There have already been a number of "too little, too late" articles written about today's introduction of Microsoft's upcoming Surface 2 Pro and Surface 2 tablets.
However, despite the the high prices (which start at $899 for the Surface 2 Pro and $449 for the Surface 2), the insistence on installing a crippled version of Windows 8.1 (RT) on the Surface 2, and (perhaps because of these factors), Microsoft's seemingly general inability to crack the consumer market, there is at least one aspect of Surface 2 line-up that I can't help admiring immediately: Its covers.
Microsoft has expanded the range of covers for the Surface 2 -- including one that is not yet available, but which was, for me, one of the most interesting gadgets shown. The Surface Remix Project was developed to allow would-be DJs to do music remixes, complete with numbered buttons, sliders, and keys for volume and control. While this last cover isn't yet available, and there's no word yet on when or how much it will cost, it does illustrate the potential of the tablet/cover combination that Microsoft is promoting.
The covers that will be available when the Surface 2 ships are upgrades of previous versions: a Touch Cover 2 ($120) that is a bit thinner than its predecessor and has been upgraded to increase its accuracy, and the Type Cover 2 ($130), which will now come in a variety of colors and is also somewhat thinner than the previous version. Both covers will offer backlighting, a nice addition. Sometime in early 2014, Microsoft will also ship a Power Cover ($200) that, according to the company, will add 50% more battery life to the Surface (at nearly a full pound, the Power Cover will also add weight).
I was talking to one of the students attending the introduction who had been using the new Surface 2 and who told me that while she preferred the Touch Cover, her sister preferred the Type Cover. The idea of families being able to not only share a tablet by switching the user identity (which is already available on Windows tablets), but also by popping in a different cover, is a rather neat one.
And it could be expanded -- if Microsoft chose to do so. What about a cover for somebody who wants to create digital art, or one that will make video editing more efficient? A cover for a child? One optimized for spreadsheet/financial use?
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that, at current prices, the Surface and its covers will flood the market. (At one point, the student I was talking to enthused that you could switch keyboards according to your liking the same way that people switched smartphone cases -- and one of her friends pointed out that a smartphone case costs $5.) But it's certainly an interesting concept to consider.