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Summary:

Heads up: New Surface products are expected to debut on September 23. We’ll be on hand to see Microsoft’s new tablets, but until then, here’s what we think we’ll see. Some nice hardware upgrades, along with Windows 8.1, could help Surface sales.

Surface RT with Touch Cover

It’s official: Microsoft is holding a Surface event in New York City on September 23. We received our invitation on Monday and will be attending to cover the event. After a $900 million inventory write-off of Surface RT and meager Surface Pro sales, can Microsoft turn things around? We’ll find out more in a few short weeks, but if the leaked specifications and features of Surface tablets are legitimate, I think there’s a chance for Microsoft yet.

Surface invite

Note Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott says the new Surface 2 is a second-generation Windows RT device from Microsoft. Thurrott saw images of a white Surface 2, which still has a black bezel. The device will see an upgrade from the Nvidia Tegra 3 to Tegra 4 chip and the 10.1-inch screen jumps from 1366 x 768 resolution to 1920 x 1080. Weight, thickness and battery life will be identical to the current version Thurrott writes.

Those would certainly be welcome upgrades. The current Surface RT is a little bit sluggish, for one, and would certainly benefit from a higher resolution display. And after using Windows 8.1 on the current Surface RT, I see some nice software improvements. But like Thurrott, I worry about the price. He says:

“Pricing is key to the success of this device, and if Microsoft doesn’t significantly undercut the $500 price point it launched at last year, this product is DOA.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve already said I’d rather see a Surface 2 at $350 with the old 1366 x 768 resolution, for example, rather than a full HD screen if the price is $499 or more. At $500, a Surface 2 competes directly against the iPad, which arguably has a better selection of apps people want. Yes, the Surface 2 will likely still include Office products — and Outlook this time around — but that didn’t seem to help sales the first time. Microsoft needs to prove the value of a $500 Windows RT tablet if it plans to charge that much. I think $350 represents a much better value for this market.

And at a $500 price, the Surface 2 also competes with full Windows 8 tablets running on Intel Atom chips. These offer similar life and can run legacy Windows software, not just new Metro-style apps. I think these devices hurt the original Surface RT sales more than any other aspect for these reasons.

Microsoft Surface RT

Thurrott also has notes on the Surface Pro 2, saying it will use Intel’s fourth-generation Core chip — known as Haswell — and get double the internal memory over the prior model; that should boost both performance and battery life.

Look forward to some new accessories as well. There’s been talk of a new Surface cover — likely for the Pro model — to have an internal battery. It’s possible we see some additional docking options as well.

While both Surface devices are likely to debut this month, I’m actually not anticipating availability for a few weeks after that. Windows 8.1 goes live in mid-October, so I could easily see Microsoft hold off on Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 availability until then.

  1. The point about Intel Atom chips is significant. The price is just too close, for FAR more functionality on an Atom based device. I picked up an Ativ 500T for less than $400 a couple days ago, and the performance, price point, and battery life seem to leave little need for an RT.

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  2. Rumplestiltskin Monday, September 9, 2013

    Microsoft is stuck in “Windows Everywhere” mode. Nothing they do will fix anything until they abandon it. Maybe when the company is broken up into smaller product divisions Surface can be allowed to fail on its own while innovation at another division will produce something more than garbage.

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  3. Horrendously terrible mistake to continue with the Surface 2 (RT) along with the Surface Pro 2. Surface (RT) is already 100% DOA with only Microsoft left making ‘em and 5 million of their old ones still rotting in the warehouses, so the only thing a Surface 2 (RT) accomplishes is to perpetuate the confusion that’s destroying the whole concept of the Surface.

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    1. There are actually a LOT more things you can do with the RT than most people are aware of. Even as a self-proclaimed tech geek, I had no idea it was this versatile.

      You should really watch this video for some examples

      Highlights:
      - Full office
      - Built-in USB peripheral support (keyboards, mice, HD, printers)
      - Second monitors/TVs
      - Legacy applications using Remote Desktop
      - Audio/video casting to TV through Xbox360
      - Xbox 360 controller support built in
      - Access to webapps though Flash enabled IE (negates a lot of the negatives due to lack of apps)
      - True multitasking (running background apps)

      The marketing of this product was not very good, so yes there was a lot of confusion. But after having learned all of this, the RT is something of a super-tablet (if you compare to other apple, andoid tablets), while the Pro is an Ultrabook.

      The problem is that for some reason everyone expects a full computing experience with the RT, when it is clearly an ARM laptop, but I’ve never heard anyone bash the iPad because you can’t have the full OSX experience. The only problem is marketing.

      If marketed this way, it would remove all confusion. Also it makes a lot of sense why they would continue making a

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  4. Other than graphics, Haswell doesn’t really boost performance over the previous generation Core chips. Can we stop perpetuating that myth? Also, the version the Surface Pro 2 will use will not even get a significant graphics uptick…

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    1. Where are you seeing this myth being “perpetuated”? Haswell means less power and heat (aka better battery life). Double the RAM means… well double the RAM (aka better performance).

      It’s pretty simple really.

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  5. I have a Surface Pro and I have to say that this is by far one of the coolest and cutting edge devices I’ve ever had. Windows 8 is great, as long as you’re ready to leave behind old concepts. I am not a Microsoft fanboy – in fact, I used lots of Apple products in the past – but sorry, Surface Pro makes my iPad look like an outdated device. And when it comes to Desktops, thanks to WIndows 8 I am even thinking about switching back to PCs to leave the oldfashioned and somewhat sluggish OSX behind.

    And if you look at it from another point of view, Microsoft seems to be the most innovative company at the moment. Sure, Windows 8 is a radical shift – but most people just aren’t ready for it yet. As long as people are still happy with windows XP, Microsoft shouldn’t expect too much acceptance. Windows 8 is sleek, fast and pretty, and to get back to the Surface: Most people don’t get it how to use it. ModernUI for all that touch-related stuff, and Desktop for Laptop mode with keyboard. Sure, Haswell doesn’t boost performance too much. But it sure does boost battery life.

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  6. Glass Half Full Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Even in the commercial world Windows 8 only exist where it’s been forced, some entities are still moving off XP! Even then end users are not using it like 8. Microsoft has failed to understand that the demographics driving this market already have PC’s. This is typically their 3rd device and a completely different use case. The addressable market who wants the other Office(Outlook can be had on any device) applications on their tablet will not support the RND and investment Microsoft has spent on this line of business. Last note is a Tablet based on the same OS as your PC sounds great until you realize that Windows is a breading ground for viruses.

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  7. Microsoft is taking a new innovative road to creating a new line of product. Just think, a device that gives you the best of both worlds. Apple and Android OS are not made for business or schools. Apple ipad lacks the diversity of desktop applications. Their laptops lack to versatility of a touch screen. If apple can come up with a product that can fit the App store ecosystem and desktop functionality, into a tablet, then they are at par with Microsoft. I know that Apple’s Ipad will still out sell the surface pro 2, and their Iphones will still outsell any other company, but just as they climbed that narrow hill to the top, the downward slope is just as narrow. Android is facing the same problem. They don’t even have a Desktop UI to work with. Can you imaging creating apps to replace all the programs that are available for desktop? That is impossible. The only option now, is to create a light, tablet with desktop functionality. You can play angry bird seamlessly, and in 10 seconds work on that Photoshop project, then pick up the table/pc and go. No wires or cables, just a 2 lbs tablet and keyboard. Other than Windows 8, what else can do that? Microsoft is sitting on a gold mine. They just need create a good product and to market the product better, and sell it at a reasonable price. with one good Surface pro product… they can dominate the desktop and table market. I have soo much more to say, but…who really reads these things right?

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    1. Really good point. Your comment is exactly why I stay focused on what Microsoft is doing. Tablets and PC’s will be seemless, and Windows Surface already has the edge on that. I agree that the marketing destroyed the intro of the Surface to the market. They are sitting on gold, lets see what happens.

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  8. Microsoft is releasing another Zurface? I hate windows 8 not a single person I talked to tell me that they love Windows 8. It is such a turn off that nobody even want to own that Zurface.
    Let’s get that head stone ready right next to Zune.

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