Microsoft unveils Pro 3 tablet to battle Apple's MacBooks

Microsoft unveils Pro 3 tablet to battle Apple's MacBooks
The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet after it was unveiled in New York.

It's the end of the laptop, or so Microsoft believes. The American software giant unveiled its Surface Pro 3 tablet in New York on Tuesday, aiming to steal the thunder from rival Apple's MacBooks.

However, IT professionals said its hefty price tag will mean it is unlikely to compete with other tablets when the Pro 3 is expected to go on sale here for prices starting from $1,108 in late August.

The latest slate from the maker of the Windows operating system can act like a laptop when a keyboard cover - sold separately at a starting price of $168 - is attached to it.

Running on Windows 8.1 Pro, it is thinner and lighter than the previous Surface Pro 2, despite having a larger 12-inch touchscreen compared to its 10.6-inch predecessor.

For Singapore consumers, the Surface Pro 3 will be the first update to the original Surface Pro which hit stores in June last year for prices starting from $1,198. The Surface Pro 2, announced last September, has not been released here yet.

The company also sought to compare its new slate with the MacBook Air laptop, which starts from $1,188 for the 11-inch version.

Mr Panos Panay, Microsoft Surface's corporate vice-president, said in a blog post that the tablet is 30 per cent thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air and has a similar battery life of up to nine hours.

The Surface Pro 3 is 9.1mm thick and weighs about 800g.

IT consultant Tay Wei Kiat, 26, is keen on the Pro 3's nine-hour battery life compared to the four to five hours he manages on the first Surface Pro.

"It means I can work on the tablet for the whole day on the go without charging it," he said.

However, the new Surface Pro is unlikely to change the tablet market much. Windows tablets accounted for just 3 per cent of the 273,000 tablets shipped to Singapore in the first quarter of this year, according to market research firm IDC.

It is dwarfed by the 61 per cent share of Apple's iOS slates and the 36 per cent share for Android.

Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air starts from just $688 here. Mr Avinash Kalyana Sundaram, a senior market analyst at IDC Asia Pacific, said the Surface Pro 3's price tag suggests it competes with premium notebooks, like the MacBook Air and others.

He is not confident about it winning over consumers looking for notebooks as notebook-tablet hybrids "are still novelty products".

Another downside: The Surface Pro 3 runs on Intel's Haswell processors, which are 30 per cent less energy efficient than the new Broadwell chips.

This article was first published on May 22, 2014.
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