HP Launches Surface Pro 3 Attack With Windows-Based HP Pro x2 612 Tablet-Notebook

Hewlett-Packard is upping the ante in the battle to grab share in the intensely competitive notebook tablet market with its first Windows-based offering targeted squarely at Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3.

Solution providers say HP has trumped Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 with its HP Pro x2 612, a full-featured Windows 8.1/Windows 7-based notebook with a detachable tablet screen.

[Related: Microsoft Partners: Surface 3 Is Impressive, But Too Expensive As Laptop Replacement ]

The HP Pro x2 612 features a 12.5-inch screen compared with a 12-inch Surface Pro 3 screen and comes with an HP Power Keyboard that gives the product 14 hours of battery life, compared with nine hours of battery life for the Surface Pro 3. HP is slated to reveal pricing of the system as it gets closer to its scheduled ship date in early September.

Some sources close to HP expect the entry-level HP Pro x2 612, which is based on the Intel Core i3 and i5 with options for Intel Celeron and Pentium, to be priced at close to several hundred dollars below the entry-level Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Microsoft is selling an Intel Core i3-power Surface Pro 3 for $799 and a Core i5 model for $899. A keyboard for the Surface Pro 3 will cost users another $130.

The HP Power Keyboard redefines the notebook tablet category with a full-size keyboard that includes an embedded battery that delivers six hours of battery power in addition to the eight-hour battery in the system. What’s more, the keyboard features VGA, RJ-45, two USB 3.0 ports and a DisplayPort.

But the biggest trump card in the battle against Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is HP’s tens of thousands of U.S. solution providers and system integrators that can sell the product.

HP’s Pro x2 612 will be widely available through distributors for solution providers to sell, integrate, service and support. Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is still only available from select retailers, Microsoft itself and 10 Microsoft Large Account Resellers.

"Microsoft continues to hold Surface hostage to a select few," said Majdi "Mike" Daher, CEO of Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Wash., No. 91 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list. "We can’t sell it and, if we can’t sell it, why would we promote it?"

Daher said it is critical that system integrators such as Denali, a Microsoft and HP partner that has its own multimillion-dollar mobile device integration center in Plano, Texas, have alternatives to the Surface Pro 3 — such as the HP Pro x2 612. "We have applied to sell Surface but so far we have been locked out," he said. "Right now we are being asked to create an ecosystem of support for the Surface product, but we can’t sell it. It doesn’t make any sense."

One top executive for a regional solution provider, who did not want to be identified, said he sees channel-savvy HP eating Microsoft’s lunch with the HP Pro x2 612. "The issue is Microsoft thinks it can go it alone, but you need feet on the street to get customers excited about a product like this," he said. "Customers still like someone to meet and consult with them on what they need to be successful."

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Kris Rogers, senior vice president of partner and product management at PCM, a $1.5 billion solution provider, applauded HP for delivering a breakthrough product. She said the notebook tablet form factor is taking the market by storm.

"Creating a detachable two-in-one form factor is the best of both worlds for a business traveler," said Rogers. "I am very happy that HP has an offering like this because there is only upside with it. HP is on the money with the form factor and features. You are going to hear a lot of excitement from HP channel partners. This is going to be one of the strongest growth opportunities going forward."

Enterprise and SMB customers alike are craving a product that can act as both a notebook and a tablet, said Rogers. "From a knowledge worker perspective. the notebook is still required," she said. "This form factor allows customers to leverage the capabilities of both a notebook and a tablet."

PCM continues to see strong growth with HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, said Rogers. "Folks that thought the notebook and desktop business was dead were really wrong," she said. "It may be a function of Windows 8 refreshes or the strength of mobile products. But we are experiencing good growth with HP on the PPS side."

HP’s lucrative HP PartnerOne channel program also is paying off for partners, said Rogers. "From my perspective, HP continues to evolve," she said. "HP provides a very competitive offering for the channel. You have got a robust portfolio of products and a very aggressive partner program with good channel engagement."

Daron Chalk, worldwide category manager for Windows Business Hybrids for HP, downplayed the battle with Microsoft Surface Pro 3. He sees the HP Pro x2 612 targeting mainstream business-class users with Microsoft Surface Pro 3 focused on a less-demanding customer.

"When we sat down to design this product we were looking at designing a true notebook replacement, specifically targeting mainstream business enterprise-class users," said Chalk. "We targeted knowledge workers, the hallway warriors who need a lot of speed, flexibility and security. We really wanted to design it as a notebook first with the flexibility of a tablet. We didn’t want customers to give up the productivity and connectivity and the things they really value and enjoy in an enterprise-class notebook."