Microsoft today announced updated versions of its Surface tablets in an effort to boost poor sales and challenge Apple's iPad.

The new Surface Pro, powered by an Intel chip, is 20% faster and features an all-day battery with 75% more life, Panos Panay, the company’s Surface chief, said at an event in New York today.

The Surface 2 has a high-definition screen and 25% better battery life, and runs on a chip with ARM Holdings technology.

The new tablets will be available in Ireland, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and US on October 22 and in China in early November.

Additional markets will be announced in the coming months.

Microsoft jumped into the touch-screen tablet market, dominated by Apple’s iPad and models running Google’s Android software, in June 2012 with the announcement of its first Surface.

Designed to keep its Windows software relevant as consumers shift from personal computers and laptops to tablets, the Surface instead generated such little demand that Microsoft took a $900m inventory writedown last quarter.

The company also introduced new versions of the device’s covers, which come with built-in keyboards, as well as a new docking station.

The Washington-based company has thus far failed to get traction in the market. Surface accounted for 0.7% of the 44.3 million tablets sold in the second quarter, according to researcher IDC. The device was too expensive, riddled with software bugs and featured too few applications, analysts said.

Android controlled 62.6% of the tablet market and Apple had 32.5%, according to IDC. Android software is used in tablets manufactured by companies including Samsung and Sony.

Tablet shipments will top those of PCs for the first time in the fourth quarter, IDC said earlier this month. Some 84.1 million tablets will be shipped, compared with 83.1 million PCs, the researcher said.

Microsoft entered the tablet hardware market in part because traditional manufacturers of Windows computers were not stepping up with compelling devices. Still, among Windows tablets with Intel chips, Surface is being outsold by vendors like Acer and Hewlett-Packard IDC said.

Microsoft said it sold $853m worth of Surface tablets in the fiscal year that ended June 30. To sell more devices, the company has cut prices, and earlier this month it started offering at least $200 in vouchers to its retail stores if customers traded in a used iPad.