So What Exactly is the Surface Pro 3?
What is the nature of this beast, the Surface Pro with its large screen and pen with no silo?
I know many of you are like the reviewers of the Surface Pro 3 and trying to determine what type of device it is. I know when Panos Panay compared the Pro 3 to both the MacBook Air and the iPad it opened the door to a multitude of articles and YouTube videos that either proved the point or concluded, "Its the worst of all worlds". I am not going to argue about lapabiltiy or laptop replacements but I do want to point out some things about form factor.
The big issue around discussing the Pro 3 is that it built around arguing about form factors. From my perspective the Pro 3 is a tablet PC. This is a term that existed before the announcement of the iPad or the idea of hybrids or 2-in-1s. In fact tablets existed before Microsoft released its first reference design, but most people understand a tablet to be something that runs a mobile operating system.
The iPad was and is an improvement over the first generation Tablet PC because it brought touch, which worked better than using a pen as primary input, and had applications designed to take advantage of the form factor. It was light and it had great battery life and people almost immediately started turning it back into a laptop.
Form factor is important because it determines usage more so than user intent. A device like the iPad can be used with a keyboard or a keyboard case but its primary usage will be without one. Just like the Asus Transformer was designed to work with a keyboard. Ignoring the physical design of a device to use like something else is a recipe for disaster. It doesn't matter if the OS has a desktop, no keyboard, laptop.
I don't want to seem like I think the debate is trivial but if you're sitting down with the Pro 3 on the sofa, wouldn't you hold it like a tablet? I mean its not a laptop, trying to imagine it as one isn't sensible. Yes it has a keyboard and it can sit in your lap like a laptop, but its a tablet..
But what about replacing the laptop? You're not buying this for that, you're looking at this for the form factor. A motorcycle or a hatchback both transport people; you bought the bike because it gave you something the hatch didn't. If you prefer having a keyboard at all times, you want a laptop. If its optional look at the Pro 3 or other similar devices. But remember the design of the device is the ultimate arbiter of use.