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One year later, Surface Pro 3 shows Microsoft can build hardware too

It's hard to believe but it was one year ago this week that Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3 at an event in New York City. The device, which has been selling well for the company, is its first big sales success in the tablet space.

In October of last year, Satya Nadella said that the device was selling at twice the rate of the Surface Pro 2 and based on public perception of the device, the Pro 3 is the first tablet to come out of Microsoft that consumers genuinely desire.

During the 2014 holiday shopping season, the Surface line of tablets, as a division, blossomed into a billion dollar business for the company. Of course, it took some serious work to get to the point of the Surface Pro 3 being a success - the sacrifice of the Surface RT created the foundation for the device.

Still, the Surface Pro 3 has proven that Microsoft has the chops to build hardware along with its software. While the device is far from perfect and is now starting to show its age with an outdated CPU, the Pro 3 was a turning point for the brand.

Before it launched, the Surface line of tablets was viewed as this bold experiment by Microsoft to move into a space heavily dominated by Apple (iPad) and other traditional PC makers like Samsung who also build laptop/tablet hybrids. But the Pro 3 changed that, it gave Microsoft the ability to place a stake in the ground and say "we can play too".

Microsoft's confidence in the Surface brand is growing as well. When the company launched the more affordable Surface 3 earlier this month, it was not limited to the US and Canada like the Pro 3; Microsoft went global for the release. This means that they had to ramp up production considerably, build many more units that had unique regional configurations (chargers, language etc), and ready the supply chain to meet the expected demand, which means there is significantly more liability in this business model if the market does not react as expected.

With the glory of the Surface Pro 3 fading into the past - the company is currently offering $150 off a mid-tier model and offers similar such discounts across the range on a regular basis - all eyes are turning to its successor, the Surface Pro 4.

Likely to be positioned as the hero device for Windows 10 - the new OS that will arrive this summer - for the enthusiast crowd, the new tablet cannot come soon enough as all of its competing devices are using Broadwell chips, while the Pro 3 has Haswell.

But whatever Microsoft has in store for its successor, the Surface Pro 3 clearly demonstrated that the company has what it takes to offer high-quality, desirable hardware in an increasingly competitive market.

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