As Apple Prepares to Announce New iPads, Microsoft's Surface 2 Goes On Sale

You could call it tablet Tuesday. As Apple is expected to announce new iPads at an event later today in San Francisco, Microsoft's latest tablets – the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro – are hitting store shelves. The second generation of the tablets will be available today at Best Buy, Staples and through Microsoft's own store.

The duo of tablets, which were announced last month, improve on Microsoft's original family of Surface devices, addressing some of the core hardware issues as well as some of the software gripes with Windows 8.1. The Surface 2, which starts at $449, has been slimmed down, has a high-resolution 1080p display and now has double the battery life. On ABC News' own tests, the tablet lasted more than 11 hours when playing movies.

The tablet still doesn't run the full version of Windows 8.1 though. Instead it runs Windows 8.1 RT, which allows buyers to run only apps from the Windows Store. You can't run older Windows programs.

Those who want that more advanced capability have the $899 Surface Pro 2 to chose from. The tablet is thicker and more expensive than the Surface 2 and instead of having a low-powered ARM chip inside, it has an Intel Core i5 processor. That takes means battery life takes a hit, but that's the sacrifice you make for the full version of Windows 8.1.

Both of the tablets are available with the unique keyboard covers, which have been updated with a backlight so you can type in the dark. The Touch Cover starts at $120 and the Type Cover at $130. They are sold separately from the tablets.

Microsoft has begun to run commercials for the new tablets, highlighting the areas in which they provide more capabilities than the iPad. In one of the new advertisements, the company shows that the Surface runs Microsoft Word, can be turned into a laptop with the keyboard covers and how you can run two apps side by side with Windows 8.1.

However, despite major marketing efforts the first time around, the Surface failed to gain traction with buyers. In the last year, the iPad maintained its lead as the most popular tablet, with Android tablets quickly gaining a large chunk of the marketshare. In the last few months all the major tablet makers have released updates to their products too. Google released an improved $229 Nexus 7 and Amazon a set of new Kindle Fire HD and HDX products. And today Apple is expected to announce a thinner, lighter and faster version of its popular tablet, which started everything.

That's a lot of tablet choices, but the market continues to grow, especially as the holiday season approaches. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center Internet Project revealed that 35 percent of Americans own a tablet, up from 25 percent the year before. Additionally, Nielsen reported last holiday season that children asked for tablets, notably the iPad, more than any other tech item. That means that tablet Tuesday is just the start. Also Read
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