can run on both iPhones and iPads, maybe you just need to ask developers to optionally build different storyboards for each “scenario” in XCode – use UI#1 with keyboard/mouse, UI#2 for touch-only. Let XCode figure out how to compile your app. That way you can have everything consolidated in one place.

      • JohnDoey

        Why do you want everything consolidated in one place?

        Xcode already enables a developer to write 90% of their app in C/C++ and then use that code in both their Mac app and their iOS app. That is why it took almost no time at all for iMovie and GarageBand to jump from Mac to iOS. But what you find out is that the things you can do with the user interfaces on each system are so different that they change the app so much that some users like to run iMovie on iOS, and some users like to run iMovie on Mac. Very few people run it in both places.

        Me, I work in music, and I run GarageBand on iPad but I run Logic on the Mac. I have no interest in running GarageBand on the Mac. The features that I use in GarageBand for iOS don’t exist on the Mac: the touchscreen instruments, the ridiculously small portability, the zero-setup audio/MIDI interfaces, the almost complete lack of any computer idiom while I work. Music-making on iOS is very creative, like playing the piano, and music-making on the Mac is very production-oriented, like working a mixing board.

        So this Windows 8 idea of users moving from phone to tablet to notebook to TV and running the exact same app with the same features but just having a different UI layer does not work. An iPad and a Mac are very different devices. When a developer ports an app from Mac to iPad, they don’t just need to create a new UI layer or toggle a switch in Xcode to get multiple binaries — the developer actually has to totally redesign the app for the iPad. They aren’t just replacing mouse with finger-tip, they now have mobility and accelerometer and 3G/4G and the user is using the device while standing instead of at a desk, and many other variables.

        • Alex Hon

          Yea, you’re completely right. I only looked at the hardware and local storage for the device, totally disregarded the differences between form factors and what that really means to the users.

          Suppose the iPhone/iPad in your hand is equally as powerful as the Mac mini. When you are indoors, won’t it make sense to let that device AirPlay to an extended/2nd screen, connect to BT keyboard and trackpad, and use it like a Mac, for the apps that have that support built-in?

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          There are two fundamental flaws in your argument.

          1) Windows laptops and tablets are much more similar than Macs and iPads. 2) Developers HAVE to rewrite for iOS because Apple made them. It’s altruistic, not the “right” way. Since they are both the same language [obj-c], Apple could easily add the ability to publish as OSX. In fact, some developers use the exact same code in both and adjust just their view logic.

          Windows 8 development allows you the same affordance as iOS and OSX in that you can check device capabilities then adjust accordingly. It simply means desktop developers now need to take into account mobile concerns [connection, storage, etc] but that’s the same as building iPad vs iPhone.

          Simply put: occasionally connected clients is not a new concept and developers, regardless of platform, are capable of handling them just fine.

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          I’m going to ROFL at you if Apple announces, per rumors, a way to build OS X and iOS apps together/easier. Of course the rumors could be false but it would be some pretty solid egg for you. ;)

    • JohnDoey

      I think you answered your own question. The device you actually want is “MacBook Air plus iPad mini.” That is a better product than a device that attempts to share the screen between the two operating systems and app platforms. It’s not that Apple is waiting for some mysterious future technology to enable them to smush a Mac and iPad into one case and make them share the same screen. It is better for each device to have its own screen. Not just so you can use one and then the other to get 18 hours of battery, but also because you can use them side by side. When you are editing books in iBooks Author, there is a button “Preview on iPad” so you can see your book in context on the iPad as it would be read by the consumer. Same with Web development apps, same with Xcode, same with video editing. And if you are learning Photoshop on your Mac, it really helps to have a learning-Photoshop book open on your iPad at the same time. Or if you are writing a book on your Mac, it really helps to be able to have research books and Web pages and PDF’s open on your iPad at the same time.

      So having your Mac and iPad share the same screen is just not desirable in real world work.

      Not to mention, if your iPad is lost, you can Remote Wipe it from your fully-functional Mac, or vice versa. Or if your iPad dies, you can still get work done on your Mac until the iPad is repaired, or vice versa.

      • DrewBear2

        What I was trying to say in a roundabout way is that Surface is not the answer. My imaginary “MacPad” might be closer to the answer if it was technically possible and could be made affordable (2x battery, CPU components, etc. is expensive). But even then, two separate devices would still probably be the better solution. The all-in-one dream device is not for most people.

        BTW, I agree with all your points.

  • Larry Davis

    It bothers me that the trackpad isn’t centered. Why do PC makers do that?

    I could see some appeal to businesses, however it’s not running W7, which is what most enterprises are running. There is no benefit for them to switch their main PCs to W8. It’s a significantly different UX so they’d have to retrain users. I think many businesses continue to just use a combo fo W7 laptops and iPads if they need tablets.

    The device seems decent, I’m just not sure it addresses a large market. I don’t think people are asking for this kind of device.

    • Andy Norman

      It is centred, they’ve just chosen to centre it on the middle of the qwerty section of the keyboard, which make sense for touch typists.

      Apple on the other hand centre it within the case, leaving it just off to the right of the centre of the qwerty section of the keyboard. Which is probably about the right spot for right handers, less ideal for left handed touch typists.

      • Larry Davis

        True, just drives me crazy since it looks off. Of course, making a laptop with a removable keyboard is also kind of crazy in and of itself.

      • JohnDoey

        No, it doesn’t make sense to center the trackpad on the QWERTY, because you don’t use both thumbs on the trackpad. You use only one thumb.

        If you place your hands on the home row of a Mac, you will see that your right thumb hangs over the trackpad where it belongs. That leaves the left thumb free to work the Command key and spacebar.

        • Andy Norman

          Your left handed brethren might not agree with you, on a MacBook their preferred thumb is further from the track pad with Apple’s approach. Besides, we are arguing over a half inch difference in placement on an item three or four inches across !

          I should point out, I’m sat in front on a MacBook myself and the trackpad was one of the key things that made me switch from Windows laptops to the Mac. I don’t think either Microsoft or Apple have got it wrong here, there is no wrong/right, just a different choice of compromises on both sides of the choice.

  • yummyyummyfly

    He doesn’t seem to be convinced himself. He’s trying really hard to sound interested in the product, and it shows.

  • Herding_sheep

    If this ran OSX and iOS, admit it wouldn’t be half bad. Windows 8 kills any excitement for it. Its a laptop that would be awkward to use on anything but a table, or an incredibly heavy tablet that would be nearly impossible to hold in your hands for an extended period. But you know damn well if it ran Apples OS it would instantly be a little more appealing ;)

    • JohnDoey

      But if this device ran iOS and OS X, it would still not be as appealing as a MacBook Air with an iPad mini next to it.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    I can’t wait to see someone trying to use this on their lap in public. It’s going to look more awkward than Google Glass.

    • DrewBear2

      Mary Jo Foley & Paul Thurrott on Windows Weekly say “lapability” claim is not accurate…unless you have very long femurs.

    • dreyfus2

      Heard Pfizer offers something that will help with stabilization… Won’t help Mary Jo though…

    • JohnDoey

      The irony is that Ballmer mocked people who use a keyboard with an iPad, but if you are one of the few who need that, you have about 10,000 choices of iPad cases that turn it into a real notebook shape that can sit in your lap or be used anywhere.

      In Surface, you have a device where most people will need the keyboard (because the apps were all made assuming that you would always have a keyboard) and yet the Surface keyboard flops around and prevents you from using the device in many environments, like on a plane or train or couch. Maybe there will be 3rd party keyboard cases for Surface, but it sells in very low volumes and is much heavier than an iPad, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • Sunbobular

    For artists this would probably be the best offering out there. Full version of photoshop with pressure sensitive pen and high resolution screen. Doesn’t have the limitations of crappy Android apps (I’m talking to you Galaxy Note Pro) or styluses that have to mimic the touch of a finger (I’m talking to you iPad).

    • Moeskido

      I will be very interested to hear about how many artists actually turn to this device as a way to use Photoshop.

      • Sunbobular

        I have a Galaxy Note 3 that I use for sketching that is terrific to use with the pressure sensitive S pen, but the Sketchbook Pro app is limited. Photoshop would be an absolute god send. So…. when I see something like this that isn’t even close in price to the $2300 Wacom Windows 8 tablet, I start drooling. Photoshop is Photoshop. I don’t care what OS it’s on.

        • Moeskido

          I imagine other users might care what size screen the app’s toolbars, panels, and menus are on.

          • Sunbobular

            They say in the article that Adobe has adjusted Photoshop so that the icons are larger for the tablet. I’d like to see how well they’ve done to make the entire interface usable on this higher res screen as well.

        • JohnDoey

          Photoshop is Photoshop. I don’t care what OS it’s on.

          No, that is not true because Windows is not Mac OS X, and Photoshop can’t talk to the screen or stylus except through the operating system. Photoshop can’t manage memory or storage except through the operating system. Photoshop can’t run at all if your system is down with a virus.

          How many hours do you plan to spend calibrating the color on your Windows system? None? I thought so. That is why you will make substandard work with lousy color, just like all the other Photoshop for Windows users I have encountered.

          And color management is just one example of what comes working out of the box on a Mac and contributes mightily to making professional-grade work in Photoshop. There are hundreds more.

          The primary cost of Photoshop work is the labor — the Mac saves labor and saves money and pays for itself over and over when doing Photoshop work. The secondary cost of Photoshop is the Adobe license, which costs more than double the average selling price of a Windows PC that can barely run it. There is no financial or technical reason to run Photoshop on Windows. The substandard work you create will cost more in time and money to fix than what you think you are saving by not buying a Mac. You will get turned down for jobs because you are on Windows, because your portfolio will show the scars of Windows like bad color.

          I’ve hired many graphic artists, always based on the quality of work in their portfolio, not knowing whether they used Mac or Windows, yet 100% of the people I hired turned out to be Mac users. Think about that.

          And not to mention, it costs much, much more to keep a Windows system up and running for 40 work hours per week, keep it running the day before deadlines, keep it reliably storing virus-free files — so again, why are you using Windows for Photoshop?

          So your idea that Photoshop is Photoshop no matter what the OS is totally wrong. A graphics workstation is a complex interplay of hundreds of technologies, only 1 of which is Photoshop. All of those technologies have to run at full speed interactively, and have to stay up for months-long projects and be reliable in the final days before a deadline.

          And although Windows is a Mac clone, Microsoft only cloned the parts that were of interest to business people running MS Office. Photoshop for Windows is essentially “Photoshop for Business” — it’s used for very limited tasks like putting stock photos into a corporate report. It’s essentially part of MS Office. And Adobe sells very few Photoshop for Windows licenses. Photoshop Express is their popular Windows product.

          • Sunbobular

            Hmmm… don’t know what to say about that. I personally use Mac at home, but also use Expression through Windows on Parallels on the Mac as well. Don’t really have any color or virus problems. My friend (and all his friends) who work on Windows machines on color critical work in the concept art for film business would also beg to differ with you.

            Also keep in mind I was thinking of this as a super duper sketch tool. I’m not going to have a bajillion layers on the sketch. Just maybe twenty or thirty tops.

            Would I love to have an Apple tablet with a pressure sensitive pen? Absolutely!! I just don’t think Apple is ever going to offer one, so I’m forced to “think different”.

    • JohnDoey

      Artists don’t use Windows. Even before the Intel Mac, that was true, but since Intel Mac, over 90% of high-end PC’s sold were Macs. For Photoshop, you need a fast system because it is 100% interactive. Artists all have Macs.

      Further, there are about 100 artist-friendly Mac features that don’t exist on Windows. Things like color management and real typography and system reliability so your computer doesn’t fail you before a deadline or eat a unique artwork you have been making for the last 3 months.

      And for sketching on the go, we all have iPads, with our choices of 1000 stylii that have whatever features we prefer, and literally 100,000 different art apps to choose from.

      The stylus on Surface is there for Bill Gates, not for Pablo Picasso. It’s there to handwrite notes if you have all the time in the world and never learned to type. It’s there to write something pithy on a PDF so your minions can act on it.

      • Sunbobular

        Wow. LOTS of generalizations there. My experience with the pressure sensitive S pen of the Galaxy Note 3 is that I would be in heaven with a copy of Photoshop optimized for tablet use. Is there anything wrong with getting excited about that possibility?

        All of those styluses available for the iPad are hacks meant to mimic the surface of a finger.

        I could be wrong, but a native pressure sensitive stylus with a thin nib would trump a LOT of shortcomings of the native OS.

        I’ll have to try it out at the store. Hopefully the stylus won’t be a piece of garbage like the one for the Surface Pro that already exists. But to assume that it is without actually trying it out would be jumping the gun.

        Does it use Wacom technology? The S Pen on the Galaxy Note 3 does and it works terrifically. I’ll have to look back at the articles and see if it does.

        Like I said, Apple will probably never ever sell a stylus, let alone a pressure sensitive one. For that reason alone, I’m forced to “think different”.

        I don’t know too many traditional artists that finger paint. I saw one the other day on Facebook that specialized in water scenes and she was great. But that would put her in the category that you’re putting Windows users in. Since she’s in the super minority she must be shunned.

        Imagine using a Wacom tablet on your home computer. But instead of a small nib, the pen would have a large felt nub so you couldn’t actually tell where the line was going to go exactly. Or more laughable still, a disc or ring that you’d have to estimate where the line was exactly going to show up? How happy would you be as an artist? I’m not sure why everyone is all right with that. I’m not.

        I sketch traditionally, with both a super soft lead (8B woodless graphite stick) and watercolors. I don’t want an app to paint for me. I don’t care if an app will make something look sketchy with whatever gimmick it has, or if an app will turn a photo into watercolor (although the Waterlogue App is VERY cool).

        I want the tablet to turn my subtle hand and wrist movements into an accurate reflection of ME and my drawing abilities. That’s what I mean when I’m talking about a first rate sketching tool.

  • Mike

    Once the Type Cover is added, the Surface 3 is almost as thick as the MBA:

    https://i.cloudup.com/q3FbCoM6c8.png

    It’ll be interesting to see if the rumoured MBA update: thinner chassis, 12″ HiDPI display, fan-less. I still think MS, as it has always has done in the past, is slightly rushing this product to the market. As efficient as the Haswell chip is, the upcoming (supposedly Fall/Winter 2014) Broadwell is even more so. Hopefully Apple would wait till then.

    • JohnDoey

      The Surface Pro 3 also lacks a functional operating system.

  • Jim McPherson

    50% more kickstand positions!

  • Moeskido

    Has Microsoft mentioned all the apps that are available for this thing yet?

  • John V.

    This video does hell of a lot of better job selling the Surface than their TV ad.

    Once they fix Windows not to be this schizo mess (v. 9?) I might actually get one. I love the pen+one note integration.

  • unixandthings

    “everything you want out of a great PC”

    Does it run Mac OS X? If not, then not “everything.”

    • Moeskido

      That’s a very notional “you” he’s using.