New York - Microsoft unveiled a new generation of Surface tablet computers Monday in a crucial bid to regain lost ground in the hottest sector of consumer computers from rivals including Apple, Google and Samsung.
The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 replace Microsoft's spectacularly unsuccessful Surface RT and Surface Pro, which debuted in February as Microsoft's answer to Apple's iPad. Consumers gave it the thumbs down, and Microsoft was forced to take a 900-million-dollar charge on the failure and sharply reduce prices.
Costing 899 dollars for a 64GB device and 999 dollars for a device with 128GB of storage, the new Surface Pro 2 is 20 per cent faster than its predecessor thanks to Intel's new Haswell chip, and boosts battery life by 75 per cent, said Microsoft's Surface boss Panos Panay, at the New York launch event.
The Surface 2, which has the less powerful Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, starts at 499 dollars for the 32GB version and 549 dollars for the 64GB model.
Both devices go on sale October 22.
The new tablets feature a new kickstand to make them easier to operate on users laps and come with a snap-on physical keyboard, which is backlit. An optional Surface Docking Station, could prove key to the Surface Pro 2's adoption in business settings, offering three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, audio sockets and a power hookup.
According to research firm IDC, Microsoft's tablets accounted for just 0.7 per cent of the 44.3 million tablets sold in the second quarter. Tablets from various manufacturers running Google's Android operating system accounted for 62.6 per cent of sales, while iPads had a 32.5-per-cent market share.
Microsoft became one of the world's dominant tech companies thanks to the near monopoly its Windows operating system enjoyed on PCs for two decades.
IDC predicts that sales of tablets will top PC sales for the first time in the fourth quarter, making it imperative for Microsoft to succeed in the sector.
The company recently announced that longtime chief executive Steve Ballmer would retire within a year. No successor has been named.