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A Tablet Too Late: Microsoft’s New Surface Greets a Slowing Market

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tabletPhotograph by Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Microsoft has never been able to get its Surface to muster much excitement, even as tablets from its competitors were taking over the world. Now it’s back with a new version of the Surface, and the challenge seems doubly difficult given that people appear to be losing their general enthusiasm for tablets.

Before Tuesday’s product launch, Microsoft was rumored to be working on both a smaller and a larger version of the Surface. Smaller tablets have become increasingly popular and now make up more than half of tablet sales, according to market-research group IDC. But Microsoft decided instead to go after the big, untapped part of the market. The Surface Pro 3, introduced at an event in New York, has a 12-inch screen that invites comparisons to smaller laptops (such as Apple’s 11-inch MacBook) rather than rival tablets (like Apple’s iPad). Oversize tablets make up a little more than 1 percent of the market to date.