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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Microsoft didn't release the Surface mini


Surface mini
As you may know, Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3 today, during a special media event in New York. Microsoft was also expected to unveil a brand new Surface mini during today's event, but chose to focus solely on the Surface Pro instead

The Surface mini was expected to be a smaller variant of the Surface and the successor to the Surface RT tablets. We got our first glimpse of the device when a case manufacturer released pictures of a case for the small size tablet. Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface 2 feature 10.6 inch displays and are powered by NVidia processors. Since both tablets run Windows RT, they are only capable of running apps from the Windows Store. Since Windows RT is unable to run regular Windows software, it actually made sense for Microsoft to offer a smaller, more portable Windows RT tablet in the form of the Surface mini instead of a full size tablet which cannot run most productivity apps. Rumors also suggested that Microsoft would switch from NVidia chips to use Qualcomm processors and outfit their Surface mini tablets with LTE connectivity. 

The Surface Pro 3 on the other hand is all about productivity. It packs powerful Core series processors with a minimum of 4GB RAM, and runs full Windows, which means you can run just about any app you would run on your desktop or laptop on your Surface Pro. The company has even chosen to increase the screen size of the Surface Pro 3 to 12 inches compared to the 10.6 inches on the Surface Pro 2, showing that they meant to aggressively take on laptops with their newest tablet. Microsoft even had an Adobe executive demonstrate the next version of Photoshop running on the Surface Pro 3.

The issue with the Surface Pro 3 is its cost. Even though the device is marketed as a tablet, it is in fact a powerful computer capable of replacing your laptops, notebooks and ultrabooks. In fact, Microsoft even thinks the Surface Pro 3 is powerful enough to replace your desktop. So the cost is justified, but its hard to convince your customers to spend money on an expensive tablet if a cheaper alternative was also available.

Historically, the Surface RT tablets have not been very successful and Microsoft has had to write offer a lot of their unsold inventory as a result. It is not known if a smaller Surface mini will allow the company to suddenly succeed in the tablet space, and it was clear that Microsoft is not yet ready to gamble.

By first releasing their more successful Surface Pro tablet, Microsoft will now focus on aggressively marketing the device. Once they have sold a significant number of tablets, the company should get turn back to their Surface mini. 

Microsoft may release the Surface mini with the touch optimized Office for Windows

Microsoft recently released touch optimized versions of their Office apps for the iPad. While Surface Pro and Surface RT users have access to a regular version of Office on their tablets, Microsoft has still not released a touch optimized version of its productivity suite for Windows. In fact the only reason Windows RT users need a desktop is because Office isn't touch optimized.

If Microsoft is planning to release a smaller Windows RT device, it makes even less sense for users to have to use Office on a pint sized desktop. Microsoft did demonstrate an early build of their Touch optimized Office apps during BUILD 2014, but they did not have a specific release date at that time. o it makes sense that Microsoft will want to have a touch optimized version of Office for Windows ready, before they can unveil the Surface mini. The touch optimized version of Office is reportedly being worked on currenlty under the name 'Project Gemini'.

Are you disappointed that Microsoft didn't unveil a Surface mini at today's event ? Would you consider purchasing a Surface mini with Windows RT instead of an iPad ?

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