Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay and his Surface team took on the masses today in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. In it, they provided a few more details about the recently-announced Surface Pro 3 that will start shipping to customers. Here's what we learned.
High-level vision statement. "Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace the laptop. This is the one product you need to do it all. It acts as a tablet, and can be used as a laptop. It is great in both scenarios. There is no product out there that compares. Too many times folks are stuck in the middle, have to carry two devices, or don't want to lug around the weight."
Battery life. Microsoft claims that Surface Pro 3 will get up to 9 hours of battery—I'm getting quite a bit less than that in my initial tests, so stay tuned—but since the product includes several models with three different processors, there are some questions about how that battery life will vary from model to model. Not much, Mr. Panay says.
Connected Standby. Surface Pro 3 is the first Intel Core-based product that I'm aware of that offers Connected Standby (now called InstantGo) power management functionality. According to Panay, here's how it works on Surface Pro 3: if it's been less than four hours since you've used the device, you can open the Type Cover (or press the power button) and the device will come on in about half a second. However, after four hours, Surface Pro 3 does into hibernation, so resulting startup times will be quite a bit longer. And after that, it goes into a "deep sleep to go to single digit miliwatts" and will work like Surface Pro 2.
Windows button placement. Microsoft says it has "heard some feedback on people pressing [the button] by mistake" and is "definitely looking into it." The button is in a non-standard spot because of the new folding Type Cover.
Battery. The Surface Pro 3 battery is not user-serviceable, but Microsoft will replace it for free during the device's warranty period. After that, a battery replacement will cost $200. But the battery should last a long time, Panay says. "The battery can get charged daily (5 days a week) for over 4.5 years and still maintain 80 percent capacity." As for charging speed, "SP3 will charge from 0 percent to 80 percent in 2 hours and to 100 percent in 4 hours."
Lack of 4G/LTE. Panos says that the team obviously looked at adding this capability to Surface Pro 3 but didn't because of battery life concerns, and users can add this functionality via a phone, MiFi device, or a USB-based device. A 4G model is "not on the roadmap."
External displays. All Surface Pro 3 models can drive a 4K screen in addition to the internal screen. The i5- and i-7 based versions of Surface Pro 3 can drive two external screens at 2560 x 1440, but the i3 can drive one such screen. (Or two "HD" screens, which I assume means 1920 x 1080.)
Trackpad. The team provided a few new details about the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover's trackpad: It provides over 60 percent more area, has embedded glass beads for a smoother feel, and a mechanical button. It also supports the precision touchpad features in Windows 8.1, like edge swipes, pan, & pinch to zoom.
Thunderbolt. In one of the weird exchanges, the team was asked why the device didn't have a Thunderbolt connector since such a thing is part of the Intel chipsets they're using. The team said "take a close look at the 'power connector'," suggesting that this slot could somehow provide Thunderbolt connectivity as well, but it did not elaborate. This connector is used to connect the coming docking station, which provides USB ports, mini-DisplayPort out, audio, and gigabit Ethernet, so it's possible there's more going on there, but it's unclear what this even means.
OneNote integration. Currently, when you double-press the top of the Surface Pro pen, the OneNote Modern app launches. This will change. "We are making it configurable to launch the classic desktop [version of OneNote] for users who want that experience."
Upgradeable. Yes, Surface Pro 3 will be upgradeable to Windows 9 or "whatever the next version is called."
Updates are coming. As with previous Surface devices, Microsoft plans to deliver regular firmware updates for Surface Pro 3. The first will come in June, before the devices ship publicly, and will address some power-related issues that reviewers have noted. (And yes, I've seen this issue myself.)
Third party accessories are coming. The team said that "you'll see cases more quickly than other things, but you'll see mounts, protective cases," and more.
Panos on communication. "Be genuine, have fun, and have products you believe in."