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The future of Microsoft Surface: What to expect from Surface 3 and Surface Pro 4

Mark Hachman | March 25, 2015
Just over ten months ago, Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3 in New York City. While the first two generations of Surface tablets were undeniably clunky, the SP3's clean lines and bright, forceful design have carved out a niche in the 2-in-1 market that no other manufacturer has matched.

For Surface Pro 4, Microsoft could explore a number of different depth camera options. It could opt for a version of the camera found in Kinect for Windows. It could also use Intel's RealSense 3D camera, a version of which is already embedded  inside the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet. Microsoft execs have also told PCWorld that they can use existing Webcams to achieve the same effect.

If I were Microsoft, I'd be tempted to launch a revamped Surface Pro 4 around the launch of Windows 10 this summer. If Microsoft were to launch a refreshed Surface Pro 3, however, that would jam all those Surface releases right on top of one another. Instead, I'd ship a refreshed Surface Pro 3 "designed for Windows 10" before the Windows 10 launch, and wait a few months to announce a Surface Pro 4 that's "optimized for Windows 10," perhaps to coincide with the the beginning of the fiscal year in October.

And I'd also introduce a key hardware tweak: I'd finally slot the Surface stylus inside the chassis, Galaxy Note-style. It's a simple convenience that's long overdue.

Evolving Microsoft services to match the hardware

If consumers accept Hello as a way to avoid using passwords — and while some undoubtedly won't, I expect most will — Microsoft can seize that user interest by adding related authentication services. We already know that Microsoft's Cortana assistant will listen attentively for spoken commands. But Hello's ability to identify and verify you have larger implications: Imagine ordering your Surface Pro 4 to "Buy now" while browsing an Amazon page, for example.

Keep in mind that everything I share above is just crystal-ball prognostication. While Windows 10 will be everywhere at Microsoft's BUILD conference, we don't know for sure what Microsoft's hardware teams have planned.

But Microsoft's announcement of Hello and the addition of the RealSense depth camera in Dell's tablet fills me with confidence that eventually the Surface line will include such a camera. And if you think the Surface Pro 3 embodies what a great tablet should be, then look out — an even better one is coming.


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