On Tuesday during Microsoft's press event, we were rather disappointed that the company didn't showcase the Surface Mini alongside the Surface Pro 3. Sources said that the tablet was pulled just days before the New York event because Microsoft executives felt like the device didn't offer anything new. Given some of the retail bombs Microsoft has endured in the past (Kin, Windows 8), the hesitance is understandable.
So what happened to the tablet? Neowin has a lengthy explanation, reporting that the company already had 15,000 to 20,000 of the devices ready for retail. But the project is on hold because Microsoft is waiting for the Office 2013 Modern UI apps "Gemini" to be completed. Previous rumors pegged their release as taking place during April, but now there are reports stating that the apps will arrive in the fall.
Now it all makes sense. The Surface Mini will be marketed as a note-taking device, similar to what the Surface Pro 3 provides. But in order to use the Surface Mini in that fashion, it will need touch-based apps. As Neowin points out, the screen is a lot smaller than the new Surface Pro 3, the latter of which doesn't rely on touch-based Office apps because of the screen's size.
So here's a little bit of speculation: the Surface Mini will arrive in time for the back-to-school sales. Microsoft didn't need to wait with the Surface Pro 3; the device seems geared for professionals who are looking for a thin and light laptop replacement. But students… that's another story entirely. The Surface Mini and its note-taking feature would be an excellent tool for school.
There's a good chance the Surface Mini will also feature Windows 8.1.2, aka Windows 8.1 Update 2. Previous reports pointed to a fall release for the update, possibly between August and October at this point. This update is expected to bring back the Start Menu, combining program listings with flashy live tiles. Also expected is the ability to run Start Screen apps on the desktop.