NEW YORK CITY ó After watching its previous two attempts to crack the tablet market flounder and sink, Microsoft is resurfacing in the hopes that the third time will be the charm.
At an unveiling in New York City Tuesday, Microsoft took the wraps off the Surface Pro 3, the company's third-generation Windows-based tablet. It arrives in stores Wednesday, with configurations that start at $799 and go all the way up to a wallet-obliterating $1,949 for the premium model.
Hailed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as "a major step forward," the Surface Pro 3 aims to be Microsoft's answer to the question: "Should I buy a tablet or a laptop?"
"Can we design and build a device that takes the best of the tablet and laptop ... that allows you to watch a movie, and make a movie? Enjoy art and create art?" said Nadella. "That is the device we want to create."
The new Surface is a sturdy, somewhat large slab that feels surprisingly light at just 800 grams. It boasts a 12-inch screen -- bigger than virtually any other tablet on the market, but on the smaller end for a laptop -- with an exceedingly crisp 2,160 x 1,440 pixel display.
It also features improved battery life compared to last fall's Surface Pro 2, has a redesigned kickstand that supports a wide range of viewing angles, features better speakers and includes a digital Surface Pen that makes it easy to take notes and capture content on the screen.
Microsoft showed off a variety of Windows 8 apps optimized for use with the Surface Pro 3, including Adobe Photoshop, screenwriting tool Final Draft and a New York Times crossword puzzle app that converts handwritten answers to digital type.
The entry level $799 version of the Surface Pro 3 features an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. There are five configurations in all, topping out with an Intel Core i7-powered beast with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. A range of accessories will be sold separately, including the redesigned Surface Pro Type Cover ($129.99) and a docking station for desk-bound work ($199.99). Despite rumours, Microsoft did not announce a smaller "Surface mini" tablet.
Whether it's confidence, stubbornness or sheer madness, Microsoft seems hell-bent on making Surface work, even in the face of lower-than-expected sales of the previous models in a market dominated by Apple's iPad and Android tablets by Samsung and others.
But Apple's iron grip on the tablet market has loosened over the past year as competitors have managed to lure customers away from the iPad family, so perhaps now is Microsoft's best shot at gaining some traction with what some describe an expensive, niche device. Can the tech giant convince everyday folks that the days of owning both a laptop and a tablet are over?
Laptops "are designed to help get stuff done," said Surface team lead Panos Panay. "I am sure this is the tablet that can replace the laptop."