Gadgets

The play-by-play of Microsoft’s next Surface unveiling

Above: Waiting for Microsoft's next Surface event to begin

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

NEW YORK — Microsoft just unveiled the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 at a swanky press event in Manhattan. Check out our live recap of the event below.

Microsoft surprised just about everyone last year when it unveiled the Surface, the first computer the software giant has ever made. While it looks just like a typical Windows 8 tablet at first glance, the Surface transforms into a fully-functioning laptop with one of its keyboard cases.

But for all of its hype, Microsoft’s first Surface was a disaster, thanks to an immature operating system in Windows RT and a glaring lack of apps. The Surface Pro, a slightly thicker and heavier device, fared better thanks to its beefier hardware and support for all existing Windows software.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:15 am

Finally seated and waiting for the event to begin. Things are moving smoothly so far!

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:21 am

These events are always a strange mix of swank, tech, and awkward geeks.

Ricardo Bilton September 23, 20137:29 am

I’m very interested in what Microsoft’s learned from the failures of the original Surface. What are we expecting? 

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:29 am

We’re getting close to the event’s start. What are you looking forward to in the next Surface? According to rumors, there will be multiple ways to lock in the kickstand (but I certainly hope there’s more to it than that).

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:33 am

My biggest worry is that the next Surface will once again be limited by a small Windows 8 app ecosystem. Not much has changed since last year, at least from what I’ve seen.

Ricardo Bilton September 23, 20137:34 am

As in, the biggest problem with the Surface wasn’t the Surface at all. 

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:35 am

Surface product head Panos Panay steps out (to an abrupt start). He says we’ll see two of the most powerful tablets ever made with the Surface Pro 2.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:36 am

Panay shows off the Surface Pro 2, from my distance it doesn’t look very different from the first one. “Reinventing the wheel is not the goal, making it better is,” he says.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:37 am

Panay says the screen is 50 percent more color accurate. Putting the “professional” in Surface Pro.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:40 am

Panay holding the Surface Pro 2.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:41 am

Rejoice! The kickstand can now balance itself on your lap.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:44 am

Surface Pro 2 has new Intel Haswell chips, which means better battery life with increased performance.
Panay says MS has explored many ways to increase the battery life. It’s a 75% improvement to battery life.
“The point of the product is to work fast, the need of the product is to work all the time,” he said.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:45 am

Panay also shows off the new power cover, which has a built-in battery to give you 2.5x the battery life than the original Surface Pro.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:48 am

There’s also a new Surface Docking station, which effectively lets the Surface step into desktop territory. It has multiple USB ports, ethernet, and can drive a huge 3840 x 2160 display.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:49 am

Panay shows off how the Surface Pro 2 can deal with massive 6K video files from the Red Dragon camera. That’s sort of crazy!

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:52 am

Huzzah, a new Type Cover! The Type Cover 2 has multiple colors, just like the past Touch Covers, but it has the wonderful clicky keys from the original Type Cover.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:54 am

“We want you to be faster, we want you to be better, the keyswitch on this is unbelievably innovative,” Panay says, regarding the Type Cover 2. They were able to shave off 1mm in size, so it’s almost as thin as the original Touch Cover. It’s also silent.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:55 am

The Type Cover 2 is also backlit, so there’s that.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20137:57 am

Now Panay is gearing up to show off the Surface 2. “It’s not subtle, it’s the rebound,” he said.

“We went out to create a product where people can buy and get away from just consumption, get away from either their iPad or tablet … be more productive… We wanted to give them that chance … We had a vision in the first generation to do that.”

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:01 am

Surface 2 is faster all across the board, Panay says, and it include a full 1080p display. (A big improvement over the 720p-ish display from the first.)
“Every single change brings this product up to be everything you need.”

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:03 am

Panay holding the Surface 2.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:03 am

Surface 2 is lighter and thinner, and it also has 25% better battery life. It’s also launching with Windows 8.1.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:05 am

Panay says there are 100,000 apps in the Windows Store right now. It launched with just 10,000 last year.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:07 am

You’ll get the full Office suite with Surface 2, including Outlook. The original Surface only had a few key Office apps.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:09 am

Surface 2 is powered by Tegra 4, it has 72 graphics cores compared to around 12 with the original Surface. They’re playing Halo Spartan Assault now, and it’s running pretty smoothly.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:11 am

Big takeaways so far: Better battery life, faster processors. Those are big upgrades, but not sure if they’re enough to get people excited fr these devices.

Ricardo Bilton September 23, 20138:14 am

Oh, and about that 100,000 Windows Store number? Microsoft announced that in July.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:15 am

Panay is paying plenty of attention to the Surface 2’s front camera. It can dynamically adjust the scene to deal with low light and other issues.
Surface 2 buyers will get free international Skype calling and free Wi-Fi for a year.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:18 am

Microsoft considered showing a few ways to abuse the Surface 2 on stage, but Panay says they were a bit unsafe for the audience (sure). Now he’s showing off security measures in case someone steals your device, or if you leave it somewhere by accident.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:19 am

Panay had a bit of fun with Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley, implying that the new security features would be a great way to prevent people from leaking info to reporters like her.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:20 am

Surface 2 owners get 200GB of SkyDrive storage for free.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:21 am

Surface 2 will cost $449, undercutting the iPad by $50.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:22 am

Panay shows off Touch Cover 2, which is 2mm thick and backlit. It also has 1,092 sensors for touch sensitivity, compared to just 80 on the first.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:24 am

“You can’t miss a key, you physically cannot miss one,” Panay said about the Touch Cover 2. It’ll have better predictive typing than the original.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:24 am

Both the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 will work on the original Surface devices.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:27 am

What else can MS do with the Touch Cover’s sensors? We’re watching a well-produced video showing some of the Surface designer’s considering multiple options.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:29 am

On 10/22, Microsoft will launch the Surface remix project. It’s a cover that lets you remix your favorite music and share it with the world.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:30 am

The Surface Remix device seems like smarter version of electronic music devices currently on the market. It can detect pressure, so you can create varying degrees of drum beats, for example.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:30 am

Panay reminds me a bit of Don from The Newsroom (trying not to hold that against him).

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:32 am

“We’re proud of what we’re bringing you today … we know that when you pick up these devices, they will feel great,” Panay said.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:33 am

Pre-orders for the new Surface devices star at 8 am EST tomorrow. They’ll be available on October 22. Surface Pro 2 will cost $899.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:33 am

“Surface RT remains a great product for people to purchase,” Panay said. Surface RT will now run for $349 and include Windows 8.1.

With a better app ecosystem, this could be a decent deal for students.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:35 am

Microsoft apparently has some special guests hiding behind a curtain. Awkward.

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:38 am

“We think these products make peoples lives better,” Panay said. We’ll see!

Devindra Hardawar September 23, 20138:38 am

That’s it for now folks, check back later for hands-on coverage and interviews.

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