Microsoft may be ready to take the wraps off its long-rumored Surface Mini tablet.
Vostrostone (VSTN), an electronics wholesaler, posted to Amazon.com a couple of photos of cases purported to be for Microsoft's Surface Mini. The availability date for the cases is May 18, 2014. (Thanks to Aki Antman for the Amazon link.)
The image of the tablet in the VSTN photos is semingly just a placeholder -- not the Surface Mini itself, but likely the already shipping 8-inch Lenovo Windows tablet. But one of the VSTN cases shown on Amazon specifically indicates it is only for a Microsoft Surface Mini and also protects the keyboard for the device.
Rumors about Microsoft's plans for a smaller Surface tablet -- something with a screen size between seven and eight inches -- have been circulating since last year. Last September, I heard the Surface Mini would not be unveiled until the spring of 2014.
More recently, my sources told me the Surface Mini was waiting in the wings for announcement and would come with a stylus. Neowin.net also heard the same regarding the inclusion of a stylus -- a real, digitizing pen, in this case, not a capacitive stylus.
Microsoft officials have been focused on making Windows 8 more usable, from a cost and footprint standpoint, on smaller, cheaper tablets. With Windows 8.1 Update, they managed to shrink the footprint of the operating system, allowing users more space for their files, apps and data. Microsoft execs also announced at Build 2014 that Microsoft would be making Windows free on Windows Phones and tablets with screen sizes of nine inches and under.
My tipsters had previously indicated that the Surface Mini would be ARM-based. I haven't heard any updates to this information (so far). If the Surface Mini is, indeed, ARM-based, I'm wondering whether Microsoft is ready to make available a beta/preview of its coming "Gemini" touch-first Office apps for Windows around the time of the Surface Mini unveiling.
I asked Microsoft officials whether the Surface Mini will be announced and/or available in May and haven't yet heard back.
Update: The official word(s) from a Microsoft spokesperson: “We have nothing to share.”