After losing more money than it made on the original Surface line of tablets, Microsoft has decided to go for round 2, announcing an all new version of the Surface tablet: The Surface 2. As expected, the device includes a lower price point, upgraded specs, and some nice perks, such as a year’s free Skype calls to landlines and 200GB of SkyDrive cloud storage.
Checking off the usual upgrade boxes, the Surface 2 is thinner, lighter, and faster than the original Surface slate. It’s also adding a new silver color option to go with the classic black, there’s a new 1080p ClearType display, and Microsoft has “increased the CPU speed dramatically.” Nvidia’s Tegra 4 is, as expected, at the heart of the new Surface, which Microsoft promises will last for up to 10 hours while playing back video. There’s also a full-size USB 3.0 port for transferring files.
On the software front, the Surface 2 will ship with Windows RT 8.1. Outlook RT and all four Office apps got a mention during Microsoft’s presentation, which also included a demonstration of some Halo gameplay on the Surface 2. Skype users will be happy with the new tablet, which will come with a year’s free Skype calls to landlines in more than 60 countries plus free Skype Wi-Fi access. Microsoft’s freebies will also include a 200GB allowance of SkyDrive storage for two years.
Pre-orders of the Surface 2, along with the new Haswell-based Surface Pro 2, begin at 8AM ET tomorrow, September 24th, with the 32GB Surface 2 costing $449, and a 64GB model available for $549. On October 22nd, The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will be available in 22 initial markets: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.
Of course, the tablets still run Windows 8, which, as Rene Ritchie put it, is a significant part of the problem – in short, “When it comes to tablets, Windows isn’t a feature – It’s a liability.” Is he right? Microsoft’s previous Surface failure may have already answered this. Will the Surface 2 cost Microsoft more than it makes like the original model?
Only time will tell. But as Jim Dalrymple notes, the hardware improvements probably won’t be enough: “The biggest problem isn’t battery life, it’s that customers don’t want the Surface.”