Microsoft sticks to guns, will unveil refreshed Surface on Sept. 23

On-sale date likely remains Oct. 18, when Windows 8.1 update reaches retail

Microsoft today announced it will host an event Sept. 23 to introduce new Surface tablets, according to online reports.

Invitations went out to some reporters and bloggers today for the event, which will kick off at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday, Sept. 23, or two weeks from today.

Microsoft said nothing else about the event, including what it might unveil or when those devices would go on sale.

Previously, most analysts and industry watchers had pegged Oct. 18, the retail launch date for Windows 8.1 and hardware powered by the update, as the most likely date for Microsoft to strut its newest tablets.

Microsoft could still hew to the October date for new Surface sales, but stage the introduction this month to garner as much media attention as possible.

Rumors of new Surface tablets gained momentum in the last week -- Microsoft has said it was sticking to its guns and would refresh the line, although not when -- as specification claims were made by several prominent Microsoft-centric blogs, including NeoWin and Paul Thurrott's WinSuperSite. Citing unnamed sources, those blogs and others asserted that Microsoft is preparing replacements -- dubbed the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro -- for the current Surface RT and Surface Pro, respectively.

The Surface Pro 2 will, not surprisingly, feature an Intel Core i5 processor from its battery-sipping Haswell architecture, a change that will lengthen battery life by about two hours to approximately seven hours.

Both new tablets will look identical to their predecessors, the reports have claimed. New peripherals, including a new cover with an additional battery, dubbed "Power Cover," and an enterprise-aimed dock, have also been cited as likely to appear at the Sept. 23 event.

Microsoft has struggled to move the Surface RT or Surface Pro since their introductions in October 2012 and February 2013, respectively. The Surface RT has done especially poorly, as Microsoft was forced to take a $900 million charge against earnings in the quarter that ended June 30 to account for steep discounts and excess inventory.

None of the chatter about the revamped Surface tablets has pinned prices on the new devices, but most experts assume that Microsoft would find it difficult, if not impossible, to boost them from their already-slashed levels.

Two months ago, Microsoft lowered the Surface RT by $150, a 25% to 30% cut depending on the model. The Surface RT now sells for $349 in its 32GB configuration and $449 with 64GB of storage space. Weeks later, Microsoft first ran a limited-time sale by chopping $100 off the Surface Pro, then said the new prices -- $799 for a 64GB device, $899 for the 128GB model -- would be permanent.

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

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