Microsoft may be clearing the way for a new Surface tablet

surface 3, computing, microsoft
Microsoft Press
Is Microsoft’s Surface 3 tablet on the way out? That seems to be the case, as the Redmond, Washington-based company recently confirmed that it will no longer manufacture the Windows 10 device by the end of this year. Current inventory is extremely limited, as Microsoft’s online storefront shows that only the model with 64GB of storage, 2GB of memory, and 4G LTE connectivity costing $500 is currently in stock. The other three listed models simply have the “email me when available” option.

The Surface 3 tablet hit the streets on May 5, 2015. Unlike the first two generations, this model sports an x86-based Atom processor from Intel and the full-blown version of Windows 10. The first two models in the Surface tablet series have ARM-based processors from Nvidia and rely on Microsoft’s ugly stepchild, the Windows RT platform. That operating system was quietly discontinued and replaced by Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform initiative spanning mobile, desktop, and console.

Microsoft’s recent statement seems to suggest that if a Surface 4 tablet is on the way, it may not arrive until sometime in the beginning of 2017. That theory backs up recent rumors that the other half of Anniversary Update, dubbed as “Redstone 2” (or RS2), would arrive in spring 2017 with features supported by new devices. This group of fresh hardware supposedly includes new Surface Pro and Surface Book units.

Still, the Surface 3 tablet is now over a year old, and by the time spring 2017 rolls around, the device will be nearly two years old. If Microsoft had a Surface 4 ready to roll out to the masses, the launch would definitely be prior to next spring. One theory could be that Microsoft plans to discontinue the Surface tablet line altogether, offering only the Pro and Book models from here on out. After all, standalone tablets are seemingly becoming less popular as 2-in-1s get more powerful and less expensive.

Another theory could be that Microsoft is working closely with Intel to build a new Surface tablet using a different processor. Although Intel will reportedly continue to ship 2015’s Atom x5 and Atom x7 “Cherry Trail” processors for the foreseeable future, the Atom line has come to a complete stop. The company is reportedly now working with original equipment manufacturers to produce products based on its low-power “Apollo Lake” Celeron and Pentium processors, and its latest Core M chips for higher-performance devices.

The latest Surface tablet on the market sports a 10.8-inch screen with 1,920 x 1,280 resolution and 10-point touch input. The tablet is backed by a quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor clocked at 1.6GHz (2.4GHz burst), 2GB or 4GB of system memory, and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. It’s also packed with a full-size USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, a microSD card reader, and a connector for the keyboard cover (sold separately). Connectivity options include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0.

Microsoft’s limited supply could mean that the Surface 3 is highly popular, or it could mean that Microsoft has simply slowed down the manufacturing process to focus on a newer model. Other retailers seem rather low in stock as well, with Best Buy offering only two models online. Best Buy actually has the 128GB model on sale, down to $450 from the original $600 pricetag. Clearing stock for new models maybe?

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