Mobile // Mobile Devices
News
5/6/2014
11:46 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Surface Mini Likely Debuts May 20

Microsoft will hold a Surface-related event on May 20, presumably to announce the long-rumored Surface Mini.

Microsoft Office For iPad: 7 Questions Answered
Microsoft Office For iPad: 7 Questions Answered
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Late Monday afternoon, Microsoft issued press invitations to a Surface-related event in New York City on May 20. Commentators widely assume the company will unveil the so-called Surface Mini. Microsoft has never acknowledged plans for such a product, though the alleged device has been a rumor-mill fixture for more than a year. The invitation encourages recipients to join the Surface team for a "small gathering" but provides no other insight into the event's agenda.

Last month, the Chinese company Vostrostone listed Surface Mini accessories on Amazon. Companies sometimes advertise such products based on rumors, but Vostrostone is accepting pre-orders and listing their availability as May 18. Around the same time, the Microsoft blog Neowin and the website ZDNet separately reported, citing unnamed sources, that Surface Mini will emphasize digital note-taking.

[Planning to install the latest version of Windows? Read Windows 8.1 Update: 8 Tips to Avoid Headaches.]

Like many long-running rumors, the Surface Mini's alleged details have evolved over time. Websites and publications including ZDNet, The Wall Street Journal, and The Verge have published reports over the months, all of them informed by anonymous sources. Microsoft's mini-slate has been variously described as a sophisticated e-reader built to leverage Microsoft's Nook investment, or a gamer's tablet that could complement the Xbox. Among Microsoft execs, VP Panos Panay has come closest to confirming the Surface Mini. He stated last fall that Microsoft was working on Surface form factors but did not elaborate.

Current rumors center on the device's alleged digital note-taking capabilities, which could include an advanced stylus and a 7- or 8-inch screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. All current Surfaces feature 10.6-inch 16:9 HD displays, which are great for landscape-style activities such as watching movies, but unwieldy for portrait-style, one-handed tasks such as perusing Word documents, websites, and PDFs. Apple's iPads feature 4:3 screens that make them well-suited to document review.

If Microsoft attempts to position the Surface Mini as a superlative note-taking device, its Office products might be part of the question. Whether the device runs Windows 8.1 or, as rumors hold, Windows RT, it will run some version of Office. The versions available on current Surfaces support touch and pen input. But the apps are haptic-minded tweaks of the desktop versions, not the ground-up rebuild Microsoft displayed in the Office for iPad suite. Last month at Build, Microsoft showed off a Modern UI version of PowerPoint. Time will tell if new Office apps are part of the Surface Mini's appeal.

Third-party cases for the alleged Surface Mini are already available on Amazon.
Third-party cases for the alleged Surface Mini are already available on Amazon.

Whether it's a new Office experience or some other new feature, the new Surface will likely need to offer more than a scaled-down, presumably cheaper version of its predecessors. Last month, Microsoft disclosed that its Surface products are still losing money. The company tried to give the news a positive spin by stressing improving margins, but the Surface line's modest improvement overshadows neither the tablets' niche status nor the market's larger indifference to Windows tablets in general.

Moreover, the tablet market might be leveling off. A year ago, smaller tablets were still enjoying explosive growth, but according to the latest figures from the research firm IDC, the market expanded only 3.9% year-over-year during the most recent quarter. IDC analysts said phablets have cannibalized demand for pure tablets.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will preside over the New York event, according to a ZDNet report, which cited inside sources. Microsoft's press invitation didn't mention Nadella, whose attendance was clearly indicated on invites to the company's recent Office for iPad and data strategy events. We've reached out to Microsoft for comment.

Over the last few weeks, Nadella has put his stamp on a range of Microsoft's core assets -- but he's so far lavished the least attention on his company's device efforts, particularly the Surface line. Accordingly, it would make sense for Nadella to announce whatever news Microsoft has planned for New York. The new CEO has shown he can sell the cloud -- but can he sell hardware too?

Could the growing movement toward open-source hardware rewrite the rules for computer and networking hardware the way Linux, Apache, and Android have for software? Also in the Open Source Hardware issue of InformationWeek: Mark Hurd explains his "once-in-a-career opportunity" at Oracle.

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
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
anon3922561836
50%
50%
anon3922561836,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:31:30 PM
What?
"16:9 HD displays, which are great for landscape-style activities such as watching movies, but unwieldy for portrait-style, one-handed tasks such as perusing Word documents, websites, and PDFs."

 LOL

How so?  16:9 works great for reading documents. It has just a slightly longer profile, which simply means I have to scroll up/down less than on an ipad because more text can fix vertically on the screen in portrait.  Most web pages today are designed at around 900 horizontal pixels.  The page fits very well in portrait using the 1080 horizontal pixels, or also in landscape for that matter.  In fact, if you do not have a retina ipad, you would either have to scroll left or right to view all the content on most pages, or scale down the page.  Stupid.

I don't buy into the 4:3 is better BS hype.   The entertainment industry as a whole has largely rejected this ratio as being inferior to 16:9, and seeing how tablets are largely entertainment devices, it only makes sense to have them 16:9 also.  Apple screwed it up again trying to "think different", or in this case, not really "thinking" at all.  Because if they did, the ipad would be the standard 16:9 ratio that is currently used throughout the entertainment industry as being the superior ratio for consuming content.

It just astounds me how very little apple fans can actually think for themselves. They buy all the BS thrown at them hook, line and sinker.  4:3 ratio on ANY content consumption device is just plain stupid.  Why did they not put 4:3 on the iphone if it's so great?   lol  What a bunch of sheep.

    
CunC132
50%
50%
CunC132,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:45:00 PM
Re: What?
I in fact refuse to buy any 16:9 tablet. It just doesn't feel right. 16:9 still falls short for entertainment industry nowadays anyway. It's 20:9 standard.
anon3486165362
50%
50%
anon3486165362,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 10:36:37 PM
Re: What?
"4:3 ratio on ANY content consumption device is just plain stupid."

No, it's not. 4:3 is a great ratio for reading PDF journal articles in a format similar to a printed copy, and being able to see the whole page at a glace. 4:3 works fine for eBooks. And the difference in browser expereince between my 4:3 iPad and my 16:9 Android tablet is negligible.

I don't buy into the 16:9 is better "hype," just because people want to bash Apple. There are plenty of reasons to bash Apple. But the proportions of the iPad display are among the weakest.
CunC132
50%
50%
CunC132,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:38:13 PM
Should've done this in the first time
I was talking about this 2 years ago that MS shouldn't have released full size tablet to compete with full sized iPad or but 7" to compete with Android 7" tablets instead and set the price from $199-$249 or $299 with Office loaded. Go direct head to head with full sized iPad at the time was just committing to fail. 
anon3922561836
50%
50%
anon3922561836,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:40:34 PM
Re: Should've done this in the first time
Yet by capturing 12% market share in the tablet market in just over a year, the Surface seems to be competing just fine the way it was designed.  Shows how much you know.
CunC132
50%
50%
CunC132,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:50:11 PM
Re: Should've done this in the first time
12% is bs number. Last time I checked it was 5.8% which included all Surface number given out for free to MS employees or charity...Oh, after a $billion write off. How compatitive was that? Show MS surface tablet sold, not shipped if you want to prove your point...BTW, I hate tablets with cooling fans, wtf wrong with MS design team? They should've consulted Jon Ive for the hardware design. BTW, Surface looks like crap next to iPad and other Android tablets.

Btw, according to IDC: "Apple is not only the sole company to report unit sales of tablets; it's also the only company that reports its tablet revenue". So, if MS sold many tablets, why not report the number of sold unit and revenue.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 2:25:17 PM
Re: Should've done this in the first time
Can you cite a source for that 12% statistic? I'm pretty certain the Surface doesn't have anything close to 12% market share-- at least not if the market we're discussing is tablets.

Based on the numbers IDC and Gartner published, all Windows tablets have somewhere around a third that share. Maybe the Surface Pro has 12% of $1000+ Ultrabook sales (yes, Microsoft has a times referred to the Surface Pro this way). But outside of highly specific categories like the one I just mentioned, the Surface doesn't have a 12% share in much of anything else. That's not to say the Surface is a bad product, per se-- I actually like and use a Surface Pro regularly. But they're niche products. For average users, the tablets' strengths haven't overshadowed their shortcomings.
anon7503769237
50%
50%
anon7503769237,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:59:15 PM
New Windows 81 - Android O/S
The site -- iProTablet - features the new Ramos i10 Pro ($399) that launched this week and is the first Hybrid tablet that let's you use both Windows 8.1 and Android and easily switch between the two operating systems... and features a 10-inch full HD 1920X1200 display, an Intel Bay Trail 64-bit processor, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and an 8000 mAh battery... worth checking out
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 2:34:04 PM
Note taking?
It's hard for me to believe note-taking capabiities would sway someone to choose a MS mini-tablet over an Apple iPad mini. Anyone having such a bad note-taking experience that you'd switch? Nadella is playing a tough game of catch-up in this product category.
anon3486165362
50%
50%
anon3486165362,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 10:30:55 PM
Re: Note taking?
Well, I'm swayed.

I don't have an iPad mini. I have an iPad - with 64GB and LTE. And I've pretty much stopped using it except for browsing the web or checking email.

Over the last 2 years, I've gotten tired with how compartmentalized iOS wants the data and files to be. I've happily used Noteshelf for a while, but can't get the files on my computer without actually exporting them and copying them over (or using Dropbox). Oh, there are most definitely some cool apps. They're just not things I actually use on a regular basis.

I've been looking for a tablet that will let me take handwritten notes and automatically sync them with my desktop. I want something with a functional stylus, rather than the various devices I've bought from Addonit or Hex3. A Windows 8.1 tablet with OneNote would do that quite nicely.And, let's not forget that Windows 8.1 does handwriting recognition quite well, while Apple won't even let the user select a different keyboard (unlike Android).

Plus, I've grown tired of "office suites" that don't quite do everything that Word or Excel will do. I've some spreadsheets I carry around that just don't work well outside of Excel.

I agree that Nadella is playing a game of catch-up. But the Asus Vivotab Note 8 has my attention at the moment. I looked at the Dell Venue 8 Pro, but the wonky stylus is a no-go. So Microsoft could, possibly, take the money I've been intending to send to Asus.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2014 | 12:22:38 AM
Re: Note taking?
If it's anything like my previous experiences with styluses, I don't see note-taking as a killer feature. But according to rumors, the Surface Mini's stylus is supposed to be something new and special. We'll see.

There's also a new rumor floating around that OneNote will be deeply "baked" into the Surface Mini experience. That's kind of interesting. Ballmer often talked about the importance of matching hardware to software-- a feat Apple regularly accomplishes, but that the current Surfaces only sort of accomplish. Perhaps the Surface Mini will produce a better hardware-software fusion.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2014 | 12:32:25 AM
Nadella attending? More than one new Surface product?
Just an update to the bit in the article about whether Nadella will attend the New York event: Microsoft predictably responded, "We have nothing to share."

But as I indicated in the article, that's sort of interesting. Nadella made three appearances in San Francisco over the last six weeks, and each time, Microsoft stressed in advance that he'd be in attendance.

Maybe Microsoft's being secretive because it's up to something bigger than we think. There's a new rumor floating around (per Bloomberg) that Microsoft might introduce not only the Surface Mini, but also some other new devices. There were reports a while back (more than a year, I think) that a Surface-branded smartwatch was in development. And I still eventually expect a Surface smartphone, in addition to whatever Lumia-type flagships are out there.
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/7/2014 | 1:01:54 PM
Microsoft miss-understands the business customers again
It is nice Microsoft can bring this new product to market while ignoring others. The Surface Pro 2 - 256GB has been out of stock since its release. Microsoft finally provides a product businesses will buy but there are none to be had.  Meanwhile Microsoft keeps producing more unwanted Surface products.
batye
50%
50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
5/10/2014 | 1:36:26 AM
Re: Microsoft miss-understands the business customers again
I do not know... but from my point of view Microsft trying to grab all corners of the market with Surface selling devices at loss... how I see it...
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/12/2014 | 10:39:26 AM
Re: Microsoft miss-understands the business customers again
Microsoft's target market for most Surface products are the consumers but they are over priced compared to Android offerings and under featured compared to Apple offerings.  MS actually hit the ball out of the park with the Surface Pro 2 for business but the 256gig version is nowhere to be found.  Plenty of 16gig and 512+gig but too small and too expensive.
batye
50%
50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
5/12/2014 | 12:46:29 PM
Re: Microsoft miss-understands the business customers again
yes, same in Canada 256 no where to be find...
LorinThwaits
50%
50%
LorinThwaits,
User Rank: Guru
5/10/2014 | 11:08:54 AM
A bad OS makes the hardware useless
A change in hardware won't help things.  The real reasons we hate Windows 8 persist -- those crappy charms, two different control panels, very difficult to navigate Metro apps, a janky App Store clone being the only way to patch the thing...

This whole thing is like having a lover who is saddled with a horrible addiction and claims, "Oh but I can change!"  AND NEVER DOES.  Only minimal strides towards getting clean -- and then a complete relapse.  The hell continues.
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 - August 27, 2014
Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Howard Marks talks about steps to take in choosing the right cloud storage solutions for your IT problems
Sponsored 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.