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Microsoft unveils new Surface tablet at New York event

By Anick Jesdanun
Associated Press

NEW YORK: Microsoft is offering a new Surface tablet computer and accessories, including a professional model that allows people to use it more like a laptop or a desktop.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is trying to boost its tablet business as sales of traditional desktop and laptop computers decline.

The Surface Pro 2, unveiled at an event in New York, is targeted at professionals who want the full power of a laptop in a tablet-style device. The kickstand built into the device is redesigned to make it easier to use on laps. In the past, it worked best lying flat.

Microsoft says the Pro 2 also offers a 75 percent improvement in battery life over the previous model. There’s also a new cover accessory that extends battery life even further. An optional docking station allows the Pro 2 to be used like a laptop.

A cheaper model, Surface 2, offers a better screen and other improvements over last year’s Surface RT.

The Surface 2 starts at $449, and the Surface Pro 2 at $899. It will be available starting Oct. 22.

Microsoft plans to release an update to its Windows 8 operating system on Oct. 17. Among other things, Windows 8.1 will be usable on smaller touch screens, which have become popular because they are cheaper and easier to carry. The previous version of Windows 8 was limited to tablets with 10-inch to 12-inch screens.

The screen on both new Surface models remains at 10.6 inches, measured diagonally. Microsoft didn’t announce smaller Surface models.

The redesigned Surface tablets come at a time of transition for Microsoft. At a time when personal computer sales are falling, the giant is trying to become a more diversified software and mobile devices company. Earlier this month, Microsoft struck a deal to acquire Nokia’s handset and services business for $7.2 billion. The company is also searching for a new CEO to replace Steven A. Ballmer, who announced last month that he plans to retire within the next year.

Microsoft has manufactured devices before, such as its Xbox gaming console. In selling the Surface, the company became a competitor to its many manufacturing partners, which rely on its Windows operating system to power their machines.

Microsoft began selling Surface tablets last October, but sales have been slow. The company shipped about a million tablets in the first three months of 2013, according to research firm IDC. That includes about 260,000 of the RT version of Surface and 750,000 of the Pro version, which is compatible with older Windows programs. The shipments gave Microsoft a meager 2 percent share of the tablet market in the first quarter. By the second quarter, Microsoft tablets dropped out of IDC’s Top 5.



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