Microsoft's Surface 2 launch: What to expect

Microsoft is readying its next-generation Surface tablets and peripherals for launch on September 23. Here's what we know (and think we know) on specs, pricing and availability.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On Monday, September 23, Microsoft will be launching (but not shipping) its next-generation Surface tablets at an invitation-only event in New York City.


In the past few weeks, lots of leaks have revealed much of what's expected to debut at the launch. Although Microsoft officials haven't commented on or confirmed these specs, I've heard and seen information that leads me to believe they are correct.

The new Surfaces are going to look almost identical to the current Surfaces, as they are going to use the same 10.6-inch screens and VaporMg casing and be compatible with the same snap-on keyboard/covers that the current Surfaces use.

They will have the same number of USB ports and they won't support LTE, just WiFi. The Surface 2, the successor to Surface RT, will be an ARM-based (Tegra 4) tablet with an estimated eight hours of battery life. It will feature a new ClearType full HD display, the one that debuted on the Surface Pro earlier this year. The Surface Pro 2, the successor to the Surface Pro, will run an Intel Core i5-based Haswell processor, and allegedly get seven hours of battery life instead of just four to five hours.

Windows SuperSite editor Paul Thurrott has the full list of expected Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 specs, including weight, thickness, ports, etc.

The more interesting part of Monday's Surface launch, in my view, are the new Surface peripherals. In spite of Microsoft's claims last year that the company had no intentions of making a Surface Pro docking station, they built one. The new Surface docking station is expected to work with Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 models only. It is expected to include one USB 3 and three USB 2 ports, according to leaks.

And the expected Surface Power Cover -- a thicker version of the Surface Type cover/keyboard, is coming, too. This cover will include a built-in battery that will extend the battery life of Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 devices by some (still unknown) amount. I'm expecting new Touch and Type covers in a variety of colors at Monday's launch, too.

What about pricing and availability?

There are two big questions going into Microsoft's Surface 2 launch: Device availability and pricing. Obviously, Microsoft execs aren't commenting on either.

I've heard from one of my sources who has been in the loop on Surface information (and asked to remain anonymous) that both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 may be generally available on or around October 22 -- right around the time Window 8.1 is generally available, which is October 18.

I don't know if Microsoft will take preorders. I also don't have any information as to what the international and/or reseller distribution strategies look like. Microsoft was slow to make the first-generation Surfaces available outside the U.S. I am not sure what's changed in the company's distribution plans or capabilities on that front.

According to my source, it sounds like there are no huge price cuts in the works, which will surely disappoint those who've been expecting the so-so reception of first-generation Surfaces to have made Microsoft rethink its Surface pricing.

The aforementioned source told me that Microsoft is planning to continue to sell its first-generation Surfaces alongside its new Surfaces. The supposed plan is to keep Surface RT pricing at its current level ($349.99 for the 32GB model with no cover included) and introduce the 32GB Surface 2 at $499. A 64 GB Surface 2 will start at $599, the source said.

The Surface Pro will continue to start at $799. Surface Pro 2 will start at $899 for a 64GB version, according to the aforementioned source. There will be 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB models available at $999, $1,299 and $1,699, respectively, according to this source.

Touch and Type covers are still going to be priced separately, from what I've heard, as will the docking station.

I initially shared some of this pricing information as my "Rumor of the Week" on yesterday's recording of Windows Weekly (as some eagle-eared live listeners heard).

Keep in mind, this pricing and availability information is from one source only. The actual pricing/availability -- if Microsoft announces that information on Monday -- may be different.

Monday's Surface 2 event won't be streamed live, according to Microsoft. But I'll be filing and blogging from it, starting around 10:30 a.m. ET on September 23. Also: The Surface team will be doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on September 23 at 3 p.m. EST, as well, where anyone can submit questions.

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