Did Microsoft kill the Surface Mini?

Microsoft appears to have scrapped its small tablet -- at least in its current form.

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Surface 2: The Mini would have complemented Microsoft's 10.6- and 12-inch tablets. Microsoft

Has Microsoft killed its small tablet? Probably. At least in its current form.

The Surface Mini tablet -- with an estimated display size of between 7 and 8 inches -- would have complemented Microsoft's current 10.6- and 12-inch Surface 2 and Surface Pro 3 offerings, respectively.

At least, so the thinking went.

But after a no-show of the Mini at a Surface event in June and a statement from Microsoft this week, that's appearing increasingly less likely.

That statement was one of the clearest to date. "During the quarter, we reassessed our product roadmap and decided not to ship a new form factor that was under development," Amy Hood, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said during Tuesday's earnings conference call.

And she added: "We made inventory adjustments which impacted our gross margins." Translation: Microsoft took a write-down for the product.

"That [statement] would support the financial hit they would [take] to cancel a product as far down the road as that product apparently was," said Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at DisplaySearch, adding that Microsoft was "still receiving [display] panels for it through May."

So, the question becomes, is there any chance for a Mini in the future?

"As we've said before, we have a roadmap of products. As to what the products look like and when they might come to market, you'll have to wait and see," Microsoft told CNET.

IDC analyst Jean Philippe Bouchard thinks, at the very least, the product as planned is dead.

"The market moves so fast that whatever internals they have on the Surface Mini today won't be competitive down the road. It would have to be a revamped version if and when we do see it," he said.

Bouchard also believes that the ingredients weren't there for a product that was different enough.

"They didn't have Gemini ready, which is the Touch-friendly Office version, and Threshold, which is the next version of Windows, presumably Windows 9. We have to see those two things first," he said.

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The Dell Venue 8 Pro: the market need for small Windows tablets is already being met by companies like Dell. CNET

And Tom Mainelli, another IDC analyst, said that market trends don't favor small tablets these days.

"We're seeing a transition to larger screen sizes [for tablets] and people are buying larger and larger phones," according to Mainelli.

Then there's the problem of Windows RT, the operating system on which a Surface Mini most likely would have run.

Mainelli says Microsoft has been very quiet this year about Windows RT, which doesn't bode well.

"Right now they have three operating systems. Which I would argue is one too many. Microsoft will always say we need to have an operating system on ARM [processors]. I would say, you do, it's called Windows Phone."

Tags:
Tablets
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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