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Monday, September 23, 2013, 11:57 am PT (02:57 pm ET)

First look: Microsoft's second-gen Surface tablets & keyboard covers

Members of the media were given their first hands-on with Microsoft's new slimmer and lighter Surface tablets and accompanying accessories on Monday, and AppleInsider was on-hand for the event.

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Microsoft's New York City event was led by Panos Panay, the company's corporate vice president and head of the Surface division. There he unveiled the Surface 2, the company's new ARM-based tablet designed to compete directly with Apple's iPad, as well as the Surface Pro 2, a more traditional Intel-powered tablet computer.

Panay took his share of swipes at Apple at the event, portraying Microsoft's Surface lineup as a platform intended for users who want to create content, rather than just consume it. When unveiling new colors for the company's updated keyboard covers, he also joked that Microsoft didn't need to put the letter "c" after the product's name — a reference to Apple's just-released iPhone 5c.

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The Surface Pro is positioned by Microsoft as a device intended for professional users that require a traditional PC experience. But the small form factor offers more versatility than a traditional notebook.

And with its premium-level pricing starting at $899, the Surface Pro is clearly intended to take on Apple in the high-end notebook segment — a market where the Mac has been dominant for years.

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At the conclusion of Monday's presentation, attendees were offered the opportunity to get their hands on the new Surface hardware and accessories. However, most of the second-generation units made available for the hands-on session were not actually functional: While they represented the final hardware design and the high-resolution displays were active, the touchscreens were non-responsive. Microsoft explained that these units were intended for photographs only.

There were, however, a handful of operational Surface 2 units that members of the press could get up close with. Representatives from the Surface team were also on-hand to explain the improvements made with the new second-generation hardware.

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The company is particularly proud of its new Touch Cover 2 keyboard accessory, boasting that it has nearly 1,100 sensors built in to improve accuracy when typing. Both it and the more traditional keyboard with press-able keys have been updated with thinner designs.

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Officials also highlighted the inclusion of Microsoft Office, the ability to back up a device to SkyDrive with 200 gigabytes of free storage, and the fact that the Windows 8 application store now has more than 100,000 options available.

In addition to the limited hands-on area, Microsoft also had a series of displays manned by real-life Surface users who were flown to the event to tell members of the press why they have chosen Surface. Among them were a gamer, filmmakers showing connectivity with high-end RED cameras, and Mike Krahulik, artist for the online comic Penny Arcade, who was sketching on a Surface.

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Preorders for Microsoft's new second-generation of Surface tablets will begin on Tuesday, while the devices will become available on Oct. 22. More pictures from Monday's event are included below:

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