Microsoft refreshed its Surface tablet computers on Monday, giving them longer battery life and better comfort on laps as the software giant continues its transformation into a devices and services company.
The company said it tried to address many shortcomings of the first-generation Surface models, sales of which have been slow. Microsoft needs to boost its tablet business to make up for sales declines in traditional desktop and laptop computers.
IDC is forecasting a nearly 10 percent decline in PC shipments this year. The research firm also said tablets will outsell traditional PCs in the last three months of the year.
The new tablet models come with a better built-in kickstand so they can rest more firmly on users’ laps while they sit on a couch. Microsoft is also making a docking station and a wireless mouse for business customers who need the mobility of tablets, but also desire the traditional ways of using computers while in the office.
“We’ve definitely gotten a year smarter,” Brian Hall, general manager of sales and marketing for Surface, said in an interview.
The redesigned Surface tablets come at a time of transition for Microsoft. Earlier this month, Microsoft struck a deal to acquire Nokia’s phone and services business for US$7.2 billion.
The Surface Pro 2 is targeted at professionals who want the full power of a laptop in a tablet-style device. With a starting price of US$899, the Pro 2 uses a full version of the upcoming Windows 8.1, meaning it can run any program written for Windows desktops and laptops.
The Pro 2 promises 75 percent more battery life than the debut Pro model, which came out in February.
Microsoft, which did not specify the number of hours of expected use, said the improvement comes partly from the use of Intel’s Haswell chip, which uses less energy.
There is also an optional Power Cover accessory that extends battery life even further.
A cheaper model, Surface 2, offers a 25 percent improvement in battery life, which means it can get up to 10 hours of use. It also has a better screen compared with October last year’s Surface RT. It uses Windows RT 8.1, meaning it can run only apps specifically designed for it.
Microsoft said it now has 100,000 apps, or 10 times what was available last year. Like other RT tablets, Microsoft is including a version of its Office software for free with the Surface 2.
Now the package will have the Outlook e-mail and calendar program, not just Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Microsoft is selling the Surface 2 starting at US$449 and will continue to offer last year’s Surface RT for US$349.