The Microsoft Surface 3 is a 10.8 inch Windows tablet with an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Cherry Trail processor, a 1920 x 1280 pixel display, and support for an optional Surface Pen and optional keyboard cover.

Microsoft sells the tablet for $499, but a little over a year after launching the Surface 3 it looks like stocks dwindling: most models are out of stock at the Microsoft Store, and the company tells that it’ll stop producing the tablet by the end of the year.

Maybe that means there’s a new model on the way… or maybe not.

surface 3_01

The Surface 3 may be the cheapest tablet Microsoft makes, but priced at $499 and up it’s actually pretty expensive for a Windows tablet with an Intel Atom processor.

The point might be moot though: Intel is discontinuing its Atom chip lineup. If Microsoft is planning to launch a Surface 4 tablet it’ll most likely feature a different processor such as an Intel Core M chip or maybe an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor that’s part of the Apollo Lake family of low-power processors (which are sort of cousins to the soon-to-be-late Atom processors).

It’s also theoretically possible that Microsoft could discontinue the entry-level Surface tablet altogether, while continuing to offer the larger, higher-performance (and higher-priced) Surface Pro tablets.

The original Surface tablet and the Surface 2 both featured ARM-based processors and ran Windows RT software at a time when that was still a thing. They were more than just low-cost alternatives to the Surface Pro. They were also showcases for Windows on a device with an ARM-based processor.

When Microsoft launched the Surface 3 in 2015, the company put another nail in the coffin of Windows RT by launching a model with an Intel chip and the full Windows 10 operating system: It could do just about anything that a Surface Pro could… only it would do it more slowly.

It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft thinks there’s enough demand for a low-ish cost Surface tablet to justify introducing a Surface 4… or maybe the company will take a different approach by launching a whole new product category, like a Surface Phone.

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