Microsoft Unveils Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 Tablets
Even though Microsoft wrote down the value of their Surface tablet inventory by $900 million back in July and slashed the retail price of their tablet offerings to try to increase sales, they haven’t given up on their entry into the tablet market. On Monday, Microsoft launched their second salvo in the tablet market by unveiling their new and improved Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.
The Surface 2 will start at $449 with hard drive offerings of 32 GB and 64 GB available. The Surface Pro 2 will have a multitude of offerings that start at $899. The Surface Pro 2 that comes with 4 GB of RAM will have 64 GB and 128 GB hard drives while the 8 GB of RAM version of the tablet will come with your choice of 256 GB and 512 GB hard drives.
The Surface Pro 2 is being treated as a sort of flagship offering by Microsoft. Most of their announcement event was focused on promoting their ultrabook masquerading as a tablet. Microsoft tablet division boss, Panos Panay, said that the Pro 2’s graphics saw a 50% performance boost and a 20% overall performance improvement over the original Surface Pro. They’re also saying that there have been improvements to the tablet’s speakers and kickstand.
To that end, Microsoft showed off the gaming capabilities of the Pro 2. They showed off the Pro 2 playing World of Warcraft and Portal 2. So if Microsoft was playing Portal 2 on the Surface Pro 2 but only played WoW1, then that’s Half-Life 3 confirmed to be announced this week.
The Surface 2 proper hasn’t been forgotten, though it is slightly neglected compared to the Pro 2. There’s an increase in CPU speed while Wi-Fi and memory speeds have doubled according to Panay. The Surface 2 gets an estimated battery life increase of 25% to 12 hours.
In addition to the new tablets, Microsoft unveiled a bunch of new peripherals for the Surface 2 & Pro 2. The most interesting is the Surface Power Cover which has a 30 watt-hour battery. On the Pro 2, that extends battery life to over 10 hours. It’s priced at $200.
If you’d rather turn your tablet into a desktop replacement, there’s a Surface Docking Station which adds three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, support for two monitors, an ethernet port, audio in and out plugs and, of course, power. Like the Power Cover, the Docking Station is $200 and will be available in 2014.
There will also be new Surface Type and Surface Touch Covers that are thinner than the original released last year. Both are about one millimetre thinner than the first gen model and are backlit with automatic dimming to save battery life. Microsoft is promising better input on both keyboard covers.
Preorders for the Surface 2 line of tablets started yesterday with delivery of the products and retail launch on October 22nd.
While it’s all well and good that Microsoft is trying to pitch the Surface line of tablets as a bit more premium, I’m not sure that Microsoft is selling what people want from a tablet. I get the impression from friends who have tablets that they are more interested in social network, casual web browsing and watching videos. Making this a gaming tablet or one that can run Microsoft Office edges it towards being a niche product. Microsoft wants the Surface to be bigger than the iPad but they just don’t know how to compete with that brand. Until they do, they’ll be making massive inventory write-downs next year.