Surface 3: what we expect to see

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With Surface 2 and Windows 8.1 RT, Microsoft has certainly addressed some of usability issues that plagued the original Surface RT models. Based around an Nvidia Tegra 4 chip, the second generation Surface hardware is faster and has a superior battery life. It also boasts an improved 1080p HD display, redesigned kickstand and a competitive price tag that undercuts Apple’s iPad. Whatever Microsoft is doing it is working – albeit slowly. Numerous reports say overall Surface usage went up over the festive period in late 2013. So what will Microsoft do next? What might a Surface 3 device look like in 2014?

If Microsoft does stubbornly stick with Windows RT (and it will), then perhaps a Surface 3 line-up will offer more hardware options. Before the Surface 2 launch, there were strong rumours of a ‘Surface Mini’ with a 7.5-inch or 8-inch display, especially as Windows 8.1 now provides improved support for smaller tablets. This would range it against more compact slates such as the iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7, not to mention the Acer Iconia W3 and Toshiba Encore.

At the other end of the scale, we can imagine a bigger touchscreen model. There are rumours of Apple experimenting with 12- and 13-inch iPad displays and where Apple leads, the other manufacturers are sure to follow. With this in mind, perhaps fingerprint sensors might become standard issue too, after their iPhone 5S debut. Or we might see an even larger device that takes its cue from Sony’s VAIO Tap 20. Such a ‘Surface Maxi’ would move Surface into all-in-one desktop PC territory, although it would require ditching Windows RT in favour of the full-fat Windows 8 OS. A Surface Pro 2 XS or XL would be ideal.

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With wearable tech all the rage, it must surely have occurred to Microsoft that the touchy-feely Surface brand could be extended into smartwatch territory. Like the Galaxy Gear, a ‘Surface Watch’ with a small screen and obligatory built-in fitness tech could be launched as a companion device for its Windows-powered tablets and smartphones. Then there’s Surface gaming to consider. Gamers have long hankered after a portable Xbox and devices such as the Razer Edge give us glimpses of how this idea could work. Yet Microsoft barely touched on the gaming potential of its Surface 2 hardware at launch, choosing instead to focus on productivity and business. But with reports of Microsoft cloud-streaming Halo 4 to a low-end Windows PC and a Windows Phone, a future Surface 3 device could easily evolve into a portable games console.