Microsoft has started sending out invitations to media members for a Sept. 23 event in New York City, where it's expected to unveil second-generation versions of its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets.
Microsoft launched Surface last June at Milk Studios in Los Angeles, but it kept the venue secret until the last minute. This time around Microsoft has chosen Skylight Modern, a studio that's "reminiscent of a museum with simple but impactful architecture that enables the event design to become art," according to a description on its website.
At this point, indications are that the new tablets will be called Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, though Microsoft has not confirmed this. According to published reports, Microsoft won't be unveiling a Surface mini tablet, as has been widely speculated in recent weeks.
Microsoft is dropping the "RT" from its Surface 2 tablet, which will run Windows RT 8.1 and is expected to come with a 1080p display, 8 hours of battery life and Nvidia's Tegra 4 processor, The Verge reported Monday.
Given the profound frustrations that Microsoft customers and partners have experienced with Windows RT, which have reached Windows Vista-like proportions, shedding the "RT" is probably a good idea.
Surface Pro 2 is expected to come with Intel's "Haswell" fourth-generation Core series processors, which feature longer battery life and more processing power. While the Surface Pro has been met with positive reviews, battery life has been one of the knocks against it.
Microsoft is also planning to sell "Power Cover," a beefier version of the Touch Cover keyboard for Surface that comes with an integrated battery, the Microsoft blog Neowin reported earlier this month.
Of course, Microsoft partners are waiting to see if the company will change its stance on Surface distribution. It currently sells Surface tablets direct and through a handful of retail outlets and large account resellers.
Better performance and battery life will help, but the best thing Microsoft could do to spark Surface 2 sales would be to let more partners sell it, Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing for Equus, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN.
"I'm guessing the Surface margins wouldn't be great, but as long as the channel could make a bit of money on services and add-on sales, it would fit into Microsoft's existing distribution model pretty well," Swank said in an interview.
But while letting more Microsoft partners sell Surface tablets could help sales, it's unclear how many would jump at the opportunity.
In any event, Microsoft needs to do something to catalyze sluggish Surface sales. It took a $900 million charge in June due to weak Surface RT sales, and last began offering a "limited discount" on Surface Pro, which has since become permanent.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 9, 2013