Don’t hold your breath for a Surface Pro 5.
Panos Panay, Microsoft’s energetic Surface devices chief, says, “There’s no such thing as a Pro 5.”
Speaking with CNET, Panay essentially admits the company’s letting the nearly two-year-old Surface Pro 4 languish. He believes the Surface Pro 4, outdated as it is in terms of specs, will still be solid for another five years. “If people don’t want to buy our Pro 4 at this time, that’s OK.”
Rather than follow the usual PC cycle with minor refreshes to the internals, Panos says Microsoft will put out a new Surface Pro when there are enough “meaningful” changes such as significantly improved battery life or serious weight reduction.
“Meaningful change isn’t necessarily a hardware change, which is what a lot of people look for. They’re like, ‘Where’s the latest processor?’ I’m looking for an experiential change that makes a huge difference in product line,” Panos says.
Panos’ logic mirrors another tech giant’s hardware philosophy: Apple’s. Though Apple used to update its Macs frequently to accommodate new chipsets, it has now basically moved to a “whenever” schedule. Before the new MacBook Pros were released last October, the MacBook Pros went un-updated for over a year. The iMac was last updated in October 2015 and the Mac Mini in October 2014.
The Surface Pro is more of an aspiration reference design for PC makers.
In a way, it kind of makes sense for Microsoft to hold off on releasing a new Surface Pro. People just don’t replace their PCs very often. In fact, people are hanging onto their PCs even longer than ever before.
“[The] replacement cycle for the PC has extended,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said last year. “Four years was the average, now it has moved to about five to six years.”
Moreover, the Surface Pro (and the rest of the Surface lineup, for that matter) was never meant to be the flagship of the PC world. The Surface Pro is more of an aspiration reference design for which other PC makers could model their own devices after. And model they have — there are now tons of respectable Surface clones available from the likes of Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and more. If you want a new Surface Pro-like device with the latest chips and features, there are plenty to pick from that aren’t from Microsoft.
Rumors have suggested Microsoft might announce the Surface Pro 5 at Microsoft Build this week or at its event in Shanghai on May 23, but it’s looking more likely that’s not going to happen. But if not a new Surface Pro, then what new hardware will Microsoft unveil? And would you be happy if it just trots out an updated Surface Pro 4 with new guts?