Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes

Microsoft will debut its newest Surface tablets Monday, counting on incremental changes to win over skeptical buyers. Has Microsoft done enough?

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Microsoft will reveal its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets on Monday at event in New York City. Leaks indicate the new devices will offer relatively modest improvements in terms of both price and hardware. This raises an obvious question: Given that the original Surface tablets have sold so poorly, why is Microsoft banking on such incremental upgrades?

Microsoft executives will explain their reasoning next week, but assuming the company doesn't have some game-changing secret feature squirreled away, Microsoft's attitude appears to be this: We got more right than wrong with the first Surfaces, and targeted tweaks are all the new models need to succeed.

[ Can Microsoft save the Surface? Read Microsoft Surface Tablets: 7 Things To Expect. ]

The Surface Pro 2 is rumored to boast at least three unambiguous improvements:

--Thanks to Intel's i5 "Haswell" processor, the Surface Pro 2 should run an acceptable seven or eight hours between charges, much better than the first model's deal-breakingly poor four-hour battery life.

--With an expected 8 GB of RAM and Haswell's GPU improvements, the new Surface Pro should offer snappier performance for desktop software, Web browsing and touch apps alike.

--The Surface Pro 2 may come with up to 512 GB of SSD storage, four times the current model's maximum capacity.

Microsoft is also expected to release the Power Cover, a keyboard accessory with a battery that lets the attached Surface go even longer between charges. The Power Cover should be backward-compatible with current Surface Pros, but because the Pro 2 should have better battery life to start with, it will get the most mileage from the accessory. Look also for a Surface docking station equipped with a variety of ports.

If you found the original Surface Pro interesting but not interesting enough, in other words, the Surface Pro 2 and its new accessories might do the trick. The battery life enhancements alone will be enough motivation for some.

But will the improvements be enough to convert the legions of genuine Surface skeptics? That's harder to say.

Windows 8.1 is a wild card. It will provide greater customization, a refined relationship between the desktop and the Modern UI, and revamped core apps. But the Modern UI has been too divisively received for Windows 8.1's appeal to be taken for granted.

The Surface Pro 2 is also likely to introduce a redesigned kickstand, but it's not clear how much benefit this will yield in practice, so for the moment, it's an unknown too. Aside from the aforementioned, the Surface Pro 2 is expected to be nearly identical to its predecessor.

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Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/23/2013 | 10:14:59 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
It did. This article ran over the weekend, before the announcement, and was still based on leaks and rumors.

But yep, the Surface 2 will be $449. Is it the right price? I wouldn't have priced it that high, bu the new Surface 2 is a lot better than the old Surface RT, and some accessories like the "blade" keyboard that mixes music are interesting. Plus, with 200 GB of SkyDrive and some Skype perks thrown in, the $449 goes a little farther than it seems. Then again, the keyboards will still be sold separately, and with three of them now in the line-up, I think at least the Touch Cover 2 should be free, or at least discounted if bought at the same time as the tablet. You're up to around $600 with the base Surface 2 and the cheapest keyboard-- which is not too coincidentally the same price as an iPad with a nice third party keyboard. A lot of people might decide Microsoft is making the same Windows RT pitch it made last year: the iOS ecosystem and interface vs. mobile access to MS Office, tablet multi-tasking, etc.
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