Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) unveiled the next generation of its Surface tablets at an event in New York Monday morning. As expected, Microsoft revealed two new tablets, the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, but remained quiet on a rumored Surface mini tablet.
The main focus of the Microsoft event, held at an undisclosed location, was on speed and productivity, but the company also boasted improved battery life and camera resolution in the new Surface tablets. The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are physically consistent with previous models, though they are slightly thinner and lighter and even come with a new, improved kickstand.
“Reinventing the wheel is not the goal; making it better is,” Panos Panay, the Microsoft Corporate VP and leader of the Surface team, said at the Microsoft event. Panay said the team has been working on the second-generation tablet for 18 months and that it is the most productive tablet ever built.
The Surface Pro 2 has the same ClearType HD display, but with more color. The Surface Pro 2 speakers have been boosted and now feature Dolby, and Microsoft said that the Surface Pro 2 is 20 percent faster and has 50 percent better graphic performance. Panay claimed that the Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95 percent of all laptops on the market.
The Surface Pro 2 is powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 “Haswell” CPU that gives 60 percent to 75 percent more battery life than the original Surface Pro tablet. The Surface Pro 2 will come in 64GB and 128GB configurations with 4 GB of RAM and 256GB of RAM, respectively, as well as a 512GB configuration with 8 GB of RAM. The new kickstand now has dual angles, making it better equipped to use on a lap or a desk.
The Surface 2 now features a full HD, 1080p ClearType display and is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 4 CPU. The USB port has been upgraded to 3.0. The front camera has been upgraded to 3.5 megapixels while the back camera now has 5 megapixels. Both cameras can capture 1080p video and feature improved low-light performance. The Surface 2 has 25 percent more battery life than the Surface RT tablet, and it will ship in 32GB and 64GB configurations.
Microsoft also announced the launch of Windows RT 8.1, which comes with Microsoft Office 2013 RT and Outlook RT. Windows RT now has 100,000 apps, compared to just 10,000 when Microsoft launched the Surface tablet last year. The Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets also come with 200 GB of free SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, for two years. Owners of a Surface Pro 2 or Surface 2 will also be able to make free international Skype calls for one year and use Skype Wi-Fi hotspots for free.
A handful of new accessories for the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 were also unveiled. The new Touch Cover 2 is a millimeter thinner than its predecessor, and now features backlit keys. It has more than 1,000 more sensors, allowing for greater accuracy and gestures. The Type Cover 2 is also 1mm thinner, backlit, and now silent. It comes in cyan, magenta, purple and black, and the keys are now silent. Microsoft was also silent about when it will be available.
Microsoft showed off a new “Power Cover” that features the same typing abilities as the Type Cover but has an additional battery to extend the power of a Surface tablet. Microsoft will also release a docking station for the Surface Pro 2 that features three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 1.0 port, a connection to an external monitor, Ethernet, power supply, speakers, and audio in and out ports. The Surface Pro 2 simply slides in and out, and is designed to be a true desktop replacement.
In a press release, Microsoft mentioned additional accessories, including a wireless adapter for typing covers, a car charger with USB, and a mouse designed specifically for the Surface tablet. A video also revealed a new Surface Remix cover, a touch-sensitive cover that allows users to mix and share music.
The Surface Pro 2 will release with a price of $899 while the Surface 2 will sell for $449. The Surface RT tablet is still $349. Both tablets will be available in 22 markets on the Oct. 22 release date, and pre-orders will begin Sept. 24.