Surface Pro 3 Launch – Same Old Surface

This was a live blog post that I wrote using the online feed.

Prologue: Some might say that this post is too snarky. I respond with The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein.

Satya Nadella wants to talk about the next step of devices and clouds, which is devices. I guess talking about dreams of Surface making a profit are more important than courting the IT pros at TechEd? Empowering people to be more and do more is a unifying theme in MSFT, apparently. They want products and technologies that enable people to dream and get stuff done.


They are not making h/w for h/w’s sake. No fridges or toasters … hmm … someone been listening to me talk about MSFT sales strategies? MSFT want to create new categories and spark demand for their entire ecosystem.

Today is the start of dreaming the impossible – selling Surface? I jest! But they are in every show on CBS. That’s an accomplishment in product placement.

Here comes Panos Panay, the hardware guy that’s always out to talk Surface “design”. He’s cool cos he says “what’s up dude?” to a person in the audience. The work involved in “this device” spans many parts of Microsoft apparently. Panos is excited. I am sceptical.

Some people said nice things about Surface. They liked that. No mention of the bad things.

Seriously though – I recognize Steve Gleason in the promo video, a sufferer of ALS and former NFL New Orleans Saints player. He’s using a Surface to speak now.


96% of people using an iPad also own a laptop. The camera focuses in on a bunch of media types with MacBooks on their laps.

Tablets are consumed for you to sit back and watch movies, read books, surf the web, and snacking on apps. Laptops are designed to get stuff done – Panay.

Wide variety of laptops out there from sleek to clunky depending on the design point. Battery got better … and then laptops and tablets began to blur. People walk into a store (no matter what store) then there is a conflict for the purchaser – do you buy a tablet or laptop – “what am I supposed to buy?”. Sales rep will ask “what is it that you want to do?” – at least they should ask that and not respond with “buy an iPad”.

MSFT wants to take that conflict away so 96% of people don’t go home after buying a tablet and a laptop. A new device that spans both must offer best of both. All day battery life. Thin – but not too small that it can’t be used for productivity.

Today they introduce Surface Pro 3. It’s thin (9.1 mm). It uses the same floppy keyboard as the previous versions – sigh – it’s not a laptop replacement in my opinion. See the Dell Venue 11 Pro for a real laptop replacement.


This has a 12” diagonal screen instead of 10.6”. It’s still smaller than most ultrabooks, but it has a 3 x 2 screen ratio (new). Highest screen contrast on the market (a big deal in my opinion – even the Pro 1 has a great screen).

It is 800 grams. Remember that this is not an ARM tablet, it is an Intel Core i-powered machine, like an Ultrabook. Panay puts a Surface and a Macbook Air on a weighing scales:


He’s really pushing the “replace your laptop and tablet with Surface Pro 3” sales line. The new Core i7 is in this tablet. Thinnest machine of this kind, with 10% more performance than the Surface Pro 2. The device has a pressurised cavity to contain all of the pieces. Every tablet is custom machined to fit – allegedly.

He drops the tablet from head height to prove the build quality, despite being thinner.


He picks out a journalist with a Macbook and gives her the demo unit to keep. It was the one he just dropped.

Out comes the docking station – I wonder if it still scratches the surface of the docked … Surface. You can display to a 4K monitor.

Michael Goth (sp?) of Adobe is brought out to show off Photoshop on Surface Pro 3. He’s got a stylus in his hand. It seems that customers wanted Photoshop to take more advantage of touch and pen. He touts Creative Cloud’s advantage when it comes to speed of development. Some drawing and navigation is done.

Back to Panay to talk about the kickstand. To me, Surface has made a kickstand a mandatory feature of a tablet. He shows off the new angles. There is finally a fully adjustable full friction hinge, like in my €180 Yoga 8 Android tablet.


The myth of Surface lap-ability is brought out again. It does not work in my lap with the keyboard – I am not 7 foot tall. A new Surface Pro type keyboard. There is a new track pad – 60% bigger, better friction, etc. A necessary tool on a touch device without a mouse to point at stuff when doing productivity.

Try type with this sucker. Where are your hands? All T-rexed in front of your belly. The tablet will also move on the loose hinge while you type.


This is meant to stabilise the keyboard. It will not change a thing:


My hands will be curled up by my belly. The hinge will extend beyond my knees. The tablet will still move – too many points of contact. They should have gone the same way as Samsung and Dell with their pro tablets.

He moves on to the stylus to talk about pen and touch. A crossword demo. I wonder if the Surface stylus docks in the tablet … like in the Samsung ATIVs, the Toshiba i5 machine, or even my Yoga laptop? No? Ah – just what a business customer wants … hundreds of machines where users will be losing the peripheral because it does not securely dock – I do not count a magnet lock into the power supply port – that’s because I have to remove the very losable peripheral to power the tablet.

The Surface pen tip is closer to the “ink” because the glass is thinner. Writing has a low latency apparently. OneNote & SkyDrive is pushed (nothing new there – I live on that on my Yoga laptop). Apparently the stylus (Surface Pen) has a button that launches OneNote (1 click) and saves to SkyDrive (2 clicks). Now we get a OneNote demo that goes on for way too long.

Panay tries to sync a OneNote to the WSJ journalist that just got a free tablet. The camera pans to her, and she’s shaking her head!!!!! The camera gets off of her quickly.

Sales start at $799 in 3 configs, with i3, i5, and i7.

The press in attendance get an “on loan” unit with keyboard and pen.

Summary – Surface Pro 3 is a little bigger and thinner. They’ve a new keyboard double hinge to try solve a problem that Microsoft has created by not offering a real keyboard. They push productivity, but do not sell Surface through a channel so it can be sold to business by system integrators. It’s new Surface, same old Surface. I’ll stick to my 8” Android tablet for consumption and my Windows Yoga Pro laptop for productivity, thanks very much. I don’t work for the Wall Street Journal, so I don’t expect Panos Panay to give me a Surface for free 🙂

Oh – and where was the Surface Mini? It was a no-show. I think there might have been some serious re-thinking. A device of that size relies on “Metro” apps like no other, and there is still a dearth of quality apps. Plus – I wonder if the new ARM version of Windows will be compatible with current hardware … or will Windows RT be able to upgrade to the new OS?


Mary Jo Foley tweeted that the Surface Pro 3 will go on sale on June 20th (I’d say probably USA only at first). The batter life is up to 9 hours.



Mary Jo went on to tweet a price list. Note that the stylus is included with the Surface Pro 3. They keyboard is not included. This is the same as before. Note that the last minute leaks had the correct pricing. Those stories also talked of a limited edition Surface Pro 3, and the possibility of getting it in 3 non-black colours.

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System Center Update Catalogs for Third Party Products

Ever notice how many problems are caused by drivers or firmware?  Ever notice how often Adobe releases a new version of Reader or Flash to solve a security issue, and how many legacy versions are running on your network – thus making your Windows Updates process pretty irrelevant?  Ever wish you had a way to centrally deploy fixes for those problems?

One of the nice things about System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Essentials is that up can potentially distribute updates for just about anything.  For example, SCE 2010 has a wizard for adding catalogs for Dell, HP and Adobe products.  That means their system updates become something that can be distributed via Windows Updates!

Note: You would not want to do this for Hyper-V hosts – remember to treat them like change controlled mainframes.  Use your ability to filter update approvals using groups to control which machines will receive these updates automatically via Windows Update.

You are not limited to catalogs from the above companies.  You can even create your own catalog using the System Center Updates Publisher.  And some companies like IBM provide catalogs that you can add using their provided URLs.

Visio 2010 Add-Ins – Pay Attention System Center People!

You may have wondered how to crate pretty pictures to share on a big screen that depict some health information about stuff that you manage using System Center.  Here’s how …

I was mucking around with the Visio plug-ins for Operations Manager for the first time today, adding monitored objects from SCE 2010 (plus their health status) into Visio.  The cool thing with this is that it refreshes the objects’ health in Visio!  And then you can save your diagram into SharePoint 2010 with live health refreshing.  In other words, you can create nice and friendly views of the services that IT provides and share them with service owners and/or users via diagrams on SharePoint sites.


But it doesn’t stop there.

There are a lot of these plug-ins.  Why I’ve not heard/paid attention to most of these before, I have no idea.  There’s one for Exchange, allowing you a friendly view of your Exchange Server 2007 environment.  There is a cool one that drags in alerts from OpsMgr and update status from ConfigMgr if you are running a dynamic datacenter. 


Seriously, take a look at this stuff if you are running System Center, or if you’re a systems integrator looking for cool new upsell services.

System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 RTM

Microsoft announced last night that ConfigMgr (SCCM) 2007 R3 had RTM’d.  R3, like R2 before it, is not a service pack.  It is a new release level that requires new licensing (covered by software assurance).  The deployment will require an update, described in KB977384.  This hotfix is required for the following computers that are running System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2):

  • Primary and secondary site servers
  • Remote administrator console servers
  • Remote provider servers
  • Client computers

ConfigMgr 2007 R3 can be referred to as the power management release.  Steve Rachui of Microsoft goes into some depth on this in a blog post.  Long story short: You can audit and report on power utilisation and costs in your organisation.  You can identify waste using these reports.  Using collections, you can apply a power policy to Windows computers.  Then you can compare your earlier reports with new reports to see how and what you have saved.

As Steve notes, there are some other changes:

  • Delta AD Discovery: Changes are picked up instead of doing a full discovery.
  • Dynamic Collection Updating: One of the time consumers in new deployments is the time required for collection membership update intervals.  This new interval type is used in a few key scenarios where time is critical.  MS is recommending sparse usage.
  • Pre-Staged Media: This is aimed at organisations who offload OS deployment to the OEM.  Media can be created from your OSD and sent out to the likes of Dell who build your PCs OS in their factory.
  • Scalability: Up to 300,000 clients are supported in a hierarchy. 

Configuration Manager 2007 Service Pack 2 Released

You now have Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 support for ConfigMgr 2007 and 2007 R2.  Service Pack 2 has been released and adds a bunch of new functionality:

“Service Pack 2 for Configuration Manager 2007 delivers new platform support for Windows 7 client, Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2. In addition, Service Pack 2 delivers continued innovation with Intel vPro technology, support for Branch Cache enabled environments, and continued development for 64 bit architectures.

New Operating System Support

  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista Sp2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 SP2

New Features in Out of Band Management

In addition to providing feature parity with SP1 and AMT firmware versions 3.2.1, 4.0 and 5.0, the following new features are supported:

    • Wireless management with up to 8 wireless profiles
    • End point access control: 802.1x support
    • Audit logging
    • Support for different power states
    • Power control options at the collection level
    • Data storage
    • Scheduling configuration for in-band provisioning

Asset Intelligence Certificate Requirement Removal

Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 introduced Asset Intelligence v1.5. This version allowed customers to configure an online synchronization to ensure that their catalogue was up to date with the latest Microsoft inventory for both hardware and applications. This initial release required a certificate. With Service Pack 2, the requirement to have the certificate has been removed, so any customer can configure their Asset Intelligence capabilities to connect online and update their catalogue. Software Assurance is not required for this functionality.

64-bit Architecture Development

Service Pack 2 will also continue to deliver new support for x64 architectures, including the following:

  • X64 support for Operations Manager 2007 Client Agent
  • Update to Management Packs for 64-bit operating systems – SP2 will ship 64-bit performance counters (the management pack is a separate release)
  • Remote control support added for x64 XP and x64 Server 2003

Improved Client Policy Evaluation

  • Faster policy processing
  • More efficient software distribution configured to run at user logon

Branch Cache Support

Support for scenarios where Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 Client are present and Branch Cache is enabled”

Architecturally, the BranchCache support is quite a cool option.  Now you can start looking at the need for branch distribution points.  Secondary sites are probably still a requirement in bandwidth sensitive branch sites to restrict and control that management traffic in larger individual branch office deployments.

You’re also starting to see how the ConfigMgr team is paying attention to power at the desktop.  See what’s happening with the R3 release and you’ll see they are very serious about conserving power in the office.

System Center Essentials 2010 Beta

The beta (pre release testing) program of SCE 2010 has started.  SCE is the product that includes some of the key features of System Center Configuration Manager and Operations Manager in an integrated package.  Some of the new features included are:

  • Integrated server virtualization management support, built on VMM 2008 R2 technology, including easy template-based creation of new virtual servers and live migration
  • Adjusted licensing limits to allow for management of virtual servers
  • Rewritten setup for an easier, intuitive installation
  • Built-in automatic Microsoft Update subscription maintenance
  • Provided flexible computer grouping
  • Added additional software distribution target criteria

You can read that 1st one as VMM 2008 R2 integration.

ConfigMgr Out of Band Management

Microsoft has published the first part of an article on out of band management using System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

“Out of Band Management is a management technology that does not rely on an operating system to manage target machines. Currently, both Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) and DMTF’s Desktop and mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH) support Out of Band Management. In ConfigMgr 2007 SP1, we have integrated AMT technology into the product – this becomes the so called Out of Band Management feature …”

Have a read of it.  Once you do, you’ll see the power that can be in the hands of administrators.  This helps you with branch office infrastructure cost optimisations no end.  Zero-touch management and deployment is here and it’s for real.