Microsoft Surface Mini May Not Appear Until 2014

One device we didn't get a taste of this week when Microsoft introduced its new Surface tablets was the rumored Surface Mini. Now with the revamped Nexus 7 on the market and Amazon's 7 inch Kindle Fire HDX and revamped Kindle Fire HD on the way, the heat is on for Microsoft to produce its own branded solution. Yet, looking back, the Redmond company may be focused on fixing past mistakes before tackling a smaller form factor.

There's now talk from sources that the device won't make an appearance until spring 2014, packed with an update to Windows RT 8.1 called "Spring 2014 GDR," AKA General Distribution Release. Microsoft is reportedly finalizing its third GDR for Windows Phone 8, which will add 1080p support and the ability to run the OS on larger 5 inch to 6 inch devices. Thus the release of this tablet will be aligned with the "Blue" release of Windows Phone 8, although Microsoft may not go with the "8.1" label. This will be the biggest update since Windows Phone 8 rolled out in Fall 2012.

Getting back to the Surface Mini, the tablet will obviously use an ARM-based chip (and likely Tegra 4 like the Surface 2) given that it will ship with Windows RT 8.1. Past rumors have speculated that the size will be between 7 inches and 8 inches, and that Microsoft may actually market this smaller tablet as an Xbox Surface device, hoping to cash in on the Xbox One launch aftermath. That could be another reason why the tablet won't show up until next year.

The interesting tidbit here is that the Surface Mini tablet is expected to arrive when the Windows Phone 8.1 update rolls out in the Spring. This is also the speculated timeframe for the Surface 2 with 4G LTE support, as well as the Metro-style "Gemini" apps for Office 2013. And with Nokia's Devices and Services division now marching into the Redmond officer, it's hard not to wonder if Microsoft has plans for a huge ARM-based assault in Spring 2014. Nokia's ARM-based "Sirius" tablet and "Bandit" phablet fit somewhere into those plans too.

Several sources have stated that the Surface Mini's "delay" is tied to the Xbox One. Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Operating Systems Terry Myerson is supposedly working overtime to get the console's OS completed, and has reassigned some of the Windows developers to help get the Xbox One OS finalized. The OS division's schedule is reportedly to get Windows 8.1 released to the public, complete the Xbox One, and complete Windows Phone 8.1 (aka GDR3).

Recently during a financial analyst meeting, Myerson revealed that the OS team's ultimate goal is to have one silicon interface, one set of APIs, one core cloud service, and a tailored experience for each form factor. He mentioned that phones will eventually extend into tablets, indicating that Microsoft may be shooting for using the same OS on ARM-based devices no matter their form factor.

"We have two very important chipset families in everything we're doing in all of our devices, and that's x86 and ARM," he said. "The ARM devices in particular in phones have incredible share given their battery life and the connectivity options available with the system-on-a-chip ecosystem. Windows RT was our first ARM tablet. And as phones extend into tablets, expect us to see many more ARM tablets, Windows ARM tablets in the future."

Be sure to check out all our Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 coverage from this week:

  • g-unit1111
    Maybe with Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia, we'll see a device similar to the Asus Padfone in the works. Now that would be awesome!
  • mrmez
    Still feels like M$ can't make up their minds.

    Either copy Apple etc and release your product immediately, or forget about what the competition is doing and make your own unique products.

    Their current 'me too' approach is seeing products that can't differentiate themselves, at a much delayed release date.
  • w8gaming
    Microsoft should just give a free Surface RT to every CEO, make sure it has well built integration to the backend IT email services, and ability to shows PowerPoint slides easily, make it easy to sync Office documents (as is, the CEO will not even need to know where the file has been saved to). And instead of showing dancing college kids in the advertisements, show how easy it is to access company emails and documents created in a Office environment.

    Then for the CEO's children, the advertisement should show how much funs you can have with the games in RT. Show smiling children in the advertisement playing Angry Birds Star Wars, not nerdy dancing college kids.
  • belardo
    CEOs are millionaires... they can afford tablets. Actually, pretty much all of them already have iPads.

    Why so late for a 7" tablet? Perhaps to confirm the death of the RT platform... and simply use the WP-platform to make small tablets. There was already talk of merging RT<>MP... and common sense, there never should have been an RT version. Simply support for a phoneless tablet built into WP.

    Watching the MS train wreck is funny.
  • w8gaming
    Almost all CEOs already have iPads are exactly the problem. Now the only way to get CEOs to use Surface is to give one to them free. Since MS insists of selling the sales pitch "Surface is great because it has Office", they should ensure CEOs will actually find it easier to use Surface to do presentations in a boardroom etc. While they are at it, give the secretaries free Surface too because it is likely it is the secretaries who created the PowerPoint slide in the first place.