Microsoft introduced a new Surface tablet today… but while many folks had been expecting a small “Surface mini” tablet, what we got was the biggest model yet. The Surface Pro 3 has a 12 inch screen and while an entry-level model sells for $800, higher-priced models go for as much as $1949.

So what happened to the Surface mini? Microsoft has never actually confirmed it’s working on a small tablet with an ARM-based processor and Windows RT software, but we’ve been hearing about it from “sources” in the know for months.

One theory is that the Surface mini is still on the way… but it might not run Windows RT when it arrives. Instead, it could ship with next-gen software that replaces both Windows RT and Windows Phone. That could dramatically increase the amount of available apps for the device, while helping differentiate the tablet from Windows 8.1 devices which have x86 processors and the ability to run desktop apps (as well as touch-friendly tablet apps.

Update: Bloomberg reports Microsoft decided to scrap the Surface mini plans last minute due to concerns that it would be poorly received. The company is still reportedly working on smaller tablets though.

pro 3 pen

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8 replies on “Lilbits (5-20-2014): Where’s the Surface mini?”

  1. Unfortunate that microsoft decided to nix the smaller version but likely a good idea in light of the frequency of sales of 8″ Windows products. They don’t seem to have obtained the popularity expected.

      1. 8″ tablets go ‘on sale’ frequently and often at much below retail, was the point. You don’t see sales as frequently or as highly discounted on more popular lines of products that are selling well.

  2. Notice how they began in a nich in the middle of the tablet market, a niche nobody was interested in. Competing at the low end isn’t practical, so now all that is left is a trend toward premium-priced “ulttrabook” laptops disguised (for now) as tablets.

  3. Microsoft can’t afford to stay out of the mobile market. Even if they aren’t replacing laptops as of yet, the future of personal computing is clearly in the mobile space, with much of the heavy lifting, when necessary, being done in the cloud. (I’m talking long term, not in the next few months, or years).

    They were left flat-footed by Apple and Google, and their first attempt at catching up in the tablet space (RT) was met with a resounding thud, but they will have to keep trying if they want to have anywhere close to the market penetration they have enjoyed in the desktop and laptop space all these years.

    They are in a horrible spot at the moment, though clearly they still have the resources to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in, but they have an awful lot of ground to catch up.

  4. Well, if the Surface Mini was running RT then I wouldn’t get it anyway. I’m not really looking to get a cheap tablet. I’m looking to run both Modern UI and desktop software on a single device. That’s just me though. I’m not speaking for the market and how much my wants align with it.

    I hope MS eventually comes out with a Surface Mini Pro with an x86 CPU though. Having handled a friend’s Surface Pro 2 and other similarly sized Windows 8 tablets, I’d say the Surface tablets “feel” like they are better built than some other Windows 8 tablets. For something that’s supposed to set a standard, other OEMs aren’t meeting it.

  5. I don’t think that there will be a Surface mini. Microsoft has been positioning the Surface tablets as high-end devices. I don’t see a large market for a premium 8″ Windows tablet.

    A Surface mini running x86 Windows would most likely cost more than an iPad mini. A Surface mini running Windows RT would cost as much if not more than the Dell Venue 8 Pro or Lenovo tabs. The higher build quality and variety of ports often gets lost in the simplistic cost comparison.

    1. Maybe, but it would still be cheaper than their larger models and MS isn’t really doing the Surface models to compete with their partners but rather provide a better baseline to help guide development and provide examples of how good these devices can be made… Much like Google used to do with the Nexus series, which soon will be replaced by the Android Silver models…

      Timing is a issue, though, as eventually MS plans on eventually merging WP with RT but it’s at least another year before they can pull that one off and they don’t really feel the need to promote mid-range as much as the lower range, which is why they’re still making RT devices… Basically the difference between the consumption tablet market and the productivity Pro Tablet ranges is what they’re representing with their Surface models right now… Remember, they’re not trying to compete with their partners and are more concerned about the market as a whole…

      Thus why it was they were going with RT with the Mini but with so much work still needed to develop that platform it’s questionable they can bring such a device out at this time but that may change by next year, depending on how fast their plans proceeds…

      In the meantime, given the relative success of the other 8″ W8 tablets that we may see more such models released later…

      But they may be closer to the Cherry Trail update release towards the end of the year… Basically, Intel is going to move pretty much everything to the newer 14nm FAB (down from the present 22nm), and for their ATOM line they’re implementing much smaller board sizes and reduced costs to device makers…

      So, we’ll more likely see more devices offered once those changes go into effect and they can get far more competitive with low cost ARM based devices than they can now…

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