Nothing (New) to See Here: Surface Mini Marketing Materials Leak

Posted on September 2, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 35 Comments

Microsoft’s canceled Surface mini is a tough one for some Microsoft fans, but it was always DOA. And with a new leak, we just see more of the same. Satya Nadella was right to cancel this product before it shipped.

As you may know, Brad and I are some of the few people outside of Microsoft to have actually seen Surface mini out in the wild. In fact, I know two people (at Microsoft) who own the device. The leaks we see this week correspond to what I’ve seen, too: A red, plastic exterior (though apparently there are other colors, too), with a kickstand but no Type Cover. (I’ve seen covers for the device, too, but they do not include a keyboard.)

But you may also recall that Mary Jo Foley and I know about the backstory of Surface mini’s cancellation, and that then-new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the decision to kill the device despite the fact that the first batch—which was made for internal use and for reviewers such as myself—had already been manufactured.

Two items of note to that effect.

One, the DOA comment: Surface mini was based on the ARM platform and ran Windows RT 8.1, which was already being wound down at Microsoft at this time. There was no point is releasing this orphan device given this platform choice and the dearth of apps. It would basically have been a OneNote device with little else in the way of productivity usefulness.

Two, Surface mini was originally conceived as the marquee Surface release for late 2014, with Surface Pro 3 just a side-project that received little attention internally. When Mr. Nadella and his Senior Leadership Team snatched Surface mini away from Panos Panay, the Surface team focused its attention instead on Surface Pro 3. And, surprise, that iconic device became the best-selling Surface device ever to that point and rejuvenated the team. Its two follow-ups, the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro (2017) both use the same design as a result.

Anyway, there’s nothing really “new” here. Just a confirmation of what we already knew.

 

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Nothing (New) to See Here: Surface Mini Marketing Materials Leak”

  1. BreVDD

    "Satya Nadella was right"

    That's where you are wrong... :)

  2. Waethorn

    Not exactly complete specs when they couldn't even say how long the run or charge times were on it.

  3. bsd107

    "It would basically have been a OneNote device with little else in the way of productivity usefulness."


    Although, ironically, it had REAL Microsoft Office installed. Not the touch-first versions (which didn't exist back then), but the desktop versions of Office 2013 which were ported directly from X86 to ARM. (I realize these would be though to use without a keyboard....


    Although my kid's Surface 2 is pretty ancient now, I am still impressed to see full desktop Office 2013 running on it. Something that even a brand new iPad Pro is not capable of....

  4. bleeman

    I too would like to see an 8" device with Windows 10, ink support, and ideally an LTE connection. I still use my Dell Venue 8 Pro (original version) everyday as my e-reader with the Nook and Kindle apps, and as my note taking device when in the field. My primary system is my Surface Pro 4, and I use it's touch and ink features as well. But it's size is too big to carry around for quick notes. I also enjoy a guilty pleasure of playing Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Microsoft Mahjong and Microsoft Ultimate Word Games on the smaller screen. Makes it easier to play when sitting in the recliner ;-)

  5. marcosbabu

    While I do agree on the DOA based solely on the fact it would run Win RT, I disagree on the mini tablet design thing. Me and plenty of people still relying on our iPad mini (which, surprise, lack a pen).


    Only con would be the prospect of not having a new iPad mini release cause, apparently, there's no market for this device's size.

  6. John Scott

    I think you can actually get too small with a Windows tablet. Phones are a little different you don't really treat a phone like your laptop. Tablets like the Surface are probably at ideal size to work within Windows, anything smaller is a compromise. Although never say never given how 10S has given rise to another try at RT like Windows.

  7. Simard57

    Something that I have noticed about Windows devices (other than long forgotten phones) is the lack of a GPS. a device like this could have been much more useful with a GPS in it.


    Will the new Surface devices with cellular radios in them have GPS built in?

  8. harmjr

    So i wonder why this is leaking now? Isnt Windows 10 on Arm supposed to come out late 2017?

  9. jimchamplin

    It would be nice to see a limited run of a modern version of this. There’s a cottage industry in cheapo Chinese 8” Windows tablets. They lack power management and other such things I suppose the budget makers consider luxuries. Like a reliable power button.


    For there to be a good option for those of us who like our phones and tabs small would be great.

  10. Wolf

    Why is this even a story? This is old info about a product that was never released. Who cares that it offered features/hardware that are no longer even relevant. This should have been a one line comment under ThurrottNow, not a whole article .. IMHO.

  11. brucebaker

    I believe the decision to not offer it was correct. But I do have to say as a media consumption / One Note device it would have been neat. I know i am weird but I love the form factor of a 7-8 inch device. I still use a Nexus 7 daily.


  12. harmjr

    I think there is a [small] market for these kind of devices. I, my self treasure my Asus VivoNote 8 tablet. This machine is not my main driver that of course is my SP4. I dont use Asus's built in Pen but use a pen I had with my Wacom HP TouchSmart TM2 and it works great! With the newest version of OneNote UWP app this device has finally found its sweet spot. Also the Microsoft Garage app Dictate is a must. However its 3 years old I am praying someone creates an updated version in the next 2 years. I am willing to pay up $300 to $600 for this device higher the price range depends on storage option for those device creators who may be watching! I would love it to have the Kickstand. Its a great device for reading, searching, quick emailing, music.

  13. Michael Rivers

    I thought I had read that even the iPad Mini isn't doing so well with bigger phones taking over. Certainly a similar one from Microsoft would have had no chance.

  14. Darmok N Jalad

    It was also interesting that they went with Snapdragon 800 over the Tegra SOCs that Surface used before it.

    Sad that MS just dumped the RT devices instead of putting a version of 10 on them, especially since Surface 2 was discontinued in early 2015 and MS is committed to security updates on the devices until 2023.

    Any news on WOA?

  15. fanchettes

    Call me crazy, but a "OneNote device" seems like a pretty cool idea.

  16. Ugur

    Always interesting to see such cancelled things and it does not look horrible , though the bezels are of course ginormous for 2017, but hey, it was gonna be released a few years ago, so..

    I totally agree though that with Windows Rt it would have been a complete fail.

    Some talk about oh, ARM for desktops/laptops/convertibles would be the future once they can emulate x86 apps fully.

    I'll believe that once i see all my desktop apps and games perform great on ARM despite emulation (spoiler: i don't think they would perform anywhere the same even if they worked properly at least and hence would nitigate any gains in battery life ARM chips would have over Intel chips thanks to very likely using more battery in emulation to do the same things).


    So in general, i agree with your view that it would have tanked. Where i disagree is that you almost always boil down MS failing to "no apps". That i find nonsense, because of course pretty much any new device category starts out with no apps.

    The reason one then becomes a blockbuster while the other tanks is not "apps" or "no apps".

    The reason is whether the core experience and onboard software is convincing enough that people want to buy into it despite no other apps for it yet.

    Windows phone and windows rt did not tank because of "no apps" as main cause. No matter how often some repeat that as main reason, it's just nonsense. Again, the iPhone started with no third party apps, the Switch basically only had one game worth buying on launch etc, one could list endless examples.


    Windows phone and Windows Rt tanked because they were bad concepts not enough people thought was worth investing into at all and the core user experience and onboard apps was just crap compared to what was already available.

    No matter how much some fans liked the blinky metro startscreen UI, to most average users coming from other OS it looked like a horrible distateful mess, basically like an endless wall of blinky banners.

    And MS onboard apps were just bad in usability and functionality compared to what's available on other platforms so the out of the box experience was worse and more limited, that is the main important point.



    Sure, some people use tons of different apps on an iPad. But you know, millions upon millions of users don't actually use many apps on an iPad. The large majority of users likes iPads because it just streamlines the most basic things to be done in most simple to use way and the onboard apps are already pretty good. (Interesting side note: I think the first iOS devices would have taken off way less if they didn't have youtube and google supported maps on board)

    My Mom for example uses her iPad most to read one single newspaper app most (for which there is also a good working webpage replacement) and safari for browsing the web.

    What's way more important than tons of other apps to her is that the core device and onboard OS and onboard apps are just super reliable and intuitive and easy to use.

    And i feel like MS in 2017 is still quite far away from that in 2017.

    Like i as experienced Windows (and other OS) user still more than a few times a month get issues with some random thing in Windows 10 not working as it should be, way way more often than i ever got on an iOS or even Android device.


    • Jeff Jones

      In reply to Ugur: endless wall of blinky banners


      That's a good way to put it. I think that's probably the heart of the problem with the Windows Metro design. Smart tiles are not a good blend between fixed icons and Android's widgets. Fixed icons are helpful because of memorization and quickly finding what you want, while smart tiles can look different every time you look for the app. Alternatively widgets are significantly more advanced that a smart tile.


      Smart tiles are inferior in almost every way, and I generally turn them off on all of my systems. The one exception is the Weather app. It has a unique look regardless of what information it is displaying.

      • SvenJ

        In reply to DataMeister: I don't entirely agree with that. I'll grant that some tiles are hard to find because of their varied look, and I turn 'live' off on those. Store is one. It's like I have a new game every hour which I don't recall installing. Other tiles, mail, calendar, weather, news, are distinctive enough even when displaying worthwhile snippets. I have the choice of making it iOS-ish, or Android-ish. I find that Android widgets are prettier, but generally take up way more space, so I can't get the density of information plus icons/shortcuts that I can on WP. If I just wanted it iOS-ish, using lifeless small tiles, I could get way more apps on that first page than on an iPhone, or Android for that matter. Scrolling up continuously or swiping sideways, page after page doesn't seem that different as far as efficiency and the ability to find apps goes. The WP scrolling is not even that far removed from Android's app drawer.


    • skane2600

      In reply to Ugur:

      There's a big difference between the acceptance of a product in a new category (finger touch smartphone) and the acceptance of a later entry. By the time a similar product was introduced by MS , the expectations had risen.


      IMO, those who argue "It's not about the apps" don't understand the diversity of interest in apps. I like my WP 8 fine, I like the UI better than Android (although my Android experience is out of date). But I definitely find the lack of apps limiting. Is it about a lack of apps like Snapchat, twitter, Instagram, FB Messenger, YouTube etc, etc, etc? Nope (I don't even know which ones are available for my phone because I don't care).


      What I do care about is apps that connect to businesses. Browsing their websites is painful on small screens (despite the hoopla over responsive design and similar approaches). Native apps are designed specifically to solve this problem. If you look at business advertisements that mention apps they'll include the iPhone, Android, and sometimes even Amazon Fire devices, but almost never Windows Phones. That's the app gap I'm concerned with.




    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Ugur:

      Bezel shmezel.


      Makes the damn thing easier to hold. Not everyone wants to just hold a piece of glass.

      • Ugur

        In reply to jimchamplin: I get what you are saying, essentially that Bezels make it easier to hold on the edges in a way because they reduce the likelihood of accidental touches. Can't argue much against that besides one can work around it to some degree on software palm rejection side etc. But, and that's an important but: Device with such giant bezels automatically means way bigger device dimensions for same size usable screen real estate. And way bigger device, well, is way more unwieldily to hold by itself already and that extra due to usually also added extra weight.


  17. TheJoeFin

    As an avid OneNote user I would love an 8" device I could take with me everywhere and take notes with a pen, sketch, etc. But as someone who is developing an app heavily reliant on ink, I am seeing how there are some odd behaviors under the hood between Windows 10 and other flavors of Windows when it comes to the ink APIs. I want to see this device running full Windows 10 on ARM, not Windows RT.

  18. SvenJ

    Quit f'in teasing us. Never mention this again. See that pen in the shot? That is what would have made this useful to me. That pen on my 950XL would have been nice too, but noooo, we can't have nice things.

    BTW, Cover Port. That sure makes it sound like something was planned to connect to it at some point, or maybe a dock/expansion. The specs were underwhelming, so yea, canceling this was probably fine. Today it would be in the same drawer as my Lumia 2520. Today though, with current guts and Win 10 S, (upgradeable) or WoA, it would be a nice little unit, and pretty much the only decent one of its kind.

  19. Lauren Glenn

    Not true. You could play Ilo Milo on it or Pacman Championship Edition. :) Those were the only two games I played on my VivoTab RT before the cat rubbed against the display and gave it a static shock that destroyed the tablet. Sometimes ASUS makes crap things but sometimes you get a gem like the Padfone S...... I ended up just throwing it away and getting a Surface.

  20. Jeff Jones

    An eBook reader would have been another use for the Mini that the Pro is to heavy for.

  21. Detective Polarphant

    What is 'Surface Iris' which is listed as being in the box ? Weird

  22. mmcpher

    Satya is no Wayne Gretzky "you won't score on 100% of the shots you don't take". The one sure way to garner cheers is to rif and rif and rif and be sure to turn the lights out as you leave. Microsoft aspires to be the masters of competitive retreat.

  23. rudraprasad

    it's a nice product. Microsoft should continue upon that.

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