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9/19/2013
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Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect

Microsoft will debut new Surface tablets at an event Monday in New York City. Will these tablets succeed where past models have failed?

5. Microsoft is also planning new Surface accessories.

In addition to new devices, Microsoft is also developing new Surface accessories. One will likely be the Power Cover, an attachable keyboard with an internal battery to boost the tablet's battery life. A Surface dock is also anticipated, and rumors suggest additional Surface tie-ins are planned for later in 2014.

6. Price is still an unknown.

Microsoft has already slashed prices on both the Surface Pro and Surface RT, so the cost of the next-gen versions will be closely watched. Microsoft could always surprise everyone with aggressive pricing, but it's just as likely that the new models will be at least as expensive as the current ones.

Nokia's Sirius tablet will reportedly launch at $499, for example, so it's unlikely the Surface 2, whose rumored specs are similar to those of Sirius, will cost much less. The current model's $349 base price probably represents the absolute minimum for the new device. The Surface Pro 2, meanwhile, will need to be at least several hundred dollars more. Assuming that Microsoft continues to sell keyboards separately, neither device is looking particularly affordable.

Then again, Microsoft seems confident that Windows RT 8.1's improvements, such as support for Outlook, will suit the needs of many mobile enterprise workers. If the company's right, perhaps the Surface 2 won't need bargain-basement prices.

But whenever it's released, Microsoft's Surface Mini will almost certainly enter at a low cost; the consumer market for small tablets is too competitive to accommodate anything else. A new iPad Mini with Retina display is expected later this fall, for example. It will entitle users to a free download of Apple's iWork productivity suite, which somewhat mitigates the advantage of Windows RT's Office compatibility and further emphasizes that the iOS ecosystem is more robust than the Modern UI's. The Surface Mini will also face cheap-but-powerful Android tablets. Options such as the $199 Google Nexus 7 are already very affordable, and some Android slates will soon cost less than $100, safely in many consumers' impulse-buy territory.

All that said, Microsoft has initiated a program that allows people to trade in old iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices for up to $350 toward a new Surface or Windows Phone.

7. Microsoft will open the Surface line to more channel partners and tout the devices' use for businesses.

Microsoft has developed its Surface sales network methodically; currently, the company relies on itself, a few big box consumer retailers and a handful of commercial partners. The approach has caused some in Microsoft's channel to feel left out, but that will likely change on Monday.

The company hasn't actually confirmed that any new devices are coming at the New York event; the invitation Microsoft sent to journalists references the Surface line's channel expansion and the devices' value as laptop-tablet hybrids -- but not any new devices. New tablets are still expected, but the invitation suggests Microsoft will talk more about its core business customers than about its newfound interest in consumers. This emphasis could explain why the Surface Mini is unlikely to debut; such a device would be consumer-centric, and would be better served by a different event in the future.

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 7:45:22 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect
Indeed, Apple doesn't seem to be arguing. Though the execution is wildly different than Microsoft's, Apple seems intent on collapsing iOS and OS X to some degree, at least based on some of the documentation the company released for developers regarding 64-bit apps. Microsoft's one OS vision isn't intrinsically bad-- it's the way and extent to which it gets applied that should be critiqued. Google seems to be headed in the same way too. In the multi-screen world, I think everyone is going to have "one OS" elements, to varying (and often large) extents.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 7:40:47 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect
Good point. The Surface Pro has been measured against mass market expectations-- but I really think Microsoft intends it as a niche product, and as an OEM motivator, as you said. I still think Microsoft hoped to sell more of them, but the context isn't irrelevant.

For Surface RT, though, I think the "niche product" excuse is much less applicable.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 6:08:21 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect
Yeah, we'll see what it looks like. My problem with the Surface hasn't just been the viewing angle caused by the kickstand, but also that both keyboards are too flimsy for one to use Surface in all the ways a small laptop can be used. Maye the Power Cover will help with that, as well as with battery life. The Haswell upgrade alone should ensure that the Surface Pro sells better... but there will be comparable Windows tablets that cost less, and a load of more attractive laptops in the same price category. Still seems like a niche product to me.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 3:52:24 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect
I can't tell if it's schadenfreude, interest in non-Apple tablets, or interest in the "one OS" vision that is driving high interest in the MS tablets among our readers now. I doubt the one OS hunger theory. Tell me what you think.
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