Microsoft’s Surface Pro was a critical and controversial release. Announced June 18, 2012, during what many called the “post-PC era” of declining laptop sales, Microsoft kept pushing the concept until it finally resonated with the masses three years later. It can also be credited with reinvigorating a stagnant laptop industry, and making Ultrabooks not only relevant and exciting but keeping sales alive too. Microsoft did all of this while not alienating its key PC partners like HP, Dell, and Lenovo, who all benefited in the long run.
Initially mocked, the Surface Pro has become the poster child for innovation and a radical rethinking of what a laptop could be for modern users. But it wasn’t until Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 that Microsoft truly realized its vision. Since then, steady improvements, including removing fans, has made the Surface Pro one of the best PCs around.
Microsoft still occasionally struggles with hardware issues like Intel’s Skylake processor fiasco from 2015, battery degradation problems, processor throttling, and never including the Type Cover in the final pricing. But the company mostly treats these as learning moments and always seems to improve from the bad press.
As we head into 2020, the Surface Pro design is now so iconic companies like Apple and Google borrow heavily from Microsoft. The Surface Pro is now accepted as a legitimate alternative to the traditional laptop – not a gimmick, not a fad. It also solidified Microsoft’s hardware ambitions and is the base for all future Surface hardware.
Microsoft still has more work to do with the Surface Pro – there can never be too much battery or processing power – but the overall concept is here to stay. Surface Pro X is an offshoot of that design pushing mobility even further. And the forthcoming dual-screen Surface Neo is an even more radical theory of mobile computing that is about to kick off the next decade.