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Happy birthday, Surface Pro 3! But you're not the future any more

Mark Hachman | May 22, 2015
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 turned one year old this week. But instead of celebrating, we should be wondering when a Windows 10 Surface phone will take its place.

The future is bright--but lousy

Microsoft's Continuum for phones sums all this up. When a future Windows 10 phone is connected to a monitor via the mini-HDMI connection, the apps and content on the phone will expand to fill the larger screen, utilizing a key advantage of Microsoft's universal Windows apps. The experience likely won't be exactly like a full-fledged PC, but there should be enough common ground to make a Windows 10 user feel like she is working in a familiar environment.

We chose to highlight this Surface phone concept a few weeks ago as the flagship phone we hoped that Microsoft would eventually bring to market. But what we didn't realize at the time was that that phone--or something similar--may in fact be the future of the Surface line. Sure, we've talked about a small-form-factor Surface Mini as a content-consumption device in the vein of an Amazon Kindle. But powered by Continuum, a Surface phone becomes so much more than a phone: it fills the PC niche that the Surface tablet family currently occupies.

What we don't know, however, is whether we'll fall in love with the experience. Intel's Compute Stick received a tepid welcome, even as we acknowledged its potential. But we know, as Gordon Ung ruefully discovered, that embedded processors like the Atom only improve over time. We can safely assume that if a Continuum-powered phone disappoints us in its first iteration, that it will get better over time. Microsoft's "rule of three"--that it takes three iterations for Microsoft to get a product right--still holds.

So yes, raise a glass to the Surface Pro 3. It deserves it. But Microsoft is already looking ahead to a future where the phone may supplant it.


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