So far, it seems the old adage "Third time's the charm" applies nicely to Microsoft's Surface tablets. The Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 were solid devices, but the Surface Pro 3 is the one that has finally started to gain some real traction. Microsoft revealed this week that the Surface Pro 3 has cleared all of the hurdles and is now available for US government agencies and departments as well.
That is a huge deal. The Surface Pro 3 is already doing well, but the addition of government agencies and employees could result in a significant spike in demand. During the recent Microsoft quarterly earnings call, CEO Satya Nadella stated, "We are excited by Surface Pro 3 performance, as unit sales are pacing at twice the rate of what we saw with Pro 2."
The federal government of the United States comprises millions of employees, and many state, county, and local governments take their cues from the federal government when it comes to which technologies are approved for use by government employees. Receiving the green light from the General Services Administration (GSA) and having the Surface Pro 3 available for purchase by government employees opens a massive pool of potential new customers.
In a blog post announcing the availability of the Surface Pro 3 for government customers, Microsoft's Cyril Belikoff explained, "Government technology leaders share many of the same priorities as our commercial customers — they are interested in how Surface can offer the power of a laptop and remove the need to carry an iPad, as well as help workers to be more productive on-the-go, thereby making the most of taxpayer dollars."
It seems mind-blowing to me, but somehow there's still confusion about what a Surface Pro 3 is. Readers commenting on recent posts I've written about the Surface Pro 3 continue to compare it in both price and functionality to tablet devices like the Apple iPad or the Google Nexus 9. While it does have the same touchscreen tablet form factor, the Surface Pro 3 is an entirely different animal, because it's a complete Windows PC as well.
I still see people ask "But can it connect to my printer?" and "Can it run Microsoft Office?" when talking about the Surface Pro 3. The answer to both of these questions is "Yes." The Surface Pro 3 is just like a Windows desktop or laptop PC — it can connect to all the same peripherals (external monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc.) and run all the same software — but it's more versatile, flexible, and comes in a different form factor. With the Surface Pro 3, you also get a touchscreen display, a tablet form factor, a digitizer pen, and a kickstand that is almost infinitely adjustable.
Of all the tablets currently on the market, the Surface Pro 3 is unique in its ability to fill the role of both a Windows PC and a tablet simultaneously. This can reduce costs compared to buying both a laptop and tablet for employees, and it minimizes the number of devices that have to be managed and protected, while enabling employees to work more effectively and efficiently without having to switch back and forth between devices or figure out how to sync information between them.
The GSA news is a win-win-win for Microsoft, the government, and the employees who now have an opportunity to use the Surface Pro 3.
Does the Surface Pro 3 have a place in your organization? Why or why not? Tell us your plans in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.