Is it time for Microsoft to kill the Surface Pro brand?

satya nadella

In less than 24 hours, Microsoft is expected to be unveiling a new Surface Pro in Shanghai.  This new Surface has already been leaked by the tech media, bringing new colours and a slightly refreshed design. It won’t bear the Surface Pro 5 name if rumours are going to be accurate, but it will be a Surface Pro, and it’ll still be the next-gen Surface Pro that’s replacing the Surface Pro 4. While the Surface Pro family of devices have been especially fine ultrabook replacement devices (with some exceptions) from the Surface Pro 3 onwards, the Surface Family has seemingly outgrown the need for a designated “Pro” device.

Many have the misconception that Microsoft’s Surface Pro is so titled because of it is targeted at the professional market. This makes sense, tech companies like often title their products in such a way  – like the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. In the case of Microsoft’s Surface Pro, that’s not entirely accurate.

The Surface Pro originally started as a counterpart to the Surface RT line of devices. Much like the original Surface RT’s name was “Surface with Windows RT“, the Surface Pro was designated “Surface with Windows 8 Pro” – a mouthful to be sure. While most people now attach the concept of a Surface Pro with a device for professionals, the Surface’s suffix was originally related to the version of Windows that powered the device.

Now, as Microsoft has moved on from Surface RT and Surface Pro brands exclusively to a whole new family of devices including the Surface Book, Studio, and Laptop, perhaps it’s time to look at the Surface Pro’s name again. Microsoft has adopted a strategy of naming its Surfaces not by their OS version, but by something unique they bring to the Surface line. The Surface Book, Studio and Laptop names make sense when you look at it from that point of view, but the Surface Pro’s brand name does not.

It’s increasingly clear that the Surface Pro is no longer the only Surface device which makes sense for professional purchasers. While this was true in the Surface RT and Surface Pro world, it no longer makes sense in a world where more powerful and –I daresay–more traditionally professional Surfaces exist.  That doesn’t devalue the Surface Pro by any means, it is the definitive Surface in this writer’s opinion. For many, it is also the cheapest, most customisable, and most flexible Surface Microsoft currently sells.

In theory, Microsoft could simply rename the Surface Pro to the Surface. Apple has done it before, replacing its quintessential Macbook Air with a simple “Macbook” and its iPad Airs with a device simply known as an “iPad”. This could be problematic, with people already associating the “adjectiveless” Surface with Windows RT or some other nerfed version of Windows.

Microsoft is already reported to be taking steps cleaning up the device branding, aligning the naming of the Surface Pro devices with that of the other Surfaces by removing version numbers and simply naming tomorrow’s upcoming Surface just a numberless, simple Surface Pro– but it doesn’t go far enough with the changes.

The Surface Pro is a vestigial remnant of a time when Microsoft identified its Surfaces by the branding of Windows they came from. As the Surface Portfolio has grown over time, the name doesn’t seem to fit anymore. All Microsoft’s current Surface devices are for pros. They all run Windows 10 Pro –-one way or another. When every other device has your titular USP, being called the Surface Pro just seems like the equivalent of being handed the participation ribbon.