Surface 3 aims to build Microsoft share of tablet market

The new Surface 3 tablet announced by Microsoft runs Windows 8.1 and is cheaper than its more powerful predecessor.

The tablet, sixth in Microsoft’s Surface line-up, was confirmed in a blog post on the company’s website on Tuesday and is expected to rival the iPad.

The Surface 3 is powered by an Intel processor and will run Windows 8.1 OS, an upgrade from the more limited Windows RT for Surface 2 and Windows 8 for the Pro line of the tablet. This will make users eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 later this year.

The company said it was the thinnest and lightest Surface to date and it featured a 10.8in display, compared with the 12in screen of the bigger tablet launched 10 months ago.

Panos Panay, head of Microsoft Surface, said: “As we planned the next addition to the Surface family, the question to answer for our customers became simple. What product would we build to be sure we could make the very best of what we built in Surface Pro 3 available to many, many more people?”

The Surface tables have seen an increase in shipments from 1.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 2.1 million for the same period in 2014, figures from research group Canalys have shown, with the Pro 3 accounting for most of the demand since it went on sale.

Industry experts are speculating that Microsoft’s move could rival Apple’s iPad, especially since its market share of the tablet market had grown from 2.3 to 3.2 per cent, while Apple has seen sales of its iPad decline – although it is still the bestselling brand.

The basic version of the Surface 3 with 64GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM and an Intel Atom x7 processor costs £419, about a third lower than the cheapest Surface Pro 3, but two-thirds more than the basic Surface 2.

However, the touchscreen pen – now available in silver, blue, black and red – and keyboard cover are not included in the price and could add £155 to the price tag.

Talking about the pens, Panay said: “Since we first launched the pen, we’ve also seen some amazing app experiences created specifically for the pen that let you go far beyond the capabilities of a mouse and keyboard or touchscreen.”

Unlike most other tablets, this new Surface will have a full-sized USB 3.0 port for connection to a monitor and other devices.

The Surface 3 went on pre-sale on Tuesday 1 April and it will hit the UK market on May 7.

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