Microsoft just sent out invitations for an event in New York City on Monday September 23rd, two weeks from today. It will be showing off the new Surface. Which is to say, it's going to be showing us the future of Microsoft.
The upgrades to the Surface RT (expected to just be called Surface) and Surface Pro are largely a mystery. Well, specs for the Pro have leaked out, but they're mostly what you'd expect from this generation of ultrabook-level device. What's more interesting will be what happens with the overall thesis of the Surface—will there be significant changes to the keyboard cover and kickstand that address complaints many had, or will Microsoft double down on its design and lean on the advantages of a year's worth of guts improvement will offer?
Those improvements will be significant all on their own, especially on the Pro. Intel's new ultra-low-power Haswell chips are already powering laptops to unheard of battery life—the MacBook Air runs for 12 hours in the real world. The Surface Pro was in dire need of better battery life. Some of the low power versions even let you build a laptop (or Surface Pro) without fans, which will significantly reduce the heft of the Surface Pro. Maybe enough for it to feel like holding a real tablet. Couple that with the improvements to scaling (the 10-inch screen with its dense 1080p resolution was a huge issue for the Pro) in Windows 8.1 and the Pro could be a lot more compelling. Or the clumsy aspects of the first model could continue to weigh the Surface down, no matter how the internals have grown, or shrunk.
As for the RT, it will need a vastly better screen, at the very least. But it will also be relying on a Windows 8 app ecosystem that's had a year to flesh itself out—but still isn't in the best shape. Rumors have it running on a Tegra 4 processor, with a 1080p screen. The hardware itself of the Surface RT was drop dead gorgeous, though, even more so than the Surface pro. So pretty that we hope the new version is good enough to warrant owning.
The invitation itself does show the familiar Surface keyboard, though, which shows that the design (likely) won't change. Meaning the anemic trackpad isn't likely to see an improvement.
This is the generation of chip that the Surface was meant to run on, and a year's worth of (big, fat) lumps should inform a lot of decisions that go into this round of Surfaces. Hopefully that's enough to make it good. We'll let you know a few Mondays from now.