Microsoft announced a new tablet computer at an event on Tuesday in New York. As its name indicates, the Surface Pro 3 is the third in a line of devices that run full-blown Windows 8, making them newfangled PCs as much as iPad rivals. (I gave a lukewarm review to the first version, and my colleague Jared Newman wrote more enthusiastically about the second one.)
But in a sense, the road to the Surface Pro 3 really goes back to 2000, when Microsoft unveiled a pen-oriented portable computer it called the Tablet PC. Unless you want to start counting in 1990, when it began work on something called Windows for Pen Computing.
No matter how you do the math, the company got interested in the idea of a portable computer with a touchscreen and a pen many, many years before Apple kicked off the modern era of…
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