On Monday, during the 2014 Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington D.C., Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner revealed that Windows-based tablets smaller than 9 inches will arrive later this year sporting a $99 price tag. He also said Windows will be free for makers of this form factor, meaning customers will likely see a larger wave of devices under the 9-inch limit than what we've seen thus far.
Microsoft was supposedly set to reveal its Surface Mini 8-inch tablet back in May, but pulled the device at the very last minute reportedly because the tablet didn't provide anything new. Now there's talk that the Surface Mini tablet will not see retail shelves until next year when the "Gemini" touchy Office apps are set to arrive despite the supposedly "thousands" that Microsoft has in its warehouse.
During his presentation, Turner revealed that Microsoft needs to have a different mindset. At one time, the company was seen as the dominant vendor in the operating system space, owning over 90 percent of the market thanks to notebooks and desktops. But the world has shifted to a different hardware set, namely smartphones and tablets, leaving Microsoft holding a very small 14 percent piece of the overall devices pie.
"The reality is the world's shifted, the world's evolved," said Turner. "We now measure ourself by total device space. We have a much bigger opportunity than we've ever had in the past to grow our business, but we have to rethink how we look at our business."
CEO Satya Nadella sent a letter to all Microsoft employees last week, revealing that former CEO Steve Ballmer's plan to be a devices and services company was great at first, but couldn't be the Redmond company's core strategy.
"More recently, we have described ourselves as a 'devices and services' company," he wrote. "While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy. At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more."
Turner echoed that mindset during his presentation on Monday, indicating that the company is more open to bringing its services to other non-Windows platforms. Case in point: Office 2013, the company's popular productivity tool. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and perhaps even Outlook are slated to get the Modern UI treatment on Android later this year.
There is a possibility that Microsoft's Surface Mini could be one of the less than 9-inch devices slated to arrive later this year. Or perhaps Microsoft may be holding off until that small tablet tide washes over consumers. However, if Microsoft waits for 2015, and there's hardware already built, the stored tablets will seemingly become outdated. Hopefully, Microsoft won't have another Surface RT-like episode.
In addition to talking small tablets, Turner also revealed a $199 laptop from Hewlett-Packard called the Stream. He used this laptop as an example of Microsoft's commitment to attack the low end of the market where Chromebooks reside.