What Microsoft is delivering with the Surface 3 Pro tablet is a device IT departments can show end users when they ask for a MacBook Air. Apart from a few well defined niches, such as the video editor who runs Apple's Final Cut Pro and perhaps full-blown desktop publishing, for the majority of users Macs and PCs are more-or-less interchangeable.
The problem for IT departments which have standardised on a Windows infrastructure, is that they may lack the tools and expertise to deploy Macs to large numbers of users. Apple has been very good at creating a need for its products. Its branding arguably speaks more about aspiration and style than technical merit or value for money.
Today, business users can run Macs or PCs. But even though software like MS Office, is available on the Mac, MacOS is a different platform and there will inevitably be inconsistencies in the way the Mac and PC versions behave.
So with the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft can, for the first time, give IT managers a genuine alternative for users whose primary reason for wanting a MacBook Air is because PCs look so ugly.
Now given that it is lighter than a MacBook Air, more full-featured than an iPad, the Surface Pro 3 looks compelling from an enterprise perspective.
Commenting on the launch, Forrester analyst J.P Gownder, said: "If there is a downside for enterprise buyers, it lies in infrastructure: As with all Windows 8.1 devices, System Center 2012 R2 is required to truly enjoy the benefits of the new Surface. But workers will bring the new Surface into the office via BYOD. This means that consumer marketing is key."
One can easily see how a savvy IT manager could standardise on the Surface Pro 3 as the corporate laptop, and give users the option of having either the free company Surface Pro 3, or buying their own Mac.
The Surface Pro 3 is certainly heavier than the iPad and Android tablets, but through System Center, Microsoft is building in mobile device management. So compared to the iPad, the enterprise will not need third party MDM software. It will be interesting to see where Google takes its acquisition of Divide. Chances are, Google will adds an integrated cross-platform MDM product to its Google Enterprise portfolio.