Microsoft refreshes Surface tablet with free storage and Skype

Microsoft is aiming to win over tablet users with an update to its Surface tablet, which now boasts 200GB of free online storage

Microsoft is aiming to win over tablet users with an update to its Surface tablet, which now boasts 200GB of free online storage.

Microsoft has unveiled the Windows RT powered Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, which runs the full Windows 8.1 operating system. Both devices are due to ship on October 22.

Microsoft said customers buying either device will receive free Skype calling to landlines in more than 60 countries for a year; unlimited Skype Wi-Fi on their Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 at more than 2 million hot spots worldwide for one year; and 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.

These latest giveaways follow Microsoft's decision to slash the price of the two tablet devices.

Microsoft said Surface 2 is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor and offers an improved battery life of up to 10 hours. It offers a full-size USB port, upgraded to the USB 3.0 specification for file transfers up to four times faster. Camera resolution has also increased, with a 3.5 megapixel front camera and 5 megapixel rear camera, both capable of capturing 1080 pixel video and featuring improved low-light performance, Microsoft claimed.

The Surface 2 tablet is available in 32GB and 64GB SSD configurations with prices starting at £359.

The Pro version is powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor. Microsoft said Surface Pro 2 offers 60% longer battery life compared to the original Surface Pro.

Starting at £719, Surface Pro 2 will be offered with either a  64GB or 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. A higher specification tablet with 8GB of RAM is also available in either 256GB or 512GB SSD configurations. Microsoft will also be shipping a new docking station and battery extender for the Surface Pro.

In a blog post, J P Gownder, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester wrote: "The new Surface products will offer workers and consumers an incrementally improved user experience, particularly when combined with the forthcoming release of Windows 8.1 on October 18th. But whether Microsoft can turn these second-generation products into a mass market success for enterprise customers, workers and consumers will depend on its ability to quickly upgrade its branding and go-to-market strategies."

Microsoft appears to be giving Surface a major push to cement its new strategy as a software, services and hardware company. In June 2013 Microsoft reported it had taken a $900m hit on the Surface product family. Earlier in September 2013 Microsoft also announced it would be buying the mobile handset arm of Nokia.

In his last call with investors, CEO Steve Ballmer emphasised the importance of the company's Bing search engine as a viable revenue stream, where devices such as the Surface tablet will play a major role. 

Ballmer said: "The easiest place for us to get scale is on our own devices or on somebody with whom we are closely aligned."


Read more on IT suppliers