What Microsoft didn't announce today: An ARM-based Surface Mini

Summary:In spite of numerous leaks indicating an ARM-based Surface was going to be launched at Microsoft's "small gathering" in New York City, no such device materialized. What happened?

It's not fair to call an unofficially announced product "delayed" when it doesn't debut according to the rumored schedule.

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But that said, I'm calling the ARM-based Surface Mini delayed. I won't say the long-rumored device has been axed (though it may have been). But I will say, based on reports from my own trusted sources, not to mention sources from a number of my colleagues, Microsoft was planning to unveil a seven-to-eight-inch ARM-based Surface tablet on May 20 in New York City.

It didn't happen. Instead, the company rolled out an Intel Core-based Surface Pro 3 with a 12-inch screen .

So what happened to the Surface Mini? I have a couple theories.

One, I'd say Windows 9, a k a "Threshold," happened.

It was no secret that Microsoft Operating System Group chief, the Terry Myerson is/was no fan of Windows RT operating system that currently powers the Surface RT and Surface 2 devices. And it's also widely believed that Myerson's team is in the midst of revamping the version of Windows that runs on ARM  so that the same version of Windows will be able to run on ARM-based Windows Phones and smaller ARM-based Windows tablets.

Secondly, Microsoft officials said that the reason the company got into the PC/tablet business was to address the segments of the market that its partners couldn't/wouldn't. There are already a few affordable 8-inch Windows 8.x tablets on the market from Dell and Lenovo, among others.

And without the "Gemini" touch-first versions of Office apps for Windows that are in development, would a Surface Mini make a lot of sense? There is a version of OneNote that works on Windows RT, but the other core Office apps still require the Desktop in Windows 8.X. 

What are your theories? Why did Microsoft either kill or postpone again the Surface Mini? Will it ever surface?

Update 1 on May 21: Bloomberg had an interesting take on why Microsoft didn't announce the Surface Mini on May 20. According to their sources, CEO Satya Nadella and Devices group chief Stephen Elop put the kibosh on the product because it wasn't differentiated enough from rival offerings. 

Update 2 on May 21: Neowin is reporting that Microsoft went so far as to make 15,000 to 20,000 Surface Mini units before deciding to put the announcement on hold. These units aren't being warehoused and dumped; they're probably test units or partially finished product, I'd bet. Like I speculated above, the reason for the hold-up could be the unavailability of Office Gemini, Neowin claims.

Microsoft execs aren't commenting on why/whether the Surface Mini was delayed again. But as Surface chief Panos Panay has made clear, Microsoft's Surface team isn't writing off ARM or the 8-inch form-factor space .

Topics: Tablets, ARM, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface, Mobility, PCs, Windows 8

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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