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9/23/2013
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Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined

Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 don't look much different than their predecessors but boast better chips and more battery life.

Although neither the Surface Pro 2 nor Surface 2 changed much in size or looks, both devices include a new two-step kickstand that allows the tablet to be propped up from two different angles. Panay said the new kickstand will help users balance the tablets while typing in their laps, another area in which the original devices attracted criticism. He said the ability to type in one's lap is especially important for the Surface Pro; otherwise, the device wouldn't qualify as a laptop replacement.

In addition to the new tablets, Microsoft also announced several accessories, including not only refreshes of its existing Surface keyboards but also several new products.

The Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 keyboards are lighter, thinner and more rigid than their predecessors. Both include backlit keys. Panay said the Type Cover follow-up allows users to type faster because the slimmer profile means the keys don't travel as far when pushed. He also said the Touch Cover 2 should be much more responsive; it features almost 1,100 sensors, more than 13 times the number in the original.

Microsoft also introduced the Power Cover, a sturdy-yet-thin keyboard with a built-in battery than can push the Surface Pro beyond 10 hours. The company will also sell a Surface docking station that includes one USB 3 port, three USB 2 ports, an Ethernet connection and a DisplayPort video outlet.

Microsoft will continue to sell Surface tablets and keyboards separately. The Touch Cover 2 will be $119.99, the Type Cover 2 $129.99, and the Power Cover and docking station each will cost $199.99.

Microsoft will also give new Surface owners free access to some of its core services: a year of Skype calls to landlines in more than 60 countries; unlimited Skype Wi-Fi at more than 2 million global hotspots; and 200 GB of SkyDrive storage for two years. Panay said the integrated services demonstrate that Microsoft is taking "huge" steps as it transitions into a "device and services" company.

In an interview, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said she was impressed with many of the new devices' features, such as improved out-of-box access to Skype and SkyDrive, which she said could help Microsoft gain traction among consumers.

"Consumers generally don't see Microsoft as sexy," she said.

She also said the new kickstand and keyboards should make the devices easier to use, and that Microsoft showed its commitment to Surface with future-looking projects, such as keyboards that it calls "blades," and that can be used for more than typing. One such accessory demonstrated at the event allows users to easily mix and create music by applying different amounts of pressure to a keyboard-like pad.

The first Surface tablets struggled to the tune of a $900 million write-down-- a debacle by any standard but particularly troubling for Microsoft, given that iOS and Android tablets have continued to soar while Windows tablets have floundered. Are the new devices enough to turn things around?

Time will tell. The buzz at the Surface event was ostensibly positive following the announcement, but Milanesi said Microsoft is still in a "tough spot." She noted that in the premium market, the Surface devices can't match the iPad's ecosystem, and that in the budget market, they're much more expensive than Android models.

The new devices can be pre-ordered starting Tuesday, and will be available Oct. 22, only a few days after Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 become available.

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/26/2013 | 8:08:07 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
Yep, I was surprised too. An iPad does what it's supposed to be out of the box; when people throw keyboards on them, the accessories are supplements, not something crucial to the device's appeal. But with the Windows Store being what it is, Windows tablets rely much more on keyboards.

Do I use my Surface Pro without a keyboard? Yes-- but the keyboard is still the thing that makes its desktop compatibility useful, and that helps make using a Surface Pro different (in a potentially good way) than using an iPad. If Microsoft has just thrown the Type Cover in, I'd consider the event a solid, but not necessarily overwhelming, success. They'd still be able to upsell people (especially Pro users) to the Power Cover, but they'd avoid the perception of market-deaf pricing. But with the current structure, consumers are going to feel nickel and dimed.

The new machines look much nicer and I'm looking forward to playing around with them more extensively. But at these prices, and with keyboards and docks adding hundreds more to the "true" cost, I think the new devices face many of the same questions that the previous ones faced.
hohum
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hohum,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/24/2013 | 11:06:12 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
It was a tad funny the write -down
Microsoft are just not a HW company yet.... Hopefully they have the Nokia
team handle this stuff from now on.
@shaneco:disqus
The issue always is ... is need.
I do a lot of remote travelling and surface pro is the best all round product for these needs.
- BD movies
- digital/analog TV reception (antenna-free to air)
- mapping
( no need to reply to this as i have tried many options)
1:1 sat views not the lousy 1:25k or the worse 1:50 1:250
and a wide variety of imported maps all supported off-line
- I can use it in the car on the go....
( thinking tablet ? no the apps are shyt on all ecosystems)
A full/real OS- yes all my programs work -unlike the app world
I do take my phone with off-line maps and the are the best ones Navteq.
and do provide a basic functionality.
And all this fits neatly in a small case not much bigger than the surface pro itself
- this is just a load and run scenerio
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
9/24/2013 | 6:43:54 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
Again, you hit the mark here. They have done absolutely nothing to clear up the RT/Pro distinctions. If they could price the Pro around $600/$700 and provide a full computer to users at a tablet price, they could rake in the money through the Microsoft Store and make huge strides in market share. They should take their own lead from Xbox - break even on the device and make money on the software and apps.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
9/24/2013 | 6:41:25 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
I agree...for those prices, the touch covers should be included with an upgrade of $20 for the type cover. I love the idea of the Surface, but the device is quite heavy and I'll stick with my iPad2 until I upgrade to an Android tablet. The Surface has so much potential, but pricing and marketing are killing it.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 3:53:51 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
Also, MS should have never used "RT" in the name of the product. Windows RT -- and thereby the Surface RT device -- confused consumers (and why wouldn't it?). They didn't know what Windows RT was ... "Is it the same thing as Windows 8?" Now Microsoft just replaced RT with a 2 for Surface 2, but they've also added a 2 to the Surface Pro name. Sigh.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 3:21:05 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
The Skype and SkyDrive storage freebies are nice features, but I'm shocked they are still charging $119 and $129 for the touch and type covers even if they are thinner, lighter and more rigid. The pricing on the power cover and docking station also seem aggressive. Improved battery life is a big plus, but there's not enough new here to motivate me to buy a Surface. Does anyone disagree?
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/24/2013 | 1:01:58 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablet Details, Examined
Did I just hallucinate on those MSRP's! And Ballmer is still collecting a salary?!
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