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Microsoft takes second swing at tablets with new Surface 2 lineup

September 23, 2013 12:15 PM ET

The Power Cover, a modified Type Cover -- the more true keyboard-like of Microsoft's two covers -- will cost $199.99, but will not hit retail until early 2014, said Microsoft.

Surface 2
Microsoft unveiled new Surface tablets as it takes a second shot at the market after poor sales of the original devices.

The Docking Station for Surface Pro, as the new add-on is called, will also cost $199.99 and launch early next year. It will work with both the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2, and will offer one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports for connecting peripherals.

The accessories, and much of Panay's time on stage, reinforced the pitch that Microsoft has long made: That the Surface Pro should be envisioned as a two-in-one purchase, not only a tablet but also a replacement for a notebook or even a desktop PC.

"You now have the full ability to use, literally, what I believe is the most powerful tablet for professional use in the world," Panay boasted.

Carolina Milanesi of Gartner, who was at the New York event, praised the move to expand the Surface Pro 2's functionality with the add-ons. "Accessories are key not just to add to the devices but to show the commitment to the platform and kick-start the ecosystem," she tweeted today.

But other analysts were unimpressed.

"It doesn't look like Microsoft has done much which is compelling with these to overcome the negative perceptions [of the originals]," said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, in an email. "Seems like Microsoft is just maintaining the traditional PC mantra -- keep upgrading the chip and hardware a little bit every year at a slightly lower price.

"I think they needed to do something that was innovative beyond the first generation, and I don't see that in these devices," Gold continued. "I think they'll continue to sell a few, but I don't think this will dramatically alter their sales trajectory."

Microsoft will take pre-orders beginning tomorrow at 8 a.m. ET on its online store, in its own chain of retail stores, and at those of its Best Buy partner in the U.S. and Canada. The on-sale date will be Oct. 22, several days after Microsoft and its OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) release Windows 8.1 and their own new devices, respectively.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter@gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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