Today Microsoft held an event to announce and showcase the Surface 2 tablet and accessories. While there are several flashy new items like the thinner, back lit Type Cover 2 and the dedicated DJ type cover - the real potential of the new device comes in the form of business productivity enhancements.
The Surface has been enticing for power users since its release in 2012, but the price of the Pro version ($899) and terrible battery life have caused most people to pass on the device. The Surface 2 addresses the battery life problem and then some. Microsoft is making a play for the professional space which can’t really be filled by the iPad or Android tablets. With these latest improvements, they are hoping to make the Surface 2 a viable option as your only computer.
The Surface 2 has a major hardware and efficiency improvement over the previous generation. Where the last Pro model was powered by the Intel Ivy Bridge micro-architecture, the new Pro is running Intel’s Haswell architecture resulting in a battery life improvement of 60% and a performance gain of around 20%. That fact alone is a great improvement for the device’s viability as a business workhorse but it’s only part of the strategy. Also announced were two major business accessories, the power cover and a docking station.
The power cover is a larger type cover / keyboard which comes packed with a built in 30 Wh battery boasting an additional 50% usage time. Coupled with the new Haswell processor, Microsoft claims a 250% battery life increase over the previous generation. That should get most users through an entire day without plugging in.
When it is time to plug in, or when you’re back at your desk, Microsoft has a new product to improve that experience as well in the form of a docking station. The lack of a docking station that could provide access to an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, and USB devices was a major prohibitor of actual business use for the device. That is no longer the case. The new docking accessory, which is expected to be released in early 2014 for around $200, has all of those things. It features a Mini DisplayPort for connecting monitors up to 3840x2160 in resolution, 4 x USB ports, an ethernet port, audio in/out, and power. This means that when you pop the surface into the dock you can run a full, traditional desktop setup from the same device.
These new accessories and improvements make the Surface Pro 2 the first viable single device setup option for business users or students. Packing more horsepower than the vast majority of laptops, this device can be taken anywhere to give you access to your PC regardless of your location. When you’re back at your desk, the exact same device can be used as your primary desktop with the optional docking station. Add in the power cover and you’ve got an all day touch screen laptop when you want it as well.
The only negative left with the Surface Pro 2 as a business device may be the cost. Starting at $899 and reaching up to as much as $1,799 before the $199 docking station and $149 power cover, it’s not exactly cheap. However, if you consider that it could be an employee or student’s only device, you’re likely to make out in the end over purchasing both a laptop and tablet, or desktop and laptop setup plus gain the benefits of a unified device. For the first time, I would seriously consider this as an option. It’s getting harder and harder to justify the purchase of a new desktop these days as the cost savings aren’t that great and the mobility is zero. The strength has always been in the performance. If the Surface Pro 2 can really live up to its performance claims there may be no leg left to stand on for the desktop if you value mobility in your business.