Thursday, April 23, 2015

It is hard to fathom that Microsoft is now an underdog in the consumer heavy weight technology division with Google, Apple, Sony and Samsung as other contenders for the title. But times change.

Technology companies in their search for growth to meet stock market expectations have expanded into different industries to generate new revenue streams. They have become conglomerates like GE in their business strategy. GE makes appliances, lighting for homes and business, provides healthcare technology and a financial division called GE capital to finance projects. GE’s mission statement is that they are a company that offers the latest technology and research to build, power, move and cure the world. Quite a transformation from humble beginnings from a company that stated making appliances for the home.

Apple is using this conglomerate playbook for example as they are planning to enter the medical, financial and automotive markets. They are already in the entertainment, music, software, hardware and telco markets. Google has entered the crowded hardware market with some success with their Android Nexus tablet, Chromebook laptops and plan to provide 4G wireless internet in the USA.  Microsoft is no different and they have entered the hardware market with the Surface tablet/laptop product line.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
So lets see how Microsoft has done with their entry into the computer hardware market with their Surface Line of laptop/tablet hybrids that they are promoting. This is the third generation of Microsoft Surface devices and they keep on getting better with each generation as we will see. It looks like the deep pockets of Microsoft are finally paying off with the latest crop that is coming this May.


What I liked about it was the 12-inch screen as it can accommodate 8 ½ x 11 pdf documents to read without shrinking, I found this a big plus versus the 10-inch tablets that shrink the document to read. Somebody finally created a tablet based on a letter size paper. I can now enjoy my morning coffee on the patio, as the screen is set-up to read in natural sunlight, so I can truly have backyard mobile technology. Other devices sometimes do not work in natural sunlight that makes it tough to use outside. The machine was also fast with the Intel 1.5 Ghz processor to power the device, as we all know faster is always better when surfing the web.

As a work device you can work in desktop mode when you were in a mood to use it as a laptop. Like any laptop it has USB port to delete transfer of documents using a thumb drive plus a micro SD card port so you can transfer your photos. The detachable keyboard uses magnets to attach and is easily separated or attached when needed and comes in 5 colours to choose from. The screen has an easel stand that flips out as needed to make keeping it upright on a table or your lap while you are in bed. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a Bluetooth pen which will enable you write on documents, which is a time saver versus the old method of printing, signing and scanning.

The device did feel warm on the hands when holding it in tablet mode (Intel processors have a tendency to give off heat when in operation), which is a negative in my opinion. The price at $799 will not have a mass market appeal, but this was the Pro Model with extra features. But wait next year’s version is always better and starting in May you can buy the Surface 3 that will have a smaller screen (10.8”) and a lower price (starting from ($499) to position the device for mass market appeal.  To lower the price the pen that was included in the Surface Pro 3 version is now optional and the RAM is only 2GB vs. 4GB in the PRO model.  But the Intel processor is 1.6GHZ, so it is a little faster in its latest release. So If I was a betting man the latest version is good value at $499 and I would consider buying it vs. the Pro model that is $300 more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The device would have gotten higher marks, but it was warm to the hands when holding it in tablet mode. It would have gotten a lower score with a price point of $799 (as you can buy a $300 laptop at the Microsoft store, plus a tablet for the same price), but the Surface 3 that is coming in May helped raise the score higher with a lower price point of $499. Ryan Winsborrow from Nerds4Hire who also looked at the device says this is a solid machine on par with any hardware built by other manufacturers, but does not break away from the pack with any sizzle. Microsoft is also releasing a new smartphone the 5” Lumina 640 that I will be getting soon to replace the 4” Nokia 920 I am using, that was used to shoot the photo for this blog posting.

But this conglomerate strategy does come with risks, just ask the folks at Blackberry as they lost the battle in the consumer smartphone market that they invented and is now reinventing themselves as they move forward. Expansion into new markets is always risky that are not part of your core strengths as a company, but it can be done, just look at how GE has survived and prospered. Some of these tech companies are now trying to build an automated driverless car, but when the first one crashes due to a software glitch (that will happen) it will not pass the road safety test, so these ventures are not always a guaranteed success.
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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