Microsoft Prepares Surface 2 Midnight Launch

The software giant indulges in a ritual reserved for major product launches as early reviews of its updated Surface tablets find a lot to like amid some glaring faults.

Ahead of officially launching its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets on Oct. 22, Microsoft is readying a series of midnight events at select retail locations.

In total, 10 Microsoft Stores will be hosting the events starting at 10 p.m. local time tonight, announced the company on Oct. 21. "We've worked hard to ensure that Microsoft retail stores will be the best place to experience and purchase the most productive tablet on the planet—Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2," said David McAughan, chief operating officer of Microsoft Retail Stores, in company remarks.

The tablets and related launch festivities will help showcase Microsoft's brick and mortar retailing presence in time for a the critical year-end shopping period, suggested McAughan. "These Surface launch events are a great example of the type of experiences you can enjoy at our stores as we kick off the holiday season."

Surface 2 midnight launch events are taking place at the following shopping centers: Bellevue (Wash.) Square Mall; Westfield San Francisco Centre; Scottsdale (Ariz.) Fashion Square; Dadeland Mall in Miami; Lennox Square Mall in Atlanta; The Shops at Prudential Center in Boston; The Westchester in White Plains, N.Y.; The Domain in Austin, Texas; The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va.; and the Oakbrook Center Mall in Oak Brook, Ill.

Unlike the original Surface and Surface Pro, the new Surface tablets are hitting store shelves at the same time. The slow-selling Surface RT and business-friendly Surface Pro launched months apart. This time, Microsoft is delivering both the Surface 2—the company has dropped the RT branding for the ARM-powered slate—and the Surface Pro 2 on Oct. 22.

Early reviews indicate that the combination of upgraded software (Windows 8.1) and new hardware delivers a much-improved experience compared with the original Surface tablet. Yet some shortcomings persist, namely a dearth of quality Windows apps.

In his review of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, Wired's Mathew Honan observed that in terms of the Windows app ecosystem, excluding legacy x86 software, a year failed to make much of a difference. "Honestly, I expected the Windows Store to come alive with apps over the past year. Microsoft, after all, is a company with a massive, well-established developer network. It seemed likely to me that developers would dive in. I was wrong," he wrote.

Honan said the Windows Store app marketplace is infested with "crappy little parasites" that add little value. Worse, established apps like Dropbox and Evernote deliver less functionality than their counterparts on other platforms, causing Windows tablets, and the Surface by extension, to fall behind in the mobile app race.

The sleek hardware continues to impress, particularly on the business-friendly Surface Pro 2. The Verge's Tom Warren noted the added punch provided by the tablet's 1.6GHz Intel Haswell Core i5-4200U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400. "It's clearly aimed at professionals and those who need raw power, and it doesn't disappoint," Warren said.

Delivering a score of 7.8 out of 10, Warren concluded that the "Surface Pro 2's unique mix of touch, keyboard, mouse, and pen really does work." Capable of doing "everything you would expect a regular desktop PC to do," it may not be perfect for each of those inputs, but "if you really want it all then there are few other devices with as much versatility," he wrote.

While impressed with many of the Surface Pro 2's features and capabilities, Engadget's Dana Wollman feels that the device misses the mark as a tablet. In her review, she expressed "hope that as Microsoft sits down to plan the Surface Pro 3, it focuses on building a better tablet, the same way it made the Surface Pro 2 a better laptop."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...