Report: Microsoft produced up to 20,000 Surface mini tablets before scrapping the launch

Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 3 tablet this week and started taking pre-orders for the 12 inch tablet for $799 and up. But many industry watchers had expected the company to unveil a Surface mini tablet with a smaller display at the same time.

That didn’t happen. Reports suggest a smaller Surface tablet was in development, but that its launch was cancelled at the last minute due to concerns that it wouldn’t be a competitive device.

Now Neowin reports that Microsoft went as far as producing an initial batch of tablets before deciding to cancel or postpone the launch. As many as 15-to-20 thousand Surface mini tablets could be sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

Microsoft OneNote for Windows

Microsoft OneNote for Windows

The Surface mini that was in development was expected to feature a 7 or 8 inch screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM-based processor, and Windows RT software, OneNote, and a digital pen.

It’s possible Microsoft scrapped the launch plans after looking at the sea of small, cheap tablets including the iPad mini, Dell Venue 8 Pro, and Lenovo Miix 2. It’s also possible the company is waiting until it can merge Windows RT with Windows Phone, allowing Windows tablets with ARM chips to run the same software available for smartphones.

Neowin explores the theory suggested by one of their reliable tipsters that Microsoft is waiting until it’s ready to launch a touch-friendly version of Microsoft Office. In other words, those Surface mini tablets sitting in a warehouse might only need a software update before they’re ready to go.

Microsoft offers Office 2013 Home & Student software for free to makers of Windows 8.1 and Windows RT devices with small screens. But it’s tough to actually use the software unless you have a mouse, keyboard, and a screen that’s about 10 inches or larger because Windows was designed for use on larger devices. It has tiny menus, icons, and other elements that can be hard to interact with using just your fingers or even a digital pen.

The company already has touch-friendly versions of Office for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone… but not for Windows RT. It’s possible that once that software’s ready to go, the existing Surface mini devices will come out of the vault… if their hardware isn’t obsolete by then.

  • Sam Curcio

    Why am I hearing chat and music while I am reading your articles, but there’s no video? Is this a new way to advertise? No one can turn it off because it’s not visible?

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Hmm… that’s not supposed to happen. Are you sure it’s Liliputing that’s causing the problem?

      Did you mouse over a video ad by accident? Does refreshing the page help?
      What’s the audio saying? If we can figure out which ad is causing the problem I might be able to talk to the ad network about it.

      • Sam Curcio

        I heard it in the background, but it was too low to hear what the people were saying.

        It did sound like an advertisement. I looked for a video because I wanted to turn it off. Nothing was playing. This has happened on a few other websites with advertising.

      • LittleOtterPaws

        You might have been hijacked by Conduit or malware similar to that.

  • Michael Thompson

    So the implication is that they thought that other stuff WOULD be competetive?

  • jm2c

    I bet if it were an Atom tablet with digitizer it would have sold better than the Surface Pro 3 just based on the lower price.

    If they are holding them in a warehouse and might possibly release them in the future that might be tough as the processor would possibly be outdated.

  • Keith

    Far more likely once they had units in-hand they did market research and found out that consumers (who are not enthusiasts) couldn’t figure out what distinguished these from all of the rest of the small tablets on the market and also hated the UI (being familiar with Android and iOS by now).
    So the taxpayer will take another hit for them as Microsoft gets to “write down” yet another expensive Bridge to Nowhere. Isn’t corporate welfare just grand? I’m sure the Koch Brothers have a hand in this somewhere as part of their “starve the beast” agenda to destroy America, with Microsoft just one more willing agent.

    • LittleOtterPaws

      Tax Payers don’t take a hit when Microsoft decides to write off a part of its inventory…

      Take the tinfoil off your head before posting.

      • Keith

        It is called “shifting the burden of running the country.” Get a clue before you post.

    • bjh

      Wow, you really are a lunatic. Writing off losses is as old as the tax code and also worked in the personal realm as well. It has nothing to do with your conspiracy theories about the Loch bothers

  • JD

    I don’t understand the hate against Windows RT. I think the problem with Windows RT is it’s called “Windows” and people expect it to be just like x86 Windows. People feel cheated because it can’t do all the things that regular Windows can do. If Microsoft renamed Windows RT to Microsoft Go! or WinMo (Windows
    Mobile) then I think it would cut down on the “OMG! This POS doesn’t run
    my 20 year old software” rage. I happen to like Windows RT. I don’t need to run legacy apps on a tablet. I have a laptop if I want to be productive on the go. I’m surely not going to start crunching spreadsheets or writing a paper on a small touchscreen (even with a detachable keyboard). If I need to dig a hole, I’m going to use a shovel. Doing real work on a tablet is like digging a hole with a spoon. Are there really people out there who want to run old software (i.e. not touch friendly) on their tablet? Unless you’re carrying around the keyboard, and mouse, then it’s going to be an awful experience. (If you’re carrying a bag of accessories, then why not just use a laptop?) I bet the people who are making a big deal about backwards compatibility with Windows RT never (or at most – rarely) use legacy software on their tablets.

  • Noloqoq

    At least, Microsoft managed a great stuff with its Windows 8.x thingies: Push lot of end-user without computer technical knowledge to install ubuntu or other linux distro. I never seen a so massive switch than since one year.