Microsoft will launch—but not release—its second generation Surface tablets at an event in New York on Monday. Here's what you can expect.
Of course, if you've been following along, you sort of know what to expect: Surface 2 information has been leaking for the past month or so, though as with previous reports, I'll expand on the information you've seen elsewhere.
For background purposes, you may want to check out a few previous Surface 2 articles, including Thinking About Surface 2, Surface 2 Details Emerge, Surface Pro 2 Details Emerge, Surface Power Cover to Ship This Year, Microsoft Prepping a Surface Docking Station and Microsoft Sets September 23 for Surface 2 Launch.
Here's what's happening.
Three devices. Microsoft will launch three new Surface devices before the end of the year. Two of them, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, will be announced Monday. I'm told that the third device, which I think of as Surface "mini," will be announced at a later date. I have no idea why they'd bother splitting them up like this.
Surface 2. As noted in Surface 2 Details Emerge, the Surface 2 is the next version of Surface RT. It features a TEGRA 4 (ARM) processor, a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD (1920 x 1080, or 1080p), front- and rear-facing cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11, full-sized USB 3.0 port, micro-SD expansion up to 64 GB, a two position integrated kickstand and an HD video-out port in a package that is identical to the Surface RT, though it will come in white. It runs Windows RT 8.1 and comes with Office Home & Student 2013 RT (with Outlook RT). I've not been told about pricing, but a source of Mary Jo Foley's claims it will be $499, the same as the original Surface RT at launch.
Surface Pro 2. As discussed previously in Surface Pro 2 Details Emerge, the Surface Pro 2 is the successor to the Surface Pro and it will come in the exact same body. It features a 4th generation Intel Core i5 processor, a choice of RAM and storage options, an integrated two position kickstand, a ClearType Full HD display, front- and rear-facing 720p LifeCam cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11, a full-size USB 3.0 port, microSD expansion up to 64 GB, mini DisplayPort for video out, and a digital Pro Pen. It runs Windows 8.1 Pro "with enhanced features," whatever that means, but does not come with any version of Office. Mary Jo reports that this device could start at $899, same as before.
Surface "mini." This will not be announced on Monday, but as I previously reported it will utilize an 8-inch display and a Qualcomm (ARM) processor. That means it will run Windows RT 8.1.
Accessories. As reported before in Surface Power Cover to Ship This Year and Microsoft Prepping a Surface Docking Station, the Surface lineup will be bolstered by many more accessories this year, all of which will also work with the first-generation Surface Pro and some of which will work with the original Surface RT. These include the aforementioned Docking Station, a larger lineup of covers (Touch Cover, Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 with illuminated keys, and Power Cover) with more colors on all cover types plus a barrel-shaped typing cover wireless adapter, various display adapters (same as before), an Ethernet adapter (as before, Surface Pro and Pro 2 only), power supplies (including a new car charger with USB port), updated Wedge Touch and Arc Touch mice, and Pro Pen (same as before).
Schedule. While Microsoft is announcing the initial two second generation Surface devices tomorrow, I don't expect them to launch until October 18, 2013, when Windows 8.1 hits the streets. Perhaps Surface "mini" will ship later, in November. But I've not heard.
Based on comments that Microsoft executives made last week at the Financial Analyst's Meeting, the company is very serious about pushing forward with Surface, despite the humiliation and potential brand implosion of this year's $900 million write-down due to unsold hardware. And it promises to speak more about the future of Surface at Monday's event. But here's the most substantive Surface conversation that occurred last week.
"You know when we came up with Surface, the idea to do Surface, and that tablet it was really about bringing the best of a tablet and productivity all in one thing," Julie Larson-Green noted. "And we still really believe in that vision and going forward. It was a V.1 and we're committed to going forward with that ... We have learned a lot, where [Windows] 8.1 adds a lot of capabilities and gets us closer to that vision."
"I think what we learned a lot is that you need to have balance to be successful in the market," she continued. "So you need to have the combination of great hardware, great software, apps and services in order to win. And we learned this [first] with Xbox. When the first Xbox came out it was hardly any games, it took a while for us to get going with it. And we're very optimistic about what we're doing in terms of the changes that are being made in the software, the applications that are coming online, the services, and improving the hardware, both in terms of speed, performance, and the integration with the software."
"Now something mature like, say, the PC market itself, Surface Pro we saw the up-tick on that very quickly, because it was a mature market with a mature software, and a mature set of services," she said, suggesting that Surface Pro has done much better than Surface RT. "So I think we're learning about the nascent part of trying to create this kind of Surface holistic device and we're going to continue forward. We have a lot of things to announce on Monday that I'm excited to talk about."
So I'm very interested in hearing about the future of Surface. But now you know what I know, for the most part, though of course on Monday I'll be able to share more imagery as well. Stay tuned.