Mobile // Mobile Devices
News
6/20/2014
01:42 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Accidentally Confirms Surface Mini

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 User Guide includes several references to the Surface Mini -- but does Microsoft need to release a smaller tablet?

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Oops. Microsoft -- ostensibly by accident -- just confirmed that its long-rumored Surface Mini was, and possibly still is, a real project. The Surface Pro 3 User Guide, which Microsoft made available this week, includes several references to the smaller device.

The company was widely expected to debut the Mini last month, but instead it introduced only the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft has never confirmed plans for the smaller device, though execs have dropped vague hints.

[Looking for a Surface you can actually buy today? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: My First 2 Weeks.]

The User Guide, whose Mini references were first spotted by Windows blogger Paul Thurrott, states that users can pair a digital pen with the Mini. Digital note-taking, which ended up being a significant Surface Pro 3 feature, was rumored to be one of the smaller tablet's differentiating appeals. The User Guide's other Surface Mini references relate to using Windows 8.1's OneNote app and rotation lock feature.

One of several references to the Surface Mini that appear in the Surface Pro 3 User Guide
One of several references to the Surface Mini that appear in the Surface Pro 3 User Guide

A Microsoft representative told InformationWeek the company has no comment about the User Guide's Surface Mini references.

Microsoft originally intended to introduce the Mini alongside the Pro 3 but decided at the last minute to remove the smaller tablet from last month's event, according to a Bloomberg report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the company's plans. CEO Satya Nadella and executive VP Stephen Elop, who oversees the company's device efforts, reportedly felt the Mini wouldn't stand out from the competition.

When the Pro 3 was announced, Microsoft corporate VP Panos Panay, who leads the Surface team, told reporters that the company was exploring other Surface form factors but refused to provide any details. He did not confirm specific plans for a mini tablet-- a point that Microsoft reps have since reiterated. Nevertheless, Windows blog Neowin claimed Microsoft produced more than 15,000 devices before shutting down production. According to analysts, it might have been the right choice.

"I think the smaller form factor is not yet ready for a Microsoft product," said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel, said in an email. She pointed out that aside from the iPad Mini, most small tablets are cheap, low-margin devices.

In an email interview, Forrester analyst David Johnson said low-margin devices are a vital link in the Windows ecosystem, countering, "Does Microsoft need to be the one to produce them? In my opinion, no."

Johnson pointed out that the market already boasts plenty of small tablets, adding that Microsoft, as a newcomer to the device game, can't necessarily compete with all of them. "[Because] Microsoft lacks the global channel ecosystem of some of [its] OEMs, there are actually disadvantages to Microsoft's tablets for global enterprises because they may not be able to get local service and support," he wrote.

Milanesi said if Microsoft releases a Mini slate, it will only succeed if the Windows Store can become more competitive with the iOS and Android's respective app marketplaces. "The moment you move to a small form factor, the more you need apps," she said. She added that professional users are clearly moving toward larger tablets.

So is the Surface Mini coming or not? As mentioned, Microsoft's not saying. The device has reportedly been delayed at least twice -- last month and also last fall, when it was expected to launch alongside the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Thurrott, who has accurately reported pre-release Microsoft details in the past, predicted via Twitter that the device is still coming, and that it will run Windows RT. In the meantime, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 hit stores Friday.

InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of the Internet of Things. Find out the way in which an aging workforce will drive progress on the Internet of Things, why the IoT isn't as scary as some folks seem to think, how connected machines will change the supply chain, and more (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2014 | 7:04:26 AM
Re: Guerrilla marketing?
Good point, I was thinking the same, but could not decide the benefits that Microsoft would gain by an intentionally leaked confirmation. Maybe, it is some form of a data collecting exercise, in which they hope to gauge market demand for a Mini.
PaulS681
50%
50%
PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
6/21/2014 | 10:09:30 AM
too late?
Eventually MS is going to have to either get the mini out there or not at all. I agree with Carolina Milanesi when she says you need to have a good app selection when moving to a small form factor. So what is MS excuse for not building up it's app market?
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
6/21/2014 | 7:59:29 AM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
I agree, Windows needs to increase it presences in other devices, the PC is not enough. Microsoft has recently announced a few development packages for Visual Studio and WinJS, in an attempt to attract more developers, but I don't feel that announcing a few development packages will be enough. Microsoft might need to take some big and bold steps. 
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 4:52:58 PM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
App choices are such an important element of mobile purchases; I've known a few people who had Windows phones and later switched to Android because they couldn't get the apps they wanted. But of course developers don't want to write apps for smaller user bases so it's another Catch-22. Would love to know how exactly Microsoft is trying to sweeten the developer pie and how that compares with Blackberry which, of course, is in a similar position.
Alison_Diana
IW Pick
100%
0%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 4:48:52 PM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
Tying a smaller tablet or phablet into the Nokia brand was my immediate thought too, @Michael. That would differentiate the product from Surface and allow Microsoft to focus its Surface marketing, partnership, app, and R&D efforts on corporate customers, while focusing similar initiatives for the mini model through Nokia to eliminate any mixed messages. 
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 3:39:17 PM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
Two points to Shane for summing this up.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 3:13:59 PM
Re: Guerrilla marketing?
At this point, they may as well wait for Black Friday.
Shane M. O'Neill
50%
50%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 3:10:29 PM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
Michael - My god, I'd almost forgotten about Nokia! One thing's for sure: Windows RT has done nothing but confuse people. Folding it into the Windows Phone for a mini tablet is not a bad move. Branding a small tablet with the Lumia name is something I hadn't considered. But that might be perceived as Microsoft abandoning the Surface brand. Microsoft: Keeping it complicated since 1975.
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 3:04:50 PM
Re: Damned if you do, damned if you don't
I don't believe that it matters what the form factor is. You need apps for a mobile device regardless.

This is where Microsoft is still having issues. The company has never been able to court third party developers for apps. Sure, they have been able to get major software publishers to make wieldy applications for Windows. But the basic mobile app? Not yet.

I just don't think developers relate Microsoft's mobile devices to something worth creating software for. 
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 2:51:10 PM
Re: Guerrilla marketing?
Interesting point, Charlie. I'd wondered if the inclusion weren't intentional, though I'm not sure what upside they'd be hoping for.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.