Report: Surface Mini was canceled prior to May 20 event

The rumors were unequivocal: Microsoft’s event yesterday was supposed to see the birth of a Surface Mini tablet. Preliminary specs were discussed, and early listings for Surface Mini cases even showed up on Amazon.

Only there was no Surface Mini. Yesterday, Microsoft gave us a jumbo Surface Pro with a 12" screen, a funky aspect ratio, and a $799 starting price.

How could the rumor mill have been so wrong?

According to Bloomberg, it kinda wasn’t. Microsoft did plan a Surface Mini for yesterday’s event—but the tablet was canned at the last minute by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Executive VP Stephen Elop. Here’s the scoop from the "people with knowledge of the decision" who tipped off Bloomberg:

[Nadella and Elop] decided that the product in development wasn’t different enough from rivals and probably wouldn’t be a hit, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans weren’t public. Engineers had been working on the device and had planned to unveil it as early as today at an event in New York, two of the people said.

Bloomberg’s sources also claim Microsoft "removed any references to Surface devices based on Qualcomm’s processors from the event." That tells me the cancellation really was a last-minute affair. Perhaps that explains why the rumor mill was going on about the Surface Mini until very recently.

Either way, it sounds like the baby Surface is dead. The unofficial scoop, according to Bloomberg, is that Microsoft no longer has an "approved project to create a smaller tablet." There’s only the vague possibility that the company could change its mind "in the future." (Thanks to Neowin for the link.)

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    • KevinLaity
    • 5 years ago

    I have an original Surface RT and I don’t think a smaller size would have made sense anyway for what the Surface tries to be.

    Maybe when the windows store apps catch on more

    • Voldenuit
    • 5 years ago

    Now we know why Microsoft [i<]really[/i<] dug up the E.T. landfill. It was to make room for dumping Surface Minis.

    • End User
    • 5 years ago

    [url=http://arstechnica.com/apple/2014/05/microsoft-already-has-a-good-small-tablet-its-called-the-ipad-mini/<]Microsoft already has a good small tablet—it’s called the iPad mini[/url<]

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 5 years ago

    W/O an OS that would be optimized for that size and style of a device it would appear the correct move. RT is a total waste currently, it needs to meld with the phone OS and its design aesthetic and leave the desktop behind.

    • tviceman
    • 5 years ago

    What is with the knocks on the aspect ratio? 3:2 on a tablet is way more useful than 16:9, unless the sole reason of buying the tablet is for watching movies.

      • dragontamer5788
      • 5 years ago

      I’ll have to play with it in a store before I believe you. The main thing to consider, is that in 50% mode, a 3:2 tablet will have two 3:4 halves.

      Otherwise, my experience is that at the “mini” form factor (~7 inches to 8 inches), 16:10 is perfect. Even the iPad mini forces my hand to stretch a bit too much to “claw grip” it with one hand.

      3:2 however, is smack dab in the middle. It’d be wider than 16:10 and thinner than 4:3. So I definitely have to play around with it physically before I make an opinion.

        • tviceman
        • 5 years ago

        Anand agrees with me:

        “With Surface Pro 3, Microsoft finally accepts that while 16:9 may be a great aspect ratio for watching movies but it’s not optimal for a multi-purpose tablet. The tablet features a 12″ 2160 x 1440 display, which ends up being a 3:2 aspect ratio. The difference is immediately noticeable in notebook-style use. While the Surface Pro 2 was never quite all that comfortable to use as a laptop, Surface Pro 3’s display makes it substantially more laptop-like. There doesn’t appear to be a substantial impact to tablet use either with the larger display. Particularly with Windows 8.1’s split screen mode, the larger display ends up working extremely well. I’ll talk about the new hinge a bit more in the usability section but the aspect ratio alone is a huge step forward.”

        [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/8037/microsoft-surface-pro-3-hands-on-display-performance-preview[/url<]

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 5 years ago

      Eh.

      I think Microsoft was trying to out-square Apple. I think they took it too far. I suspect 4:3 or 16:10 are really the best tablet resolution ratios for larger than 7 (or maybe 8) inch tablets. Very sure at 9+ that 16:10 may still be a bit too narrow for strictly productivity-based devices where you’re supposed to be DOING something and not just VIEWING something.

      While Microsoft positions Surface Pro 3 as a productivity device, they hamstring it with an iPad-like cover and try to fold it and bend it so it’ll make sense without going Asus Transformer-like in its keyboard half.

      I think this is once again MS not really gelling with what it’s trying to do. If they want to be a productivity master tablet, then they should go on and embrace 4:3 or 16:10, offer a Transformer-like base with keyboard and battery and let the thing take on a laptop role truly without any qualification. You could still offer a Type Cover, too.

      But if Surface Pro is in fact meant to be mostly a consumption device with you being able to “get serious” from time to time just with a Type Cover and little use of a REAL keyboard, then I think 16:10 would probably be ideal to better fit movies and youtube and web pages. 4:3 will leave a lot of open space either on the top/bottom (landscape) or left and right of web pages (portrait).

      So… I guess if you’re mixing the two roles, 16:10. If you’re going productivity, go 4:3 (to match a piece of paper’s ratio). 3:2 is as ideal for no one as 16:9 just in the opposite direction.

        • dragontamer5788
        • 5 years ago

        Math fail?

        Most square < Least Square
        4:3 < 3:2 < 16:10
        48:36 < 48:32 < 48:30

        3:2 is exactly a compromise in between 16:10 and 4:3

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 5 years ago

    My theory is this is the beginning of the end of RT. Well, if the lack of sales of Surface 1 and 2 (non Pro) were not themselves the beginning.

    I think this was Nadella, Elop, and the Windows Phone Team (Myerson) coming together to decide that, hey y’know, it makes no sense at all to release a NEW RT product. After all, they JUST decided that RT is dead (but haven’t announced it yet).

    This goes right along with the rumormill of RT and Windows Phone merging into one OS just in time for Threshold (ie., Windows 9, unified app store). Far easier to support two OS’s in the now traditional Lite for smartphones/tablets/consumption devices, advanced OS for laptops than to keep trying to make a third OS that seems to just encompass the worst of both worlds. Besides, no ODM is biting on RT, but lots are biting at the new cheaper Windows Phone, even if they aren’t emphasizing it as much as, say, Android or ChromeOS.

    That’s what this means to me. To go into it with hints of a Mini right up until the last second and then kill it just before its big day, that suggests to me this is bigger than just one flawed product. It has to do with RT in general.

    I think it’s the right move. The last thing Microsoft needs is another half-hearted Kin launch in the face of Windows Phone where they basically have to firesale a whole bunch of units after a month or two, then alienate every Surface owner they found with constant news stories about how Surface (RT) is essentially a dead end product they’re going to promptly dump and forget about.

    Better to let Surface (RT) 1 and 2 just slowly peter out, never to be spoken of again (except in hushed whispers of pity for those so afflicted).

    If you doubt they’d kill RT in favor of Windows Phone outright, you should look up who’s running the entire Windows division atm. Hint: It’s the Windows Phone team.

      • Chrispy_
      • 5 years ago

      The [i<]beginning[/i<] of the end of RT? RT was [b<]stillborn[/b<], then it flopped [b<]spectacularly[/b<]. The ecosystem died before it had a chance to go anywhere and every major OEM dropped RT from their product lines months ago. RT can't end because it never started. Windows Phone should have been put on the baby ARM-powered surface and it would have worked from a developer, ecosystem, platform and customer appeal point of view. Whoever though RT was a good idea needs to be fired (they probably already have been in the Giant Microsoft Reshuffle).

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 5 years ago

        Microsoft’s grasp of reality has been… less than reliable until VERY recently. Naturally, you and I both may know RT never took off, but I suspect until VERY recently someone near the top of Microsoft’s management thought RT was just the tiniest of miracles away from HUGE success.

        Naturally, what I’m saying is that a certain special someone (or someones?) must have been purged recently and now decisions based on reality are starting to percolate down through product launches, including Surface Mini that’s based on RT.

        As a result, with the realization that RT was NEVER going to take off, it made little sense to release yet another new product on RT when the hammer’s been brought down on RT as a whole and it’ll be folded into Windows Phone, which imo is what should have been done from the start.

    • SCR250
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]Either way, it sounds like the baby Surface is dead.[/quote<] Not exactly dead. Just the Qualcomm Surface Mini that was going to be uncompetitive is dead. [quote<]Microsoft is still working on smaller versions, Panos Panay, who runs the Surface business, said in an interview after the event. Panay declined to provide details on future products. [url<]http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-20/microsoft-said-to-back-off-plans-to-debut-smaller-surface.html[/url<] [/quote<]

      • chuckula
      • 5 years ago

      So wait: Qualcomm surface “mini”: Uncompetitive.

      But who did Qualcomm beat to get the contract for the stillborn Surface Mini? Nvidia.

      Nvidia surface RTs that have already been released: Big disappointments.

      So… Success >> Qualcomm >> Nvidia.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        “success” is a relative term. I think in the Windows world it looks more like:

        x86-64 >> Qualcomm >> nVidia

        • SCR250
        • 5 years ago

        [quote<]But who did Qualcomm beat to get the contract for the stillborn Surface Mini?[/quote<] A stillborn contract is worth ZERO dollars. Qualcomm chased this design with low cost but under performing SOC so that, yes it is uncompetitive. Since it (the Qualcomm Surface Mini) will not be released it seems that Nvidia came out ahead since they did not have to assign resources to what became a dead end product.

        • Voldenuit
        • 5 years ago

        Don’t forget Mullins at the bottom of the list.

        People not wanting to buy a product? That’s bad.

        People not even wanting to [i<]sell[/i<] it to you? That's worse.

          • chuckula
          • 5 years ago

          I’m perplexed about Mullins. I’m not saying I’d expect it to take over the x86 tablet world, but every piece of publicly available information about it seems to indicate that it oughta be a nice chip for larger tablets.

          There could only be 2 reasons why it’s really not catching on, but I don’t know which one (or combination) is the reason:
          1. The power draw is just too high if you want the performance.
          2. The price is just too high, which sounds weird since we are talking about an AMD product but tablet chips tend to be sold CHEAP.

            • NeelyCam
            • 5 years ago

            Maybe platform cost is too high? That seems to be the reason for Intel’s “contra-revenue”..

            • MadManOriginal
            • 5 years ago

            3. Because AMD.

        • SCR250
        • 5 years ago

        [quote<]So wait: Qualcomm surface "mini": Uncompetitive.[/quote<] Yes. [quote<]But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and EVP Stephen Elop [b<][u<]decided that the Surface Mini just didn't stand out against its rivals[/u<][/b<], and likely wouldn't be much of a hit. [url<]http://www.tomshardware.com/news/microsoft-surface-mini-tablet-windows,26828.html[/url<] [/quote<]

          • HisDivineOrder
          • 5 years ago

          Interesting. You believe spin. I rarely believe spin. Sure, Surface Mini wouldn’t stand out. Well, except for the note taking capability and the odd screen ratio that Paul Thurrott swears it would have had and well, the fact it’s running Windows RT, which no other device in its size class will be.

          Hm.

          I wonder if that last point is the real reason Surface Mini was canned. I guess we’ll find out in about 3-4 months, won’t we? 😉

    • StuG
    • 5 years ago

    Personally I think this was a smart move by MS.

      • Sunburn74
      • 5 years ago

      I disagree. I am only exclusively in the market for a 7-8in tab with a high level stylus as seen in the surface series or the galaxy note series.

        • sweatshopking
        • 5 years ago

        i also wanted exactly what that product would have been 🙁

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