Two devices from Microsoft have had everyone running around in circles since we heard about them: Surface Pro 5 and Surface Phone. While we maintain that Surface Phone won’t come out until Redstone 3 is released this fall, we could see Surface Pro 5 come within the next month or so.
One of the signs that this might happen is that the Microsoft online store doesn’t carry Surface Pro 3 anymore. Around the middle of 2016, it was confirmed that Surface 3 production would cease by the end of the year, so that’s understandable.
At the time, sources also told ZDNet that Microsoft had postponed the release of Redstone 2 so it could release “big bang” Surface hardware at the same time. We now know that Redstone 2 is Windows 10 Creators Update, which we know is coming very soon, possibly at the end of March or in April at the very latest.
That definitely points to a simultaneous or back-to-back release for Creators Update and Surface Pro 5.
Another clue is that Microsoft wanted Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors on the Surface Pro 5. Those had a release date of January 3, 2017, which has come and gone.
That means, everything that Surface Pro 5 needed for its release, including Windows 10 Creators Update, is now coming together in a matter of weeks.
What about the highly anticipated new iPad Pro for 2017?
Rhoda Alexander, Director Tablets and PCs, at IHS Markit, in a phone interview with Fortune’s Brooke Crothers, said that the new iPad Pro is likely to make its appearance around March-April. However, other sources say that the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models may not come out until May-June.
Either way, both the Surface Pro 5 and the new iPad Pro line are expected to come out in the next three months.
But how do Surface Pro 5 and iPad Pro 2017 fare against each other?
The Surface Pro 5 will obviously have the latest Kaby Lake, while the A10X is expected to power the 2017 iPad Pro. That’s arguably a big advantage for Microsoft.
Another edge that the Surface tablet will have is its 12.3-inch UHD/4K screen, which the iPad Pro won’t be able to match, pixel for pixel.
There’s also a possibility that Surface Pro 5 will ship with Surface Dial, the new input device that Microsoft unveiled at the launch of the Surface Studio PC. No such accessory for the new iPad Pro other than an Apple Pencil and a smart keyboard, which Microsoft is likely to match with its own stylus and keyboard case.
The USB-C port on the new Surface device can also be considered an advantage, depending on the types of accessories you own. If you’re already an Apple fan with a bunch of compatible gear, you’ll probably be happy with the Lightning port on the new iPad.
Besides this, the Surface device is also expected to give the user more battery life.
But we believe the biggest advantage that any Microsoft device will have, moving forward, is Windows 10. There are already several new features on Windows 10 Creators Update that are game-changers, such as 3D, gaming mode and lots more that we’ve seen over the past several Insider preview builds of Windows 10. With Redstone 3, things will get even better.
As we’ve said before, Surface Pro 5 and Surface Phone are both critical to Microsoft’s devices line up for 2017. It’s been a while since we had a tablet refresh from Microsoft, and that’s partly the reason why there’s frustration around the release date.
As a result of that, unfortunately, a lot of people might actually end up buying the new iPad Pro if it comes out before Surface Pro 5.
We’re sensing that frustration with the Surface Phone as well, but unless it has something unique to offer, like the ability to bring a seamless desktop experience into the realm of mobile, it won’t have as big an impact.
And that’s something Microsoft can’t afford to ignore just because there’s a massive amount of potential user interest in the device.