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Microsoft Unveils 12-Inch Surface Pro 3

It's bigger than the rumored mini Surface.

Software giant Microsoft unveiled its latest attempt to combine the power of a notebook computer with a tablet, the Surface Pro 3, at an event in New York.

Sporting a 12-inch display, it’s not the mini version that has been the subject of rumors. But the company says at 9.1 millimeters thick and 800 grams, it’s the thinnest and lightest of its kind. It also sports an Intel Core I7 processor.

Prices start at $799 and will be available for pre-order on May 21 and in stores on June 20.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called it a major step in what he termed “the journey toward combining the capabilities of the company.”

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s vice president for Surface computing, said that 96 percent of people who have an iPad also have a notebook, creating for users a level of complexity. The new device, he said, is focused on “taking that conflict away.”

Patrick Moorhead, head of the research firm Moor Insights and Strategy, described it as a “flanking maneuver” for Microsoft versus Apple’s iPad.

“Microsoft is clearly focused on the ultimate productivity device, not focused on purely content consumption,” he said. “While Microsoft has not yet hit the high volume seven-to-eight inch tablet segment, Microsoft is clearly steering away from a straight-on confrontation with Apple.”

Panay spent a lot of time in his presentation playing up the combination of the Surface Pro 3’s capabilities. Adobe has created a version of its Photoshop photo-editing software that is optimized for running on the Surface. But Panay also demonstrated an app designed to emulate the New York Times crossword puzzle that allows users to do the puzzle with a digital pen.

In focusing on the Intel-based Surface Pro side of things, Microsoft is playing to the part of its hardware business that competes more directly with PC makers as compared to Windows RT and the Surface 2, which takes on Android and Apple tablets more directly.

Microsoft also has some work to do on that side of the house as it integrates with Nokia, which also makes a Windows RT tablet, the Lumia 2520.

Update: Added pricing and availability, as well as additional background.

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