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Kicking off Microsoft’s Surface event in New York City this morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a statement that would have seemed odd without knowing the context.

“We clearly are not interested in building refrigerator and toasters,” he said.

SurfacePro3It was a reference to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s April 2012 remark about the challenges of making hybrid laptop and tablet devices. “Anything can be forced to converge but the problem is the products are about tradeoffs. You begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn’t please anyone.”

But with the new Surface Pro 3, the Redmond company is clearly feeling like it has overcome the challenge — coming up with a device that can work as well as a laptop as it does as a traditional tablet.

The old adage is that Microsoft doesn’t really get a product right until Version 3, and that may well be the case here based on what we’re seeing today. One big question is whether the Surface Pro 3 will appeal to corporate IT buyers, providing them an opportunity to save money by giving users one device for mobile productivity, rather than both a tablet and laptop.

screenshot_10The device, unveiled this morning, adds new features including: a full-friction kickstand that adds many more angles for users; a new way of attaching the Touch Cover keyboard to the bottom of the screen for additional stability; a better aspect ratio for using the device in portrait mode; and a neat trick that lets the user open OneNote by clicking the Surface Pro pen.

Nadella said the idea is to “design and build a device that takes the best of the tablet and the laptop and enables any individual to be able to read and to be able to create and write; allows you to watch a movie and make a movie; enjoy art and create art. That was the motivation for the Surface line, and today we have a major step forward on that dream.”

Panos Panay, the executive in charge of the Surface team, noted during his presentation that 96 percent of people who own an iPad also own a laptop. That’s the opportunity that Microsoft is trying to capitalize on with the revamped Surface Pro.

One surprise this morning is that the company didn’t unveil the Surface Mini that was widely expected to be announced at the event. The company had strongly hinted at the possibility in its media invitation for the event. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet says the Surface Mini appears to have been delayed, offering several theories about the cause.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is available for pre-order starting tonight, hitting stores in June, priced from $799 to $1,949.

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