Microsoft Surface Team admits more Surface products on their way during Reddit IAmA

Panos Panay and his Surface team responded to questions from across the Internet during  a two hour Reddit IAmA earlier today.

The Surface team is familiar with this process as they have done it a few times in and around the various Surface launches.

Panos and the team answers questions quickly in this format so the best way to review everything from today is to head to the Surface Team Reddit profile and review it there. Click the context link under each reply to see the original question that was answered.

Of course, as is usual with these types of things, many people asked questions about their own niche/usage desires when it comes to Surface Pro 3 but the team did a good job of giving a broader perspective to some of those questions. There were also lots of ideas and suggestions sent in the chat which the team tried to acknowledge. I am sure a list of those are with someone on the team for future brainstorming.

There was even one lucky Redditor who asked “Can I have one?” and towards the end of the event Panos Panay told him to DM his details because he was gong to send him one!

Among the questions asked and answered were a challenge to dropping the device on carpet versus a harder surface, specs and info about the GPU’s and what type/how many external displays they can support, which Haswell chips in the new device, battery life and reliability compared to previous versions, power options and connected standby, why the new 3:2 display ration and the future of the Surface product line.

Here is a summary of those and some of the other things they answered in Q&A format:

Will there be any way to quickly enable/disable the functionality of the Windows button on the Surface Pro 3 so it does not get accidentally pressed while using the stylus?

When we made Surface Pro 3, we wanted a device that worked not only in landscape mode, but worked beautifully in portrait mode. This is super important for things like reading, annotating docs, etc. Putting the home button where it is in SP3 makes working in portrait natural. Now that said, we also invested a ton of effort into ensuring that when working in landscape mode, you don’t trigger the button by accident. This includes things like palm rejection, guard sensors that prevent inadvertent hits, etc.

Does the surface touchpad have gestures like the Macbooks have? They have 3 finger and 4 finger swipes to get to different areas of the OS, and having touchpad gestures, while I’ve not used them before, is a good demo for the system.

Yes the track pad supports both edge gestures and two finger gestures for scrolling and zooming.

Have you done anything to improve the keyboard plastic so that it does not tear off? I had to return two of my touch keyboards.

We have done a ton of research and design work in the new Type Covers. All materials have improved. We have a team that focuses on materials design exclusively. The whole construction of the Type Cover is redesigned to be more robust and more productive.

So my questions are: As a student already invested in Microsoft’s ecosystem (with Windows, Office, OneDrive and Xbox), what benefits does the Surface Pro 3 bring me as opposed to another Windows Hybrid with Office included for free?; Is the i5 128gb model of the Surface Pro 3 powerful enough for me to run Microsoft Office software, Visual Studio Ultimate and other processor intensive software that I may need for 6th form?; How good honestly is the new track pad on the Type cover 3? Because my laptop track pad is perfect (because it has real clickable buttons), and the Type cover 2 is almost unusable for my needs.; Which is best, the black type cover or the royal blue one? Because the royal blue one looks so sweet.

Thanks for the questions. Few things I’d call out based on spending a bunch of time with students using Surface today. First thing is the device itself. It is super thin, much lighter than earlier versions of Surface Pro and as a student, you will love the note-taking experience. Check out some of the videos at the bottom of this page. These scenarios only get better with Surface Pro 3. http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-us/why-surface/at-school. The i5 is definitely powerful enough to run Office, Visual Studio Ultimate and other powerful software. If you missed the launch video, we showcased Surface Pro 3 running Revit (powerful building modeling software from Autodesk), Adobe Photoshop and other cool software and apps.  You will love the new track pad. We reduced friction by 78% vs. our previous track pads, it is 60% bigger than the previous Surface Pro. This is as good as track pads you will find on some of the best laptops. Finally, the best type cover is whatever color you like best. The blue one is awesome IMO, but I’m writing on a purple right now.

Have been using a Surface RT and switched to Surface Pro 2 at some point. I really like my Surface Pro 2, but found a bit disappointed by the lack of connected standby while Haswell processor should support it (and indeed, Surface Pro 3 is supporting it). Is there any possibility a firmware update bringing Connected Standby on Surface Pro 2 in a near future?

The Pro2 was not designed for Connected Standby. Pro3 is.

In Surface Pro (2), a big complaint of the platform was how few accessories were available for it (especially compared to other ecosystems). Now that the form factor, connectors, screen, and almost everything else has changed, what is Microsoft doing to encourage partners to make everything from cases to chargers to nifty gadgets for the Surface Pro 3?

We’re working with a bunch of partners to get great accessories out there. you’ll see cases more quickly than other things, but you’ll see mounts, protective cases, etc.

Does the Surface team have any plans to release a “cover” that would provide performance and ease of use in-line with traditional clamshell designs, with a base that effectively secures the screen?

The double-fold hinge with magnetic stability on the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover, coupled with the multi-position kickstand make for a great ‘lapable’ solution. Go and try it our for yourself.

How is it possible to call the Surface Pro 3 a laptop killer when the device does not come with a keyboard? The keyboard is an “optional” accessory that is marketed as vital to the the Surface experience (to which I agree), but it makes no sense to charge so much extra for it.

When we first launched Surface, we sold it only in a bundle format. the top feedback we got was that people loved the color covers and wanted full choice (but stores wouldn’t sell all color bundles) and some people definitely wanted to buy without cover.

I have an original Surface Pro, and my number one complaint with it is that when the battery stops holding a charge in two years, my only option is to have the entire device replaced by Microsoft for $450.

In two years, there’s a good chance the device won’t even be worth that much anymore, which turns the Surface Pro into essentially a disposable computer. This was almost a deal breaker for me buying my Surface Pro, and the only reason I still bought one was because I got a good enough deal on it that I’ve come to terms with the fact that when the battery wears out, I’ll need to buy a new computer. Is this still the case with the Surface Pro 3?

The batteries on our Surface products are designed with some of the highest charge cycles for consumer electronic devices. This means that the battery can get charged daily (5 days a week) for over 4.5 years and still maintain 80% capacity.  The battery can be replaced, but not by the user. The process would be to contact support and send the device in to have it replaced. The response above that “the battery can get charged daily (5 days a week) for over 4.5 years and still maintain 80% capacity.” reflects the testing we’ve done on the battery. If the battery life becomes an issue you should contact Microsoft support.

Will there be a new non-Pro Surface released?

Nothing to share here, but you can rest assured that we have a roadmap of products. You’ll have to wait and see what they look like and when they might be released though.

I have a question though, is there an accessory certification program for the Surface? I’ve done some mockups for (what I believe to be) a really solid accessory for the surface and I think I’d like to produce a few and then kickstart it. Is there anyone in particular I should get in contact with first? Any pinout information for the keyboard connector?

There is! :) Here’s the link: http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-us/accessories/partner-sign-up

I’m a Microsoft Consultant for Best Buy, so is there any chance of the stores getting demo units early to drive pre-orders? I’ve managed to get a few but for some people it’s hard to justify spending that much on a product they have never even heard of or seen.

Demo units will be showing up on June 6th in Best Buy stores.

What about the output resolution? I keep hearing that the dock can produce 4K output resolution. But what about without the dock, just using the display miniport – can I get 4K output resolution then? I am thinking about the SP3 i7 edition?

i7 and i5 will drive 1x4K, or 2x2K (while supporting the Surface Pro 2K display). i3 will drive 1x4K, or 2xHD (while supporting the Surface Pro 2K display).

Power Setting-Can we control power setting? What happened to High Performance Mode on Surface Pro 3 it appears we cannot change it. Is this a Thermal issue?

Power Setting – Not a thermal decision, related to connected standby. We are continuing to review options.

Photographers use full size SD cards and for those with micro cards there are adapters, what was the thinking behind only offering the micro option?

One of the goals with Pro3 is thin. Space inside the device is critical and always a valued resource. SD functionality was important for us and has been since the first products introduced. Options are the adapter you mention or connecting your camera directly to full size USB.

How long does it take for the Surface Pro 3 to come out of Standby when pressing the button? Is it several seconds like previous Surface Pros?

Pro3 is a Connected Standby system, it will wake up in half a second. If you do not touch the system for more than 4 hours, it will go to hibernate, and then deep sleep to go to single digit miliwatts. At that point it will take longer, like a pro2 coming out of hibernate.

Why hasnt a good wireless screen sharing solution been implemented in Windows yet? I understand that “WiDi” and “Miracast” are two options but I have not seen Microsoft mention these solutions very much and they are confusing and convoluted for the average user.

If you have a Miracast enabled endpoint (dongle, built-in etc.), you can project to it by sliding the right side edgie, selecting devices, then project, add wireless display.

I’m going to start studying Law later this year and I’m torn between the Mac Book Air and the Surface Pro 3 (actually I was definitely getting a MBA until you announced the SP3 out of the blue!) Since I’m not likely to be doing huge amounts of drawing (engineering) or written notes (maths symbols.. which are not lawyer-y). So what else does the Surface Pro 3 have for me? Sell it to me :)

There are a few significant differences with Mac Book Air that you might love, especially as a law student. Studies have shown that people learn more conceptually when they write vs when they just type. Surface Pro 3 allows pen note taking in a great size (legal pad!). You also have a touch screen for faster navigation. Add those to the fact that it is lighter to carry in your bag around campus.

Why was it 16:9 in the first place? What changed?; What are the reasons behind 3:2? Was it merely because of the similarity to that notepad? Or is it a Fibonacci thing? Why not a more familiar 5:3 or 16:10 then?; Will you be encouraging other Windows laptop/tablet OEMs to follow suit with the 3:2 aspect ratio?

Hey.. this is StevieB. we chose 3:2 cause it works great both in landscape and portrait. it is a 1.5 aspect ratio.. vs. 16:9 which 1.77 is really geared more towards landscape. 3:2 is also more a kin to paper… something natural and familiar for people. Given we wanted to build a device that worked well in all 4 modes of input: it had to be wide enough to house a full keyboard, tall enough in landscape so you can see all your emails lists.. facebooks posts, etc… and it had to be balanced in your hand to hold it in portrait so you could write like you would on a notepad and touch the screen. We mapped a lot of the available digital content… took their aspect ratios.. and the aspect ratio that was a balanced fit for all.. was 3:2. I really like 3:2.. cause when you divide 3:2 in half in landscape.. you get two 4:3 screens in portrait. So Pro3 in split screen mode is like running to 8” 4:3 screen side by side.. pretty cool! The other reason why we like 3:2.. is cause of its kinship with paper. 8.5×11 piece of paper is 1.33 ratio.. but once you take into account the margins.. about 1.25” on both sides.. and 1” top and bottom (various standards).. means an “Active area” of 9”x6”.. that is where 9×6 comes from.. now take 9/6 and reduce the fraction.. (divide by 3).. and your 3:2  . For the flexibility in experience we have designed pro 3 for.. typing, mousing, touch, and pen: 3:2 is a great choice.. hits a sweet spot in productivity, is compact and easy to carry, and adapts to both landscape and portrait well.

Can I turn connected standby off/would doing so conserve battery life? If I can turn it off, would I be able to create a custom high performance power profile?

You cannot turn CS off, but you could extend quiet hours in settings, so as to reduce the hours during which the system is connecting to the network. Also, know that Pro3 will go to hibernate and then deep sleep after 4 hours of inactivity, to preserve battery even more.

Please confirm on the processor + GPU specs for all models – helps in decision making!

Here you go: i3 – 4020Y – 1.50GHz with Intel HD graphics 4200’'; I5 – 4300U – 1.6GHz with Intel Turbo Boost up to 2.90GHz with Intel HD Graphics 4400; i7 – 4650U – 1.7GHz Intel Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz  with Intel HD graphics 5000

Does the SP3 use the recently announced ‘refreshed’ Haswell chips?

Here are the latest Haswell chips that we’re using in SP3: i3 – 4020Y – 1.50GHz with Intel HD graphics 4200 I5 – 4300U – 1.6GHz with Intel Turbo Boost up to 2.90GHz with Intel HD Graphics 4400 i7 – 4650U – 1.7GHz Intel Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz  with Intel HD graphics 5000

When Panos dropped the SP3 during the presentation, he dropped it onto a carpet. Do normal devices break / shatter upon that sort of impact with a carpet? How durable is the Surface Pro 3 really?

We spend a lot of Engineering time to make our products robust – and we do a lot of testing to verify these designs. We could’ve also dropped it on hardwood (slightly lower height) and the device will work great.

What happened to the dark color of the Surface? Will it come back or silver will be the only color?

Currently silver is the only device color we are going for. We spent a ton of time refining the scratch and fingerprint resistance on Surface Pro3’s silver. The underlying magnesium layer is silver too and we decided to have the metal shine through the hard coat finish of the device.

While the double-fold definitely looks like it adds a lot to “lapable” stability and balance, does the extra hinge on the cover also help minimize any slight “bowing” of the keyboard when on an uneven surface?

We looked at many different options to address ‘lapability’, both how much space on the lap and more stability. The ‘fold’ addressed both of these pieces. When you try it, try it both with fold down and fold up striking improvement. Another element we included was to change the substrate on the keyboard to a honeycomb structure. This let us take weight out, make thinner, and increase stability.

Also, if you want some serious education about the difference difference between an Electromagnetic Stylus and an Active Capacitive Stylus then read this answer from Surface Team Member StevieB.

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5 thoughts on “Microsoft Surface Team admits more Surface products on their way during Reddit IAmA

  1. Thanks for the reader’s digest! Btw: So far, their 80% capacity after 4.5 years sounds plausible (implying linear decline): after 7 months of daily use the wear level is at 5%

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