It's been a busy week for mobile device makers of all stripes. Let's get right to it, shall we?
Microsoft Begins Pre-Orders for Surface Pro 2
On Tuesday, Microsoft held a press event to announce upgrades and new accessories for its Surface line of tablets. Both the Windows RT-based Surface and the Windows 8-based Surface Pro got a "2" added to their names, along with an operating system update and spec bump.
The Surface Pro 2 will still be run by a Core i5 processor, but one built on Intel's power-saving Haswell architecture. The new chip increases battery life by 75 percent over the previous Surface Pro. Windows 8.1 will come preloaded. The price starts at $899 for a model with 4GB memory and 64GB flash storage and goes up to $1,799 for 8GB memory and 512GB storage. Reserving one now will get one shipped to you "by October 21."
The Surface 2 upgrades the screen to the same 1080p display that's always been on the Pro model. The tablet runs on a Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA, enabling 10-hour battery life. Along with the not at all confusingly named Windows RT 8.1 you get Office 2013 RT, which includes "touch-optimized" versions of Outlook as well as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. It's $449 with 2GB memory and 32GB storage.
Microsoft made sure to mention that the kickstand on both the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro now has two positions, so you're not locked to just one angle for the screen. They both come with USB 3.0 connectivity, microSD slots (microSDXC on the Pro), and support for HD external video.
As for accessories, the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 feature backlit keys and thin but "more rigid" designs. The Power Cover is all-new, combining a battery with the keyboard of the Type Cover 2, extending the life of either tablet by 50 percent. There's also a Docking Station for connecting desktop peripherals with one click. The Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 are available for pre-order now for $119.99 and $129.99 respectively; the Power Cover and Docking Station will each be $199.99 when they become available in "early 2014."
Amazon Announces Pixel-Dense Kindle Fire HDX
In the screen-sharpness battle launched by the Retina Display on Apple's iPad, Amazon has fired the latest volley with its Kindle Fire HDX line, announced on Wednesday. The 7-inch model matches the 1920 x 1200 resolution of Google's own Nexus 7 tablet with 323 pixels per inch. The 8.9-inch version is even crisper at 2560 x 1600 with 339 pixels per inch. They run Fire OS 3.0, Amazon's flavor of the Android operating system.
They're no slouch in the processing department either, each packing a quad-core 2.2GHz CPU and 2GB memory. The newest feature this time around is the Mayday button on the device's main menu, which summons a live tech support advisor within 15 seconds. You see them in a little pop-up video box, but they don't see you. Halloween should be a popular day for that feature.
The HDX starts at $229 for the 7-inch model with 16GB of storage, Wi-Fi, and those "Special Offers," ads that run on the lockscreen; it starts shipping October 18. Trick out the 8.9-inch model with 64GB storage, 4G LTE connectivity, and no ads for $594, but you'll have to wait until December 10 (or November 7 without LTE).
Apple Sells 9 Million New iPhones in One Weekend
The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, announced on September 10, went on sale Friday, September 20. On Monday, Apple announced that 9 million of the new smartphones had been sold. CEO Tim Cook said that the company had sold out of the initial supply of the higher-end 5s. The new iPhones were made available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
BlackBerry to Go Private for $4.7 Billion
BlackBerry's news isn't as obviously exciting, but it could be a step in turning the beleaguered company around. The once dominant smartphone maker has agreed to be purchased by a consortium led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, which already owns 10 percent of BlackBerry's common shares. Although BlackBerry handsets were once the smartphone of choice among business users, their market share has dwindled to single digits since the introduction of the iPhone and Android devices.
The transaction is valued at $4.7 billion and values all outstanding shares of BlackBerry stock at $9 per share. Subject to "due diligence, negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement … and customary regulatory approvals," Fairfax plans to take the company private – so it's not going away. What exactly the future holds for it, though, won't be certain for some time.
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