Overview of Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Windows app stores

Published on Nov 16, 2015 in App Development
microsoft surface pro

Since the creation of the Surface series in 2012, Microsoft has been trying to convince consumers to definitely use tablets instead of laptops.

Until now, last year’s Surface Pro 3 was the best representation on that idea, but the new Surface Pro 4 could really make the difference. However, the Pro 4 is extremely similar to its predecessor in design, appearance, and functionality, being just slightly lighter and thinner than the Surface Pro 3, and with a somewhat larger display.

Nevertheless, what Microsoft has improved is the way you interact with the device. The two main steps up are the new Type Cover keyboard and the Surface Pen. The bad news is that the Type Cover keyboard isn’t included with the Surface, so if you want it (and you will for sure), you will have to spend $130 extra.

The new Type Cover has completely redesigned keys and a brand-new trackpad 40% larger and smoother than in the previous model. The keys are raised and separated like on a standard laptop keyboard, which makes them much better to type on than the flat, condensed keys of earlier Type Covers. Though they still don’t provide the same experience as a true laptop keyboard, they have nice travel. The new trackpad is fast and smooth to scroll with, and the larger size makes it easier to do all the Windows 10 multi-finger gestures has to offer. Yet, compared to any Mac laptop or even Microsoft’s Surface Book it is still very small. But as the Pro 4 device is a touchscreen, you can always interact directly with the screen.

microsoft surface pro

The second major improvement comes with the new Surface Pen, which is included when you buy the Pro 4. The Surface Pen has 1,024 levels of pressure and allows you to quickly take notes, write, draw and erase on the display. The new Surface Pen is bigger than the previous version and has a magnetic part to attach it to the device’s side.

Surface Pro 4 technical specs

The Surface Pro 4 features sixth-generation Intel Core chips. The basic model, priced at $899, includes a Core M chip and 4GB of RAM. More expensive versions have Core i5 or Core i7 processors and up to 16GB of RAM. Performance and battery life are similar to the Surface Pro 3, lasting around 5 hours.

About the OS, the Surface Pro 4 comes with Windows 10, which was launched earlier this summer. While Windows 10 is better than the criticized Windows 8.1, it is still a work in progress and Microsoft still needs to fix some bugs and issues.

microsoft surface pro


The Surface Pro 4 is indeed a Windows 10 PC in a portable package, but it presents some trouble when trying to use it on your lap, a train or an airplane.

Summing up, though it is very compact, lighter and thinner than the Pro 3, the Surface Pro 4 is made to be used on a desk, more like a laptop than like a tablet. Even if Microsoft’s aim is to convince you to use the Surface Pro 4 as your definitive choice and forget laptops, it is still too big and uncomfortable to use in some environments, and features like the detachable keyword that falls down every time you pick up the device don’t help at all.

Its size is more that of an actual notebook that you have to hold with both hands; the device is awkward to handle specially with one hand, because the full pack is too weak due to the separable keyboard that you have to buy apart, probably because Microsoft wants you to remember that “this-is-a-tablet-but-not-really”. Another of the cons of the Surface Pro 4 is that it is uncomfortable to use in tablet mode (like the Pro 3), mainly because specific tablet apps are still lacking, for most of them are designed for desktops.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a big tablet that can turn into something similar to a laptop when you need it, Surface Pro 4 can be a good choice. But if you want a laptop, buy a laptop, and if you want a tablet, buy a tablet.

microsoft surface pro 4

Windows app stores analysis and development possibilities

By Windows version

Microsoft encourages developers to create apps for Windows 8.1: in March 2015, approximately 93% of Windows Store downloads came from customers using Windows 8.1 and 80% for Windows Phone.

This trend has been steady over the last two quarters. Besides, the code is designed to easily transfer over to Windows 10, so enabling your app for 8.1 on any device will let you easily convert it to a universal project and manage one set of source code to target both Windows and Windows Phone. This way, you’ll be able to adopt on Windows 10 more quickly and gain an early advantage in the Store with apps ready to download upon release. The company also recommends developers to register for Windows Insider Program to gain early insight to app developer tools.

microsoft surface pro

By type of device

You can more than double your potential market by optimizing your app to run on low-memory devices, because 67% of app downloads come from them. We consider as low-memory devices those handsets with 256MB or less of RAM for Windows Phone 7.x; for Windows 8.x, devices with 512MB or less of RAM. Another option is to create a version with lower memory requirements to offer alongside your primary app.

By category

Games are still the most popular category for all devices, along with Tools & Productivity, Music & Videos, and Social. If you’re a game developer, think about evolving your Windows Phone app to support universal Windows apps and take advantage of the download potential on Windows PCs.

In addition, Games and Tools & Productivity are also the categories with highest incremental download opportunity, which represents total downloads versus total available apps in that category. If your goal is to reach the maximum number of downloads possible, analyze these categories to check which one offers you the highest potential.

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By market and language

Windows Store is available in 242 markets, and Windows Phone Store in 191 markets. The United States continue to be the market with most downloads on both platforms, but other markets keep on growing quickly. Right now, Windows Store is first to bring carrier billing to China, India and Brazil.

Other countries like France, United Kingdom, Mexico and Russia show an increase of downloads as well. Always keep on mind your target and think that your apps may have features specifically appropriate to these markets. As you know, the first rule in app developing is to know your users.

About the language of the apps, while English is of course the most used one, by offering your apps in English you will only reach 16% of Windows Phone customers, but supporting the top 10 languages you will get to 65% of total users. That’s due to the addition of carrier billing in India, Brazil and Vietnam, which resulted in an augmentation of in-app purchase downloads in these markets. As a result, languages like Brazilian Portuguese and Hindi are growing by 2% and 3%, respectively.

Revenues by source

55% of the revenues come from in-app purchase, 31% from advertising and 14% from paid apps.

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