Peter Kafka

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Microsoft Says Its New Surface Tablets Are Like Its Old Surface Tablets, but Better

Did you like the Surface tablets Microsoft introduced last year? Then you will like the new ones, which go on sale next month, even more.

That’s the gist of the pitch Microsoft made today in New York, when it showed off its new hardware.

If you were looking for a radical reworking of Redmond’s first attempt at a tablet, you were misguided. The new devices are thinner, faster and boast a better battery life, but they’re the same idea: Machines that are supposed to compete with iPads and Android tablets, and also run a full suite of Office software.

And that, Microsoft exec Panos Panay made clear, means that the new machines will allow you to be very, very productive.


Last year, Microsoft introduced its Surface line of tablets, designed to compete with Google, Amazon and quite specifically, Apple.

A few months ago, Microsoft took a $900 million write-down on its new devices, admitting that it had overestimated demand.

Now — as it looks for a new CEO — it’s going to try again, with a new line of Surface devices it is unveiling in New York this morning. I’m going to be typing live during Microsoft’s show-and-tell, so you can follow along below:

10:42 am: Belated greetings! Slow to get up. Not sure if it’s a Wi-Fi problem or a MacBook Air problem or a WordPress problem. Guessing Wi-Fi.

What you’ve missed so far: Microsoft exec Panos Panay is onstage, talking up two new machines. Insists that everyone loved first Surface tablets, and that these are even better.

10:43 am: There was a demo of a kickstand, which works like a kickstand.

Better battery life: 75 percent improvement for Surface Pro 2. This generates applause and hoots of delight from some people in the crowd.

10:44 am: There’s a new power cover. “It’s wrapped in fabric, so it’s super-comfortable.”

“It’s for all of you. I want you to love this product.”

10:46 am: There’s a docking station. It has a bunch of USB ports, says a slide onstage. Also included:
Audio In
Audio Out

See, now the tablet is basically a PC, is Panay’s argument.

A joke about how slow some PCs used by audience members are. This generates some laughs.

10:48 am: Here’s a demo that shows the Surface Pro tablet working with the Red Dragon camera, which looks like HAL’s little brother, and is apparently used to shoot “Game of Thrones.”

The point is, it throws out hellaciously big data files, and Surface Pro 2 is man enough to take it.

(Sorry, you missed a HILARIOUS liveblog joke. Vanished by the Wi-Fi gods. Refunds available afterward.)

10:52 am: Surface keyboards have new colors. “This product has changed. It is exactly one millimeter thinner than the last type cover.”

It has a better key switch. It is “unbelievably innovative.”

It is a quieter keyboard, too. Lights down. “It is also backlit.” Applause.

Panay holds the tablet on his palm, like a pizza dude who is very serious. “Note the beauty,” he commands. Applause.

10:56 am: Now we’re on to Surface 2. We want people to get away from “just consumption.” Then he spells it out — we wanted people to get away from their iPads.




“The team is super proud of that video, and they should be proud.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, Surface 2 is ready.” Applause.

Panay uses the word “product” at least once every couple sentences.

“This product is about everything Microsoft has to offer.”

Better screen. “The product runs three to four times faster than you’ve seen in the past.”

“In the last product, we talked about trade-offs. We really did.”

“We took the product from three pieces to two pieces of magnesium … we made the walls of the product thinner. We made the product faster. We made the product brighter.”

And battery life is still better, so you can be more PRODUCTIVE. 25 percent better. “This product lasts all day, but it’s faster.”

“This product got lighter. And the product got thinner.”

“I can tell you all day. Spec spec spec.”

“A year ago, we launched this product with Windows 8. Today we launch it with Windows 8.1.”

“You can be so PRODUCTIVE and have fun.”


Panay has four kids. Only three are allowed to use his Surface. (Fourth probably a slacker.)

“Last year, we launched this product with 10,000 apps. 10,000 apps.” This year, 100,000 apps. Applause. “Not just any apps. Great apps!”

11:06 am: “The power of this product will come out through the applications.”

11:06 am: What’s the best app? What’s the most important app? FULL OFFICE SUITE. THE FULL OFFICE SUITE. “If you’re going to be productive on this device, you’re going to need Outlook.”

11:07 am: Software and services coming together are important when you build hardware.

Here are some demos: Here is Surface running all four Office apps at the same time. “Now I have my full productivity scenario in hand.” BUT ALSO A NEW HALO GAME. Surface makes you so productive you will have extra time to play Halo.

“Is that kick-ass? I think it is, because I’m a gamer, and I love it.” Couple claps.

“Let me be super-clear. This scenario is super-ridiculous.” You shouldn’t actually play Halo while you work. “You’re really better off working or playing. Doing them both at the same time is called ADD. Don’t do it.” A few laughs.

We’re about to see a Skype message from Panay’s daughter Mary. She might be four?

But first some talk about the cameras.

Okay, on to Mary. She is the outlier in the Panay househould who does not use the tablet.

11:12 am: Maybe his daughter is not Mary? Maybe that’s his wife? Daughter may be named Anna. I’m guessing she’s three. Very cute.

11:14 am: Lights are dimming, but Panay’s image, via lens/senso combo built into Surface, is still quite clear. That’s a good feature.

“This is the power of Surface and Skype coming together.”

New Surface machines come with a year of free international calls, and access to free Wi-Fi hotspots.

11:16 am: “This is my PC … I literally use it for everything.”

“We talk about the cloud a lot. I can’t see the cloud. But I know it’s there.” Now we’ve moved onto SkyDrive.

11:17 am: Panay said he talked about trying to destroy a Surface onstage, Gallagher-style. But he won’t, so we’ll have to take his word for it.

Instead, let’s do some play-acting. Pretend he has left his Surface somewhere, like the back seat of a plane. What’s he going to do?

He is strolling out into the crowd, addressing some journos by name. The point being, if you lost your tablet, and your rivals got it, you’d be screwed, right?

“Here’s what’s great. That product? It’s bit-locker enabled.” No chance for a rival to break into your product.

The real point: Because all your stuff is in the cloud, if you lose your machine, all backed up on another machine. “This is the power of SkyDrive.” Applause.

Surface comes with 200 gigabytes of SkyDrive for two years. This will compel all of you to use SkyDrive. “Buying 32 gigs? That’s interesting. Buying 232 gigs? That’s powerful.”

Now we’re talking about covers again. “This product is two-and-a-half millimeters thin.” Also backlit, which Panay demonstrates by turning the lights off. “Isn’t that gorgeous?”

11:23 am: The new cover has more sensors, 1092 versus 80. Why does that matter? Well, apparently, if you used to type with the old cover, you might have missed keys. But now, problem solved. “We have predictive typing that comes off the product.”

These new covers “work on all our products.”

You can also do gestures on the cover. “We will give you more productive gestures.”

11:24 am: Now time to think about the future. “We have to be thinking generations ahead … this sensor is to open your mind a bit.”

Now comes a video, which I bet will involve red and green pills.

No! It’s some art and design students. Now, Surface’s Jony Ive, who has a Germanic accent.

Now the students are supposed to think of new things to plug into Surface. CUE LOUD DUBSTEP AND FAST-FORWARD.

Whoa. Now back to real time. Here are design students making up the future. “What if?” BACK TO DUBSTEP.

Ah. New Surface 2 is coming Oct. 22, by the way. WITH DUBSTEP.

Oh, maybe not. SURFACEREMIXPROJECT.COM is online Oct. 22. Be prepared for DUBSTEP, I would imagine.

So this is a new Surface cover that let’s you remix your music “and share it with the world.” It’s basically a mixing table and a drum kit. “This product is interesting, because it does come to life. We’ve been working with some of the best artists in the world. They love this product.” Steve Aoki and Linkin Park made some music with this product.

11:30 am: Now Panay is playing the Aoki/Park COLLABO. And now he is mixing it up. Have you guys heard about Molly? I read about it in the New York Times this summer.

11:31 am: “The Surface team is back in Redmond now, working, right now, on generations to come.”

11:32 am: Okay, on to dates. Tomorrow, 8 am, taking preorders on all the Surface products.


And, yes, Oct. 22 is the launch date for all of these products. “Within two weeks, every single person in this room will have these products in hand.” (Please don’t send to me, guys, I don’t review products. Srsly).

They are still making Surface RT, by the way. That’s the $349 one. 32GB.

Surface 2 32-64GB, starts at $449.

Surface Pro 2: 64GB-512GB. $899.

“Get these products. Make them yours.”

11:35 am: “Three things I want you to see today”:

Panay wants us to meet real-live Surface users, “people who use the products day in and day out … I think you need to talk to people who use them.”

There are engineers, here, too. We should talk to them. “There’s nothing to hide. Go see and feel the product.”

“Grab one. Touch it and feel it … The team is proud of what they’re offering for you to go get.”

11:38 am: And we’re done, capped with what I’m guessing is a new ad. Can you guess what kind of score it has?

Now, Linkin Park. G’nite.

Update: Here’s the full video from the event.

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