Hardware

Microsoft Surface Pro: The smart person's guide

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a notebook/tablet hybrid built to perform for a mobile workforce. This guide describes its specs, who it affects, and why it matters.

The modern enterprise workforce is a mobile workforce. Devices designed for that workforce have to be mobile as well, but still provide a level of performance that can match a conventional workstation. This balance between mobility and power is what distinguishes one notebook computer from another.

Microsoft's entry into the lighter, thinner, yet still powerful notebook market is the Surface Pro. Note that Microsoft has dropped the number designation for this year's Surface Pro line, so the notebooks described in this guide are the successor to the Surface Pro 4.

This TechRepublic smart person's guide describes the specifications of the Surface Pro, who its designed for, and why it matters.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is the Microsoft Surface Pro? The Microsoft Surface Pro is a highly mobile and convertible notebook/tablet hybrid computer ranging in price from $799 to $2,699 depending on the configuration.
  • Why does the Microsoft Surface Pro matter? The Surface Pro is a prime example of a powerful hybrid notebook computer designed from the ground up to be used by a modern mobile workforce.
  • Who does the Microsoft Surface Pro affect? Any enterprise dependent on a mobile workforce needs to supply that workforce with the best and most powerful tools.
  • When will the Microsoft Surface Pro be available? The Surface Pro is available for preorder now.
  • How do I get the Microsoft Surface Pro? The Surface Pro is available from several vendors, but the Microsoft Store offers the most configuration options.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Book: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

What is the Microsoft Surface Pro?

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a notebook/tablet hybrid running Windows 10. With configurations ranging from 128GB of solid state storage running an Intel Core m3 CPU ($799) all the way up to 1TB of storage running a 7th generation Intel Core i7 ($2,699), chances are good that there is a configuration that will work for you and your mobile workforce.

In addition to the preset Surface Pro configurations for storage capacity, RAM, and CPU, the Microsoft Store website allows you to customize your Surface Pro with choices for covers, input devices, docks, and installed software. To keep the machines light in both weight and power usage, only sold-state storage options are available.

For the sake of comparison, this year's Surface Pro is lighter than the Surface Pro 4, with an upgrade in battery technology that enables the new devices to have a battery life of 13.5 hours vs. the previous battery life of 9 hours.

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Image: Mark Kaelin

A Microsoft Surface Pro can be used as a tablet, which takes advantage of its touch screen interface, or as a notebook using the keyboard attachment, which doubles as a cover for the display, or in studio mode which enables the use of the Surface Pen and Dial. The Surface Pen gives users another interface option, allowing freehand note-taking, sketching, drawing, and painting. The Surface Dial gives users, particularly artists, more control over the input parameters in terms of brush size, style, color, etc., all without leaving the canvas to use the keyboard.

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Image: Microsoft News

Why does the Microsoft Surface Pro matter?

According to Microsoft's often repeated business strategy mantra, enterprises operate in a cloud first, mobile first world. To successfully compete in that business environment, enterprises must equip their employees with mobile-ready, flexible, and powerful tools. With its ability to morph into either a notebook, tablet, or studio device, the Surface Pro provides the flexibility and the performance required, without sacrificing mobility.

The Surface Pro also establishes a baseline Windows 10 and Office 365 device in the Microsoft ecosystem. Other third-party manufacturers can use the Surface Pro as a basis for their cloud first, mobile first devices.

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Image: Microsoft News

Who does the Microsoft Surface Pro affect?

Competitive advantage dictates that every business enterprise with a modern workforce made up of knowledge workers on the go will need to supply those workers with powerful, yet mobile, computing tools. The Microsoft Surface Pro, with its hybrid notebook/tablet design, is a prime example of just such a tool.

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Competitors to the Microsoft Surface Pro

Competition in the hybrid notebook/tablet market is complicated by the fact that so many vendors are selling devices running Microsoft Windows 10 and Office 365. While those vendors (HP, ASUS, Lenovo, Dell etc.) sell competing and comparable devices, they are really Microsoft partners.

However, notebook computers sold by Apple, such as the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro compete directly for market share in the hybrid space. The Chromebook line of computers from Google are also considered competition in the hybrid space. Competition from both the Apple and the Google products revolves around their respective ecosystems—Windows vs. Mac OS vs. Android. The ecosystem is where the real competition is taking place.

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When is the Microsoft Surface Pro available?

The Microsoft Surface Pro is available for preorder now, with units set to ship by the end of June 2017.

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How do I get the Microsoft Surface Pro?

All configurations of the Microsoft Surface Pro are available for preorder from the online Microsoft Store. In addition, you can find Surface Pro devices available for preorder from retail outlets like Amazon and Best Buy.

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About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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