Microsoft is hoping the second time is the charm. Redmond has announced two new Surface models -- Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 -- and a broader portfolio of accessories to go along with them, including new Touch Covers, docking stations and
Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 both promise "significant updates." Those updates include more processing power, longer battery life, better display and camera resolution.
Plus, the differentiating Kickstand now offers dual angles that aim to make it more comfortable to use on your lap or at your desk. And enhancements to Windows RT 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro make Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 more customizable.
Microsoft is also offering some perks to customers who buy the new tablets. For example, customers who purchase the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will receive free Skype calling to landlines in more than 60 countries for one year, unlimited Skype WiFi on their Surface 2s or Surface Pro 2s at more than 2 million hot spots worldwide for one year, and 200 GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.
Better Across the Board Specs
Specs-wise, Surface 2 is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, making apps run faster and smoother and increasing battery life to up to 10 hours for video playback. The Surface 2 Pro offers a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor to deliver better performance and up to 60 percent longer battery life than Surface Pro.
The 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display now renders 1080p video for watching TV shows and movies, and its full-size USB port has been upgraded to USB 3.0 for up to four times faster file transfers.
Each new tablet offers a 3.5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera, both capable of capturing 1080p video and featuring improved low-light performance. Despite more horsepower, the Surface 2 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
The new Xbox Music lets you stream millions of songs for free, and an updated video app and games from the Windows Store such as "Halo: Spartan Assault," also come pre-installed. For business users, the tablet comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Office 2013 RT.
A Better Laptop Replacement
We asked Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, for his take on the new Surface tablets. He told us not much has changed on the strategy front. Microsoft has positioned the old Surface Pro as the baseline model without a significant step down in price. Given the new hardware specs, he said he doesn't expect folks to take a step down to save a few dollars.
"When you look at the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft has counteracted anybody who looked at the first generation and said why didn't they have Haswell. More importantly, by increasing both the performance and battery life I think it's better value for your dollar than you got before. But it's still a premium," Miller said.
"If people weren't buying the Surface Pro because the first generation couldn't perform or wasn't a suitable workstation or high-end laptop replacement, they might be incentivized now," he added. "But that's not the general market."
The new tablets will be available in most markets Oct. 22. Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations, with prices starting at $449.