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What's Next for Microsoft's Surface Tablet PC?

Microsoft may be scaling back its hardware ambitions but the company claims it's still very much committed to its Surface tablet PC business, which several years ago gave the company a black eye following lackluster demand. These days, Microsoft's Surface business is on the rise.

Sales of Surface devices were $900 million in the last quarter and $3.6 billion for the entire fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30. Don't expect a vast line of Surfaces as Microsoft doesn't want to alienate its OEM partners.  But CEO Satya Nadella appears upbeat about the business.

"Surface is clearly a product where we have gotten the formula right, earned fans, and can apply this formula to other parts of the hardware portfolio," Nadella said during Microsoft's earnings call on Tuesday.

So what's next? The Windows 10 release is now just days away and many are wondering whether an upgraded Surface Pro is in the wings. The company isn't saying but DigiTimes last week reported various components suppliers have pegged a new high-end system powered by Intel's Skylake processor, the successor to its Broadwell chips, that arrived early this year but later than planned. Skylake is expected to offer incremental CPU power improvements and improved battery life for devices. According to Digitimes and other reports, the newest Surface Pro devices will maintain the same form factor.

Some news regarding the Surface 3 hit today.  The company announced the general availability of its newest Surface 3 tablet PCs with 4G LTE via AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile. The new units should appeal to those who desire or need a device that has cellular connectivity when WiFi isn't available.

A cellular option, available for iPads, Chromebooks and Android tablets, was absent on the latest crop of Surface devices. The price of the units is effectively $100 extra. Microsoft released the Surface 3, based on an Intel's latest system-on-a-chip, quad-core Intel Atom x7 processor, back in April.  It's available with either 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD for $499 or 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for $599. With the 4G LTE they will cost $599 and $699 respectively.

The company isn't saying whether it will add 4G LTE for the Surface Pro 3 but given it's been out for more than a year, it's more likely if 4G LTE is slated for a Pro unit, Microsoft will offer it with the next version.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/24/2015 at 2:23 PM


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