Windows 8 Update: 2nd-generation Surface tablets may debut next month

Also, with 1.8% of the market Surface puts Microsoft among top 5 vendors, Surface keyboards are free in China

Microsoft may be revealing the second generation of its Surface tablets during its developers' conference next month, according to a printed report.

The new devices will have 7- to 9-inch screens and will rely on the same vendors that provided components for the first generation, according to DigiTimes, which attributed its story to suppliers. Microsoft is aiming at the June 26-28 Build conference in San Francisco for the launch, DigiTimes says.

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The current Surface tablets nailed down 1.8% of all tablet sales in the first quarter of this year, winning the Windows 8 devices fifth place among hardware vendors, according to IDC.

That represents 900,000 units, lagging far behind the category leader Apple which sold 19.5 million iPads and iPad Minis during the same period, according to IDC's "Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker."

Still, Surface sales represented half of the Windows 8 and Windows RT devices sold by all vendors, the report says.

The report notes that Microsoft doesn't make tablets with 7- to 8-inch screens, which are gaining in popularity, and that it faces competition from vendors that make less expensive tablets. "If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond," says Ryan Reith, IDC manager for its Mobile Device Tracker program.

Meanwhile, according to NetMarketshare, Windows 8 clawed its way to 3.8% of desktop operating system sales in April, up from 3.17% in March.

Windows XP and Windows 7 remain the overwhelmingly dominant operating systems with XP holding 38.31% and Windows 7 claiming 44.72% of the total, NetMarketshare's monthly report says.

Free Surface keyboards ... in China

Microsoft is offering free Touch keyboards to anyone in China buying a Surface RT tablet without a keyboard, and offering either an extra Touch or a Type keyboard to anyone buying a Surface RT that comes with a Touch cover. The Touch keyboards are worth $119 and the Type keyboards are worth $129 if bought separately.

The deal isn't offered on Surface Pro tablets which are full laptops that support any Windows 7 application as well as those tailored to Windows 8.

The offer ends May 31 and is good only in China, where the potential market is so huge that this offer could prime the pump for a significant uptick in Surface RT sales, which have been sluggish at best.

As goes Maine

The state of Maine has made Windows 8 on HP laptops the official default mobile computer for schools, unseating Apple, which has enjoyed years as the primary laptop vendor for schools.

Schools have the option to buy any of the five proposals the state considered, but they have to pick up the difference between their cost and the cost of an HP ProBook 4440, according to the Associated Press.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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