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5 Things to Expect From Microsoft's Surface Event


We might see a whole family of tablets with different processors.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will be holding an event this morning at 10:30 a.m. ET in New York to unveil the Surface 2. Here's what to expect.

Surface Mini? Back in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft was planning to adjust the Windows 8 specifications for tablets to allow for a smaller e-reader-sized 7-inch Surface. Then in June, at the Microsoft Build developer conference, the company hinted at some anticipated screen sizes for Windows 8.1 tablets, including a 10.6-inch screen with much higher resolution than the current 10.6-inch Surface. It also hinted at a number of handheld tablet sizes at higher resolutions. This would make sense since even Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has jumped onto the multiple tablet-size bandwagon, following Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus line and Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) family of Kindle Fires. Acer (TPE:2353) has already debuted an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, so this is probable and possible.

Haswell Processors? So far, Microsoft has released two computers, the Surface Pro and Surface RT. The RT, like an iPad or most smartphones, packs a low-powered ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) chip, and the Pro has an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Core i5. The only real reason for releasing two Windows 8 operating systems was to offer a computer with good battery life. The RT, however has suffered from poor sales, and even forced the company to book a $900 million writedown last quarter. Even at lowered price points, the RT isn't moving. After the April price cut, according to AdDuplex, the RT gained significant share of all Windows 8 devices, reaching a share of 9.5% in August. At $350, people will buy it, even if it can't run legacy Windows software.

The RT might be more redundant if the Pro is outfitted with the latest Intel chips, the Haswell that powers the newest ultrabooks and MacBook Air laptops. If the rumor mill is correct and the processor in the Pro is upgraded to a fourth-generation Haswell, the heat management and battery life on the clunky Pro will be much better.

Back in June, Bloomberg reported that the next version of the RT will come with a Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 3 processor, but Microsoft will still ship Surface RTs with the current NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) Tegra 3 chips. The Snapdragons have built-in 4G LTE connectivity, which opens up the possibility of a mobile-data ready Surface RT.

Adjustable stand? The most important feature of the surface, if you believe Microsoft's ads, is that it has a clicky-sounding kickstand. The kickstand on the current generation of Surface only gives a user one viewing angle, and makes it impossible to use as a laptop on an uneven surface, such as a human lap. Multiple media outlets have reported that an adjustable kickstand is in the works.

Accessories? The Touch Cover keyboard/cover could possible act as a separate battery, as the Surface team said in a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session.

Pricing? We can only guess. Rumors had the original surface as cheap as $200 last summer, but that turned out to be a dream. With the retail price of the first RT at $350, going back to the original price point of $500 will be a hard sell.

While Microsoft is still in a transition from a software company to a "devices and services" company, headlining products like the Surface, its first homemade computer, will grow in importance. Microsoft is still divided, and there is no clear leader just yet in the CEO field. It is obvious that the turn toward hardware is not over, especially now that Microsoft owns a class-A hardware design team at Nokia (NYSE:NOK).

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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