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Memory bump and NFC may also be added

Despite a rocky start for its tablet experiment, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is reportedly prepping its second generation of Surface tablets for this holiday shopping season.  The Surface Pro 2 is expected to receive Haswell Core series chip from Intel Corp. (INTC).  

I. First Gen Surface Pro Was Sunk Largely by it's Intel Processor

Before 2010 no tablet had achieved strong enough sales to be characterized as a hit and the market was considered a niche space.  Then in 2010 Apple, Inc.'s (AAPLiPad debutedposting stunning sales.  A key to its success was its decision to dump the power-thirsty Intel processors that littered its underappreciated Windows predecessors and instead adopt a weaker but more power-efficient core design from ARM Holdings Plc. (LON:ARM).  Thanks to the ARM chip, the tablet boasted a battery life of 10 hours -- a key selling point.

Two years later, Microsoft, still steaming from missing the tablet craze, ditched its OEM partners to launch its own first-party tablet hardware -- Surface.  And Microsoft offered up a variant dubbed Surface Pro that packed a 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel i5-3317u Ivy Bridge chip.  The hot question was whether Intel's primary "Core" chip line had come far enough power-efficiency-wise to truly compete with hit ARM-equipped Android tablets and the iPad.
Things looked promising at first.  The tablet launched in Feb. 2013 to much buzz and some retailers sold out of their early stock.  In fact in its first month the tablet reportedly moved 400,000 units.  But eventually sales petered out leading Microsoft to take a whopping $900M USD write-down and slap a permanent $100 USD discount on the struggling tablet.

Data-mining indicates that Surface RT is actually the stronger seller, comprising about 9.5 percent of Windows 8/RT devices sold, while Surface Pro occupied a measly 1.0 percent.

Surface ARM
The Surface Pro has been outsold by the ARM-equipped Surface RT.

The deal breaker for many was the high price ($799 for 64 GB and $899 USD for 128 GB after the latest discount) coupled with the poor battery life.  The Intel chip shaved the ample 7-hour battery life of the ARM-equipped Surface RT down to a little over 4 hours.  Arguably, Intel is to blame on both of these counts as it demands up to $300 USD more for its power-hungry chips, versus popular ARM competitors.

To make matters worse, the tablet at times felt sluggish during heavy use with "only" 4 GB of RAM and the Windows 8 OS consumed much of the storage, leaving only 83 GB free on the 128 GB Surface; 23 GB on the 64 GB Surface. By contrast the iPad -- which requires about 10 percent of storage to be free, plus room for the OS -- offers about 105 GB for the 128 GB version and 54 GB for the 64 GB version [source].  It appear the Windows recovery technology is primarily to blame -- of the 10.4 GB allocated for Windows, 7.9 GB of it is reportedly for recovery.

II. Fixing Surface -- Haswell May Do the Trick

Microsoft has already moved to remedy storage shortcomings by bumping the capacity to 256 GB in the first-generation models.

But the pivotal question remained what to do about the power-hungry Intel chip.  It appears Intel has sold Microsoft on the idea of a Haswell brain for the Surface 2.  A recent analysis by AnandTech showed Intel making serious power-efficiency gains with Haswell, with a projected battery life of 8 hours with a 42.5 Wh battery.  Of course these numbers were based on Apple's OS X and iOS -- but they suggest that if Microsoft does its homework on the firmware front, their may be hope that the Surface Pro 2 fixes the abysmal battery life of its predecessor.

Haswell die
Haswell is offering 8+ hours of battery life on a 42 Wh battery.

The aforementioned tests were done on a Haswell ULT processor (13.5 W TDP).  In June Intel also announced an even more efficient ULX line (10 W TDP) (with 'Y' tacked onto the chip numbers), which could bump battery life even higher.  If Microsoft can get it hands on ULX chips, it has a shot at least doubling the battery life of the first generation Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro 2 is also expected -- according to Neowin -- to pack a "refined" kickstand, improving on a popular feature in the first model.  It's also expected to bump the memory to 8 GB.  TechRadar reports that other Surface Pro 2 rumors point to NFC, wireless charging, an LTE variant, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.

Meanwhile the Surface 2 (the second generation Surface RT) is expected to receive a predictable bump from NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) Tegra 3 arm processor to a Tegra 4 chip -- possibly the Tegra 4i.

The only official word from Microsoft is that it has committed to "updates" as noted in a video from Microsoft captured by ZDNet.  However AdDuplex -- which claims to be the largest Windows 8/RT-specific advertising network -- has noted Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices are already logging internet hours, indicating that Microsoft is likely dogfooding prototypes in preparation for a launch.

Microsoft FY2014
Microsoft has confirmed a "refresh" of Surface. [Image Source: ZDNet]

Those same numbers hint that Microsoft may be competing with its own recently acquired subsidiary -- Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) -- as a pair of Nokia tablets (codenamed RX-107, RX-108) also show up in the mined data.

Sources: NeoWin, TechRadar, AdDuplex, ZDNet

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RE: PC replacement
By Mint on 9/4/2013 2:00:58 PM , Rating: 4
I was with you until the silly antitrust comment. Google telling MS to stop offering its Win8 YouTube app while also refusing to make one itself is antitrust. Google offering cheap tablets is not.

But yeah, Windows on ARM has no future as long as Intel doesn't overcharge for Silvermont. And you're right that power consumption (resulting in high weight for cooling and low battery life) is what hurt Surface Pro. Haswell will fix it.

RE: PC replacement
By Reclaimer77 on 9/4/2013 6:04:09 PM , Rating: 1
Google telling MS to stop offering its Win8 YouTube app while also refusing to make one itself is antitrust.


It would be really nice if people knew what Anti-trust laws were. The only anti-trust law this would apply to would be preventing monopolies and the abuse of monopoly power.

Since YouTube is on the web, it's impossible for Google to monopolize access to it. Unless it were to become a private service, of course. YouTube itself hardly has a monopoly on user-driver internet media streaming either. So what abuse of power is happening here exactly?

Also where in anti-trust laws is it written that Google MUST allocate resources, which costs them money, to create an app for Windows Phone which has no chance of returning them a profit due to the small number of people using the device?

Every Windows Phone user has access to YouTube, it's called a browser. Microsoft accusing Google of not being "open enough" is the quintessential pot meets kettle. As soon as Microsoft agrees to follow Google's guidelines to the letter, like Apple and everyone else does, this issue will be resolved.

It seems these days that Microsoft’s antitrust division has little to do with protecting, preventing or defending antitrust matters at, you know, Microsoft. The company has been the ringleader of a global hunt against Google. In the United States and Europe, Microsoft has been the forefront of a group called that has one and only goal in its existence: to nail Google to the wall for real or perceived unfair business practices.

This is just more anti-Google rhetoric Microsoft is stirring up. It's shameful. Look I'm sorry Bing is a complete and utter failure, while Google search and YouTube have become totally ubiquitous services in the modern mobile era. But it was YOU, Microsoft, who dropped the ball on that.

RE: PC replacement
By Labotomizer on 9/4/2013 7:47:11 PM , Rating: 2
They have agreed to follow Google's requirements. Google has made requirements that are DIFFERENT for Microsoft than for the competitors. Additionally they won't release all the information on the APIs required to make a WP app that meets their requirements.

If you feel that the suits against MS in the late 90s and early 2000s were justified then I can't see how you can argue against YouTube being any different.

Of course, I don't think those were justified, at least not many of them. So I don't know that I think the YouTube issue is a problem either.

RE: PC replacement
By Reclaimer77 on 9/4/2013 8:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
No they haven't. They refused to make the proper browser changes, and instead re-released a YouTube app that violated the ToS.

Additionally they won't release all the information on the APIs required to make a WP app that meets their requirements.

Well they have no obligation to do that, right?

Additionally they won't release all the information on the APIs required to make a WP app that meets their requirements.

Kind of like how Microsoft told Android OEM's that they would sue them if they didn't license patents that were being infringed on, but they wouldn't tell them which ones they were until after they agreed?

If you feel that the suits against MS in the late 90s and early 2000s were justified then I can't see how you can argue against YouTube being any different.

Uhh because Microsoft had a near monopoly and could potentially do much harm. I don't agree with the decision, mind you, but the reasoning was there.

How is this just like a handful of Windows Phone users not having an app? Especially when they can just get on YouTube with a browser.

Google probably is playing dirty pool with Microsoft. These companies clearly don't like each other. But an anti-trust violation? Not even close.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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