Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), aiming to turnaround sales of its ailing tablet-notebook hybrid product line, rolled out a completely redesigned Surface Pro tablet at an event in Shanghai on Tuesday. The launch comes as both it and iPad maker Apple Inc. (APPL) are struggling to drive sales of the devices. (See also: Tablet Sales Decline for 10th Consecutive Quarter.)
The new tablet, which is a successor to the Surface Pro 4, boasts a thinner and lighter design, comes equipped with a touchscreen display and acts as a notebook computer when attached to a separately sold keyboard. Microsoft is also throwing in a Surface Pen for $99 that enables users to take handwritten notes and make drawings directly on the screen. The Surface Pro runs on Intel Corp.'s (INTC) seventh-generation Core processor, which claims to give users longer battery life to the tune of 13.5 hours for the tablet.
The Surface Pro is available for pre-orders in the U.S. and will roll out in June. It starts at $799 and joins other Surface devices including the Surface Book and the recently launched Surface Laptop. The new professional tablet-notebook hybrid also works with the company’s Surface Dial, a peripheral that users can manipulate to move through documents, adjust the volume on the device and enlarge and shrink images. (See also: Microsoft Targets Ed. Market With New Surface, OS.)
The move on the part of the Seattle-area software giant to roll out a new professional tablet comes at a time when that area of its business has been struggling. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, when the company reported quarterly results in April, it said sales of Surface devices fell 26% to $831 million. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood blamed the decline on tougher competition in terms of pricing and the fact that the Surface line had not been updated too recently, noted the WSJ. The Surface Pro 4 launched in October 2015.
But it’s not only Microsoft that is hurting. International Data Corp., the market research firm, reported in May that total shipments of tablets, which include the iPad, came in at 36.2 million in the first quarter, marking an 8.5% decline in shipments. The drop is a little better than the past five quarters where IDC saw a double-digit percentage decline. According to the market research firm, the first three months of the year represented the 13th three-month period in a row in which tablet shipments at Apple fell year over year. And that’s with the company being the market leader during the first quarter. IDC found it shipped 8.9 million tablets during the first quarter and controlled 24.6% of the market share on a global basis. That compared to 10.3 million units in the year-ago period.