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.