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9/21/2013
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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
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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.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
9/23/2013 | 7:29:42 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
It's interesting that people can talk about Apple having a price premium when the price was considered to be stunningly low when they first came out.

Of course, those cheaper tablets are literally cheaper. You get what you pay for. But the Pro, while not worth it as far as I'm concerned, costs more because using an i5 costs a lot more than an ARM SoC. Plus, you need cooling, and a much bigger battery. All of which adds to the price, as well as the 2 pound weight, which makes it the heaviest 10" tablet around.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
9/23/2013 | 7:25:36 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
I thought that the screen from the presentation showed the Surface 2 to be based at $449.
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/23/2013 | 1:10:47 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
Act III Scene III, enter stage left fat lady ...
AlfieJr
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AlfieJr,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/22/2013 | 2:07:35 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
there might be an niche enterprise market for the Surface Pro with these necessary fixes, we'll see.

but the RT 2 is DOA. no one wants it. no one even cares. it's 4 years too late.

the big news on Monday will be about iPhone smash hit sales. MS will have a hard time even getting noticed in this news cycle. great timing, SB, you marketing genius.

as to tablets, the hype buildup for the next gen iPads no doubt coming in October will also start Monday. will it have Touch ID or not? (of course the high end model will). no one is going to even take a (second) look at the RT while waiting for that.
AsokAsus
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AsokAsus,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/21/2013 | 10:38:15 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
So Microsoft is obviously gonna quadruple down on stupid.
NPCO
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NPCO,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/21/2013 | 5:05:51 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Tablets: Big Bet, Small Changes
The Surface (Pro at least) is a fine product, and the addition of a Haswell processor, and it's improved battery life, will only make it better. The biggest failure has simply been the price - of both the tablet itself and it's accessories.

A $900 for a tablet with 23 gigs of available user storage is INSANE.
An $800 premium for ~$400 (max retail) worth of additional storage is INSANE.
A $120 price tag on a $16 to manufacturer, cheap, plastic keyboard is INSANE.

I would have bought a Surface Pro in a second if the price was reasonable, and I'd love to buy a Pro 2, again, if the price is reasonable. But I won't pay the price premium Apple's products command, and I sure as hell won't pay an *even greater* price premium for a Microsoft product. I'm not a Microsoft hater at all, closer to the opposite, but I refuse to pay near abusive prices for any product, from any manufacturer.
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