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Will Linux support Microsoft’s Surface 3 tablet in the upcoming version 4.8 release?

linux kernel driver touchscreen controller surface 3 microsoft feature v2
A driver for the Surface 3 touchscreen controller is expected to be made available in the final release of the 4.8 Linux kernel, allowing users to remove Windows 10 and install a Linux-based platform like Ubuntu on Microsoft’s 10.8-inch tablet. The news arrives by way of Dmitry Torokhov who wrote to Linux creator Linus Torvalds that the driver for the Surface 3 was now ready to be merged into the Linux kernel as promised.

Linus Torvalds announced on Sunday that the merge window for the Linux kernel 4.8 release candidate had finally closed. He said it would be one of the larger releases as of late, with 20 percent of the patch consisting of documentation updates thanks to converting DRM/media documentation from DocBook to the Sphinx documentation format.

“If you ignore the documentation format change, things look fairly regular, with about 60 percent of the non-documentation diffs being drivers (GPU, networking, media, sound, etc.) and about 15 percent being arch updates (ARM, PowerPC and x86 dominate, but there’s MIPS and s390 too,” he said. “The rest is spread out — core networking, tooling (mainly perf), include files, core kernel, VFS and low-level filesystems (XFS stands out).”

If you’re not familiar with the Surface 3 hardware, the device has a starting price of $500 and goes up from there based on the amount of storage/memory customers choose along with optional 4G LTE connectivity. However, overall the device consists of a quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (1.6GHz, 2.4GHz), a 3.5MP camera on the front, an 8MP camera on the back, 64GB of storage, and 2GB of system memory, or 128GB of storage and 4GB of system memory.

If that’s not enough space for you, the Surface 3 comes packed with a MicroSD card reader for even more storage. There’s a Mini DisplayPort jack too so that customers can hook the device up to a larger, external monitor. The included full-size USB 3.0 port can be used for an external drive, a mouse, or a full-size keyboard if customers don’t want to use the $130 Surface 3 Type Cover keyboard (sold separately).

Microsoft launched the Surface 3 tablet on May 5, 2015. However, the company confirmed back in June that it will no longer manufacture Surface 3 devices as of the end of December 2016. That said, Microsoft is expected to launch a Surface 4 tablet in the spring of 2017 alongside the release of Windows 10 Redstone 2, the second half of Microsoft’s big Redstone update that’s currently rolling out to the masses as the Anniversary Update.

In addition to the touchscreen controller driver for Surface 3, Dmitry Torokhov also supplied a driver for the Pegasus Mobile NoteTaker tablet, a driver for Atmel capacitive touch buttons, drivers for the Raydium I2C touchscreen controllers, and a PowerKey driver for the HISI 65xx system on a chip (SoC). The input system also received a few updates and fixes.

There’s speculation that the final release of Linux kernel 4.8 should run amazingly well on the Atom-based Surface 3 tablet, even better than Microsoft’s own Windows 10 platform. However, this won’t be the first time we’ve seen Linux running on Microsoft-branded hardware, as the Surface Pro 3 was caught a few years ago using Ubuntu Gnome 14.10 Beta 1 via a docking station and a flash drive. The Surface Pro 3 was launched in June 2014.

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