Inside The Design Of The Microsoft Surface 3 — The Company’s Latest Laptop … – Forbes

The Microsoft Surface isn’t the first device to straddle the line between a tablet and a laptop—Microsoft itself first toyed with touchscreen tablet Windows PCs way back in the early 2000s—but it may be the most interesting from a design perspective. Whereas other convertible tablets tend to be traditional-looking PCs that take their tablet bona fides from gimmicks such as pop-off keyboards or rotating screens, the Surface product line was designed from the ground up to serve as a not-quite-a-tablet-not-quite-a-laptop hybrid that aims to borrow the best from both worlds. From the tablet side of the family: A high degree of portability and a decent touchscreen. From the PC parent: A reasonably fast processor, a snap-in keyboard with actual tactile clicks, and access to the nearly infinite supply of Windows software.

To get a sense of how this hybrid product was designed, I spoke to Ralf Groene, creative director of Microsoft Surface, about the decisions that went into crafting the latest Surface model: The Surface 3 (a cheaper, thinner, not-quite-as-powerful iteration on the already-out-there Surface Pro 3).

Overall Design:
“It really is just a scaled down version of Surface Pro 3. Surface 3 is built with the same high-end materials, but is slightly smaller, more portable, and even more affordable. It’s a lot like how really high-end luxury cars are the first to use cutting edge technology before it trickles down to the mid-range vehicles.”

“With Surface Pro 3, we gave people infinite kickstand angles, which received positive feedback while also giving us a chance to observe what angles people use most often. We found there were three distinct angles people use: 23 degrees for viewing content on a desk or table, 42 degrees for use on the lap, and 60 degrees for drawing or writing with Surface Pen. While we would have loved to include an infinite kickstand on Surface 3, we opted for the three-angle hinge so we could make the device as thin as possible while still giving people the necessary angles.”

“With this iteration of Surface, we moved the Microsoft Mark to the back because Surface 3 encapsulates everything Microsoft has to offer: Skype, Office, and all of Microsoft’s other services. The four squares remain the same regardless of position, which was important to us since it’s designed to be used in both portrait and landscape mode. No matter which way you hold it, the logo remains true. The choice to make the logo out of mirrored material is because it reflects its environment by picking up the natural surroundings, a homage to Surface’ adaptability.

The way we place the new logo is unique, as well. We scan each individual kickstand with a special optical machine. Based on those measurements, we use a laser to etch out the four squares where the mirrored logo will be inserted via a specialized robot. The whole process is custom machine-to-cut so the logo is perfectly placed and retains its reflective principals.”

“As we continued to build devices and tinker with designs, we mastered the ability to cut the Gorilla Glass and created a slit where the screen meets the casing so both speakers face the person using the device.”

“The Longo Fold”:
“You’ll notice that our Type Cover folds up into the bottom bezel of Surface 3 using magnets to stabilize the device on your lap. Most people don’t know this, but we call it the Longo Fold internally after Microsoft Mechanical Engineer, Tom Longo, thought it up during Surface Pro 3 development. It’s a simple, yet important design element that we had to carry over from Surface Pro 3 to Surface 3.” 


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