Microsoft announces Surface 2

It’s no secret that Microsoft has seen better days.  After a Windows 8 release earlier this year that turned out to be fairly disappointing and a $900 million hit on Surface-related inventory adjustments, everyone is looking to see how Mircosoft will turn things around.  One way the company hopes to do this is with the latest version of their Surface tablets.

Yesterday, the company announced the new Surface 2 at an event in New York City. The most common complaint among users of the first generation tablet was battery life, which Microsoft sought to remedy with the Surface 2.  Both the Pro and the standard versions feature a significant increase in battery life.  They’re also both lighter, thinner and feature an improved kickstand that allows the screen to be displayed at two angles instead of one.

According to Microsoft, the Surface Pro 2 is 95% faster than all laptops on the market.  The standard version, although slightly less impressive, still features a faster processor than its predecessor.  It also has a new, brighter display and an improved camera, optimizing it for Skype video calls.

Speaking of which, all Surface 2 users get free international calling with Skype.  In addition, users get 200GB of SkyDrive for two years, which is an unprecedented amount of free storage to give away.

Prices for the standard version start at $449, which is slightly cheaper than the Surface RT was when it released.  As far as the Surface Pro goes, however, things are a little pricier.  The tablet starts at $899 and comes in 64GB, 128GB, 256 GB, and 512GB.

Microsoft also announced some new accessories for the device, such as a screen cover/keyboard that has the ability to act as a power source, extending the battery life by as much as 2.4 times.  The company also highlighted the fact that their app store now features over 100,000 apps.

Rick Sherlund, an analyst for Nomura Securities, recently pointed out the productivity aspect of the Surface 2.  “If you want a tablet, you just buy an iPad.  The mass market who just wants a consumption device will just buy a pure tablet.  This is more for productivity use.  It’s a notebook that can function as a tablet, but I think you really have to appeal to the notebook, productivity buyer here, more so than a consumer who just wants a tablet.”

However, he went on to say, “It’s going to have to prove itself in the market, because cool technology really isn’t quite enough.  It really has to find its niche in the market.”

The Surface 2 will go on sale October 22.  Pre-orders start today.