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Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 launch triggered a discussion about the nature of tablets, laptops and whatever spaces exist between these categories.

It’s a discussion worth having. We need to think more about why we make certain decisions about the technologies we buy and use.

Technically a Surface is a tablet. That’s how Microsoft pitches them in its marketing. Yet most Surfaces leave a shop or online store along with a keyboard. Usually the official Microsoft Surface keyboard. At this point, they become something else. That something is closer to a laptop than a tablet.

Has anyone seen a Surface Pro without a keyboard?

If you have any numbers on this I’d be interested to hear what proportion sells with or without a keyboard.

When I got my first iPad, I ordered a keyboard within days of receiving the tablet. At the time I saw a keyboard as the route to productivity. Since then my iPad keyboard has sat in a cupboard gathering dust. It still gets used, but rarely with the iPad and not in the last six months.

I’m writing this on my iPad while sitting on the sofa. I often write stories on the iPad in cafés. The on-screen keyboard isn’t perfect, but that’s not important. What I lose from not being able to touch type, I gain in portability and mobility from working with a pure tablet. It has become natural.

On the other hand, working on a Surface Pro 3 without a keyboard is unnatural. As unnatural as working on a laptop without using a keyboard.

Of course, that may change over time, just as the way I work with an iPad has changed. But I don’t think so, I think the Surface belongs in a different category to the iPad. The distinction between the two may be slight, but it’s real.