Buy a Surface Pro 3, get it at summer's end

Microsoft may have unveiled new tablets to preempt Apple's expected June announcements

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Many pundits expect Apple to unveil a MacBook Air with a higher-resolution Retina screen, a change that would eliminate one of the Surface Pro 3's advantage's, its much sharper screen.

The start of pre-sales for Surface Pro 3 also knocked its predecessor, 2013's Surface Pro 2, out of Microsoft's online store. There was no easy way Wednesday to order the latter online, although Computerworld eventually found the not-that-old device after digging through a list of graduation gift suggestions.

With the Surface Pro 2 hors de combat, Microsoft is in a situation similar to Apple's of late 2012, when it introduced revamped iMac desktops, but then had none to sell for first weeks, then months as supplies dribbled out of factories in early 2013.

Microsoft is not in the same kind of pinch, said Stephen Baker, analyst with the NPD Group and a specialist in U.S. technology retail sales.

"The channel has plenty of Surface Pro 2, and no one is sending them back," Baker said today. "Three-and-a-half, four weeks after announcement isn't particularly long. What is odd is that not everything [in the Surface Pro 3 line] will be available at that point [in late June]. I don't understand why the entry level and the two premium models aren't also available then."

The Surface Pro 2 listings on Microsoft's e-store showed the same price as before the Surface Pro 3's unveiling Tuesday: $899 to $1,799.

"The Surface Pro 2 is something of a competitor to the Pro 3, and, with the exception of a bit more portability, the Pro 3 has it beat on value in just about every way," said Rubin. "So one might expect some closeout pricing on the Pro 2 and its accessories prior to the launch of the 3."

But not yet. Today, Best Buy, a key Microsoft retail partner, showed Surface Pro 2s in stock but had not discounted them.

Retail availability is also less of a concern to Microsoft than to Apple, Rubin maintained. "Surface Pro has seen a lot of its success in commercial channels," he said, referring to large distributors, like CDW and Ingram Micro, that many businesses, government agencies, schools and other organizations use to buy hardware.

The Surface Pro 3, analysts have concluded, targets the enterprise, with some spillover into early adopter ranks, the markets in which earlier Surface Pro devices have gained some traction.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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