The last we heard, Microsoft chose not to reveal the Surface Mini in late May because the company wanted to launch the device with the Office 2013 Modern UI apps "Gemini," which have yet to reveal themselves. The company even had 15,000 to 20,000 of the devices ready for retail. Now there’s a chance we’ll never see the tablet on the market.
Unnamed sources in the upstream supply chain told DigiTimes that Microsoft has called off plans to mass produce the Surface Mini because of the "fierce competition "in the 7-inch to 8-inch tablet market. Microsoft also received negative feedback from its "brand vendor clients."
The Surface Mini was said to have a screen between 7-inches and 8-inches in size and a 1400 x 1080 pixel resolution. Windows 8.1 RT was the chosen platform given the tablet’s ARM-based Qualcomm processor. The tablet was even expected to have its own digitizer pen for drawing, taking notes and so on.
Sources said that the Surface Mini’s hardware really had nothing to help give it a competitive edge over the competition. Because of this, Microsoft decided to postpone the tablet’s release, and could possibly cancel the project altogether. Sources also said that even through production was halted, Microsoft paid the costs associated with module development and production equipment.
Strangely enough, part of the reason behind the Surface Mini halt is blamed on Apple. The upcoming 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones are expected to undermine demand for the 7-inch tablet segment form factor. Brand vendors are also blamed, as they are churning out tablets for around $100; white-box models are going for around $50.
While Microsoft will likely deny rumors such as this one, plenty of evidence over the last several months suggest that the tablet was indeed locked and loaded for a debut in May. The Surface Pro 3 guide was one revealing source, as was a listing for a Surface Mini cover on Amazon.
Additional reports point back to the touch-based "Gemini" apps for Office. Sources said that CEO Satya Nadella allowed the Office team to place these apps on hold while the team pumps out a touch version of Office for Android this year. The Windows version may not even hit the market until Windows 9 “Threshold” is released next year.
"Microsoft the OEM built a device expecting Microsoft the software company to deliver a compelling experience for it," writes former Microsoft engineer Hal Berenson on CITEworld. "Microsoft the software company failed to deliver, forcing Microsoft the OEM to postpone or cancel a product it knew couldn’t be successful in the market. CEO Satya Nadella just experienced first-hand what OEM CEOs have been experiencing for much of the last two decades."
Berenson said he hopes Microsoft learns important lessons by being in the hardware business.