On tap from Microsoft: Surface 2 with LTE cellular support, negotiable pricing

Second generation Surface upgrades and accessories align better with business needs

Microsoft is coming out with another Surface 2 model next year that will support LTE so customers can receive texts and connect to the Internet via their cellular service.

Cyril Belikoff, director of Microsoft Surface, won’t say exactly when the tablet will be ready, but LTE will improve its flexibility for mobile users who aren’t near a Wi-Fi connection. He won’t say whether an LTE model of Surface Pro 2 laptop is in the pipeline either.

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He also won’t talk about price, but says the reseller network Microsoft will have set up in 29 countries by Oct. 1 will have leeway to negotiate volume discounts on Surface devices and accessories. The resellers can also help businesses with custom imaging, device tagging and on-site support.

Microsoft is pushing Surface 2 (the new version of Surface RT) and Surface Pro 2 as better suited for corporate deployment than their predecessors, mainly by extending the length of time they can operate unplugged and by giving businesses a way to connect them to a wired LAN.

The battery life has been enhanced not only by switching to the more power-pinching Haswell chip but by change to the actual circuitry in the device as well as use of a low-power solid state disk.

The Surface Pro battery itself can drain down 1,400 times before it dies, which gives it a life expectancy above three years, he says.

That fits in with the three-year laptop-replacement cycles many corporations have. The battery itself cannot be replaced due to the way the device is constructed.

Power Cover, a new keyboard that includes a battery of its own, extends the use time of both devices dramatically. For the Surface Pro 2 that means 50% more time than without it, and for Surface 2 the cover doubles the battery life. The cover weighs about half a pound.

Microsoft has built a car charger for the devices so mobile workers can boost the effective workday of the devices by recharging them while they drive from site to site.

A Surface docking station includes an Ethernet port for plugging into wired networks, has a video port for external screens and charges the device while it’s plugged into the LAN. This means Surface Pro 2 functions as a tablet, laptop or desktop, Belikoff says.

He says Surface 2, which doesn’t support traditional Windows applications, can find its place in corporate networks in certain applications. Retail workers and factory workers who need a single, touch-based application for their jobs could benefit from the devices, he says. If need be they can snap a keyboard onto a Surface 2 and use the Microsoft Office suite that it comes with standard.

Microsoft partners offer help writing business-specific apps for the device as well as help porting them to the hardware, he says.

The presence of Office on the machines and the addition of a docking station make Surface 2 an option for corporate executives whose work calls for mobility and business travel and who mostly use Office apps to do their work. In that case Surface 2 could be the only device they need, he says.

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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