Surface Pro 4: The impact of Windows 10

It's not exactly a secret that Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 has been selling well; the brand hit a billion dollars for the first time last year. With the Surface 3 now on sale, all eyes are turning towards the Surface Pro 4.

When you think about when the Pro 4 will be released, you need to look at Microsoft's other products for guidance; specifically Windows 10. If Microsoft is going to launch the Pro 4, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the device will ship with the company's latest OS and be the 'hero' device for the new software.

If we take this approach and other information that has been announced by Microsoft, we can paint a better picture than what is currently known about its release window.

Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will launch this summer, technically that means the first possible day is June 21st but it seems unlikely it will be released that early as AMD has already said that it will be released in July. If we take this July date into consideration, this means the Pro 4 could not be released until the end of that month.

But you need to consider more than the RTM date for Windows 10 as Microsoft can't magically make machines with the latest OS before that OS is completed. While Microsoft could start building the hardware now, it would still need to re-flash the machines with the RTM version of Windows 10 once it is available.

If Microsoft was to complete the RTM build of Windows 10 in the middle of July, that would give them two weeks to re-flash the pre-made hardware and scramble for a release of the device, if we go by AMD's timeline. If this were to occur, it would surely result in device shortages at launch, especially if they replicate the global launch like they did with the Surface 3.

Of course, Microsoft could avoid all this if they shipped with a pre-release build of Windows 10 and have it upgrade upon first boot but that creates a poor out-of-box experience. Another option is to ship it with Windows 8 like they did with the Surface 3 then upgrade once Windows 10 is complete but that seems counterintuitive to what the Surface Pro 4 will represent. The last, and most obvious, option is to simply wait, ride out the Pro 3 sales and ship the Pro 4 when all the pieces are in place.

Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3 roughly six weeks before it went on sale which means if they do the same for the Pro 4, that would be about a mid June announcement of the device.

The biggest difference for this release is that Microsoft has to wait for the hardware to be perfected and the software to be completed, whereas with the prior Surface releases, it was only the hardware variable impacting the launch.

Time will tell which path Microsoft opts to take with the Surface Pro 4 but keep in mind that it if the device is going to ship with Windows 10, it may not be arriving as soon as many hope.

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