Surface 2 leaked details paint lackluster picture

If reports can be believed, Microsoft's next round of Surface tablets will sport few significant improvements

If the reports I've seen of new Surface 2 features can be believed, Microsoft has a huge problem on its hands. Where many people are begging for significant advances in the Surface line, the top improvement mentioned to date is a revolutionary new two-position kickstand.

If that and Windows 8.1 are all we have to look forward to, Microsoft's heading into a disastrous holiday buying (or shunning) season.

In the past few hours, two usually reliable Windows-centric sites have posted curt previews of the widely anticipated Surface 2 tablets. First, Brad Sams at Neowin explained:

The Surface 2 will run Intel's latest line of chips, a Haswell-based Core i5, Neowin has learned from several sources. In addition, the RAM will receive a considerable bump, being doubled 4GB to 8GB. Finally, while the device will look similar to the current Pro, Microsoft has "refined" the kickstand that ships with the device. What the refinement is exactly, we don't have a clear picture yet; it could be a more robust stand that is stronger or one that offers alternative viewing angles

But when it comes to the all-important question of price, Sams punted:

We have been hearing whispers to not expect much to change on the Pro side of the equation. That's not to say that it won't be lowered/raised but the first Pro already offered a great value, when you consider all that is included, when compared to other market offerings.

Which certainly reinforces the adage that value is in the eye of the beholder. The current 64GB Surface Pro lists on Microsoft's site at $929 with a Type keyboard, or $1,068 for the 64GB Pro Bundle with Office Home & Student, a two-year warranty, Type keyboard, and sleeve and screen protector.

Then Paul Thurrot confirmed on his Windows SuperSite much of what Sams had offered. (Thurrot writes in such an authoritative way that it's almost as if he has actually worked with the machine. Imagine that.) His additions to the Neowin observations include:

Where Surface Pro is rated at up to 5 hours of battery life, Surface Pro 2 is rated for up to 7 hours of battery life... Surface Pro 2 will offer a choice of RAM. I don't see anything specific, but am guessing that the choices are 4 GB and 8 GB... Surface Pro 2 (and Surface 2) will ship with an integrated two-position kickstand.

While most analysts guess we're still around six weeks away from the Surface Pro 2 and Surface (nee RT) 2 releases -- presumably the hardware will arrive on the same day as Windows 8.1's general availability -- it's very hard for me to imagine Microsoft going into the game with such a weak offering. To wit:

  • Surface Pro 2 looks just like Surface Pro, runs the same software.
  • Pro 2 is a bit faster than the Pro; it runs for seven hours on a charge, instead of five, compliments of the Haswell chipset.
  • The big user-facing difference? The Surface Pro 2 has a two-position stand. Oh my.

Of course, there may be a better camera, and undoubtedly the 64GB drive will double in size. But I don't see any indication that Surface Pro 2 will ship with a low-cost bundled keyboard or a dock. The screen has to be better: 10.6-inch 1,920 by 1,080 is so last year. No word about LTE support. And I keep hoping for a fast wireless charger.

If the Surface Pro 2 looks and acts so much like a Surface Pro -- granted, with some incremental improvements -- and it sells at the same $900-plus price point, how could anyone envision legions of new buyers lining up, cash in fist?

Looks like yet another Surface debacle in the making.

This story, "Surface 2 leaked details paint lackluster picture," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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