25 September 2013

Microsoft Unveils Surface 2, Surface Pro Tablets

Microsoft unveiled its new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets on Monday, adding extended battery life, screen improvements and other features while retaining the trademark design of its first-generation Surface products.

The Surface Pro 2 is aimed at professionals who want the power of a laptop in a tablet device. The Pro 2 has a starting price of $899, and uses a full version of the upcoming Windows 8.1, so it can run any program written for Windows desktops and laptops. The Pro 2 also adds 75 percent more battery life than the original Surface Pro model, which was launched in February. Microsoft did not disclose the number of hours of expected use, but said the improvement comes, in part, from the use of Intel’s Haswell chip, which uses less power, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

A lower-cost model, the Surface 2, promises a 25 percent improvement in battery life, or up to 10 hours of use, along with screen improvements. The Surface 2 uses Windows RT 8.1, so it can only run apps specifically designed for it.

As with other RT tablets, Microsoft is including a version of its Office software for free with the Surface 2, which will now come with the Outlook email and calendar program in addition to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The Surface 2 has a starting price of $449, and Microsoft will continue to offer last year’s Surface RT for $349.

Both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will come with 200 gigabytes of free online storage through SkyDrive for two years, along with free calls and Wi-Fi hotspots through Skype for one year. The screen on both new models is unchanged from previous models, at 10.6 diagonal inches.

Both devices will go on sale Oct. 22, five days after Microsoft releases its 8.1 update to the Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft has also launched an expanded portfolio of new Surface accessories, including an optional $200 Power Cover that extends battery life, and new keyboard covers in versions with keys that don’t move when pushed, and those that do.

A $200 docking station will come out in early 2014, and will work only with Pro models, Microsoft said.

Brian Hall, general manager of sales and marketing for Surface, told the AP that Microsoft chose not to make the Pro 2 smaller so that accessories would be compatible.

The new Surface tablets come at a time of transition for Microsoft as customers shift away from traditional desktop and laptop computers. Indeed, shipments of PCs are expected to fall 10 percent this year, with tablet sales predicted to outpace traditional PC sales during the last quarter of the year, according to IDC.

The software giant is also searching for a new chief executive to replace Steve Ballmer, who announced last month that he plans to retire within the next year. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it had reached a deal to acquire Nokia’s phone and services business for $7.2 billion.

The new Surface tablets will be available at Microsoft’s online and retail stores, and through select third-party retailers and commercial resellers in 22 initial markets on Oct. 22, and China in early November. Additional markets will be announced in the coming months, Microsoft said.

Read more: Microsoft Surface team working on transparent metal smartwatch?


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