Ambitious launch shows that the company still intends to compete with Apple in the tablet market.
Microsoft has announced a “fundamental revamp” of its range of Surface tablets, with second generation models offering improved battery life and processing speed. The new tablets also introduce changes that address criticisms of previous models.
The original Surface and Surface RT (a cheaper, lower-powered device that used a similarly downgraded operating system) were launched in June last year but failed to sell well, leading to a $900m writedown by Microsoft for unsold units.
The new tablets look identical to the previous generation, offering a tablet form factor, optional covers that can be used as keyboards and a new kick-stand to prop the device up on laps or desks. The kick-stand can now be set at two angles – an improvement on previous models that could only be used at a steep angle, making the ‘laptop’ aspect of the device impractical.
The new tablets have been designated the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, although despite removing the ‘RT’ tag attached to the lower priced model it still runs the stripped down-version of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.1 RT.
Windows 8 RT was heavily criticized for its inability to run 'legacy apps' (older software that included well-known programs such as Photoshop) despite looking identical to Windows 8.
A recent update to the Windows operating system, Windows 8.1, solved some complaints voiced by users (including the absence of a traditional desktop-and-start-button environment) but the operating system is still unfamiliar for many.
The new Surface tablets both have full 1080p, 10.1-inch HD screens (previously only available on the pricier tablet) and upgraded processors. The Surface 2 uses Nvidia’s Tegra 4 1.7GHz processor whilst the Pro 2 has Intel’s fourth-generation Haswell i5. Battery life on the Pro 2 is said to be 75 per cent better than the previous generation with 20 per cent better graphical performance.
Customers also have more memory and storage options to choose from. The Pro 2 will be available in 64GB and 128GB versions with 4GB of RAM, or with 256GB and 512GB of internal memory and 8GB of RAM. The cheaper Surface either comes with 32GB or 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM.