Surface 2 devices are debuting this month; here’s what to expect

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.

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