The second wave of Surface tablets is upon us. Microsoft's Panos Panay has just announced the Surface 2 on stage in New York. He describes it as "the most productive tablet ever built," while noting that the second generation Surface tablets are the product of over 18 months of development work.

Checking off the usual upgrade boxes, the Surface 2 is thinner, lighter, and faster than the original Surface slate. It's also adding a new silver color option to go with the classic black, there's a new 1080p ClearType display, and Microsoft has "increased the CPU speed dramatically." Nvidia's Tegra 4 is, as expected, at the heart of the new Surface, which Microsoft promises will last for up to 10 hours while playing back video. There's also a full-size USB 3.0 port for transferring files.

On the software front, the Surface 2 will ship with Windows RT 8.1. Outlook RT and all four Office apps got a mention during Microsoft's presentation, which also included a demonstration of some Halo gameplay on the Surface 2. Skype users will be happy with the new tablet, which will come with a year's free Skype calls to landlines in more than 60 countries plus free Skype Wi-Fi access. Microsoft's freebies will also include a 200GB allowance of SkyDrive storage for two years.

Pre-orders of the Surface 2, along with the new Haswell-based Surface Pro 2, begin at 8AM ET tomorrow, September 24th, with the 32GB Surface 2 costing $449, and a 64GB model available for $549. On October 22nd, The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will be available in 22 initial markets: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.

For our first hands-on impressions of the new Surface tablet, see Tom Warren's report and photos from New York.