Show us the Microsoft Surface Mini, Satya Nadella

Show us the Microsoft Surface Mini, Satya Nadella

Summary: If I could ask Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella just one thing during his Code Conference appearance tonight, it would be to show us the Surface Mini.


Microsoft's Satya Nadella is continuing his "meet the new CEO" tour this week, with a scheduled appearance at Recode.Net's Code Conference in Rancho Palas Verdes, Cali.


Nadella's session, which is scheduled for tonight, May 27, just after 5 pm PT, isn't going to be live streamed. And those of us not attending aren't able to submit questions, as far as I know.

But if we were, here's what I'd ask Nadella: Could you show us the Surface Mini?

Or if Nadella doesn't happen to have on his person one of the thousands of Surface Minis Microsoft allegedly manufactured as part of its testing process, I'd at least like to hear his explanation as to why he supposedly put the kibosh on the launch of the device.

Microsoft had been planning to launch the ARM-based, pen-centric Surface Mini last week in New York City, according to my -- and other Microsoft watchers' -- sources. Instead, the company launched the larger, 12-inch Intel-based Surface Pro 3.

Bloomberg reported last week that the Surface Mini wasn't deemed to be "differentiated enough" to be a hit. So Nadella decided against launching it. I'm curious if the Mini would have met Nadella's bar if Microsoft's touch-first, Windows Store apps ("Gemini") had been ready as of last week to preload on the Surface Minis.

While a number of Microsoft's OEM partners, now including Toshiba, have inexpensive 8-inch Windows 8 tablets on the market, they require the Windows 8 Desktop to run Microsoft's core Office apps. That doesn't make for a great experience on these small-screen devices.

I was really hoping to see if the rumored Surface Mini could replace the pen/paper I still use to take most of my notes. Yes, I know I could use a Surface Pro 2 or 3 with a pen to take notes. But so far, those form factors don't appeal to me the way something that actually is more the size of my paper notebooks might. If a Surface Mini was a true notetaking-optimized device, I wouldn't care about trying to use it with a keyboard or a mouse.

The Surface Mini just might be the more realistic realization of Microsoft's Courier vision (minus the second screen).

If anyone at the Code Conference gets a Surface Mini sneak peek, let us know.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Tablets, Windows 8


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Unbelievable


    Don't you find this unbelievable that Microsoft would actually try to release a Surface Mini without a proper killer app to make it desirable and competitive with players that were already on this market for more than a year?

    I remain puzzled by this absolute inability to read the market. Many of us commented this topic several months ago and stated that a key note taking app (à la Courier) was needed for this device to grab some attention.
    • The killer app for Surface Mini

      I think OneNote could be the killer app for it. If it were easier for folks to use/figure out/master...

      And maybe the expected Nook-MS Reader app, too... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Surface Pro 3...

        ...and its OneNote integration seems almost perfect. Pressing the button on the pen to get into the app and pressing again to save and move on is an paper and pen analogy that seems to work really well.

        I'd like to see further improvements in OneNote MX though.
      • Gemini

        The leaked preview of Office on Metro (project Gemini) I think is what they are waiting for as far as apps since for an RT device the primary reason to go to the desktop is for Office for non-power users. Most people find a 8" screen too small to work on the desktop (although you can always connect it to a monitor).
        Rann Xeroxx
    • For once, we already have a killer app...

      ... in One Note. It's been around long enough for users to understand it's true power.

      However, what's been missing is a killer device to match the killer app and take full advantage of its capabilities.

      For those of you unfamiliar with One Note, its handwriting recognition capabilities have to be experienced to be believed.

      Making it work on a sleek, light, 8-inch device that's optimized for this one function alone could have a huge market. I mean, who would have thought that a device dedicated to reading e-books could have ever been a runaway hit, right?
    • OneNote is THE KILLER APP that has been waiting for you all these years!!!

      OneNote, the demo

      Surface3 Demo
  • I shall call it


    I just love when things are called mini, makes me think of Austin Powers. :)
  • Why come out with a device that competes directly with your OEMs?

    Like you said, "While a number of Microsoft's OEM partners, now including Toshiba, have inexpensive eight-inch Windows 8 tablets on the market". One of the main reasons MS came out with the Surfaces in the first place was because lazy, conservative OEMs weren't coming out with any interesting form factors. Look how long it took for touch enabled laptops to appear in number after Windows 8 shipped. The Surface and Surface Pro lines didn't and still don't really have any direct competitors from OEMs. An 8" tablet would compete directly with existing OEM products. On the other hand, a premium MS branded 8" would be attractive to a number of people.
    Sir Name
    • Competing with OEMs

      You are right that MS is saying it doesn't want to compete with its OEMs. And that's smart. Who wants a race to the bottom on pricing?

      But if they made the Mini a premium notetaking-specific/optimized device, that would be different, IMHO. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Microsoft is competing with OEMs

        What they say is obvious a different thing, but we should call things by their names. Surface line of devices (more the pro versions) are mostly stealing sales from windows PCs, not from Apple.
        Surface 3 competes with the convertibles from Asus, the yoga line from Lenovo, the very light Samsung 9 ultra portables, ....

        Someone from HP (Meg Whitman) said it:
        "... Current partners like Intel and Microsoft are turning from partners to outright competitors."

        But the opposite is also true, HP and others are competing with Microsoft when they use android and chromeOS. I'm sure they can get along just fine and give the best to consumers.

        In a way competing for bottom sounds uninteresting, the problem is that not many seem willing to pay premium for windows machines, those machines exist for long time and the reality is that Apple sells more Air laptops than all other OEMs vendors combined sell ultra-books - it's not even a close race.

        I still say, the problem is windows 8 - without good software/ecosystem it will be very hard for MS to succeed beyond the traditional PCs market.
        • OEMs can't have it both ways

          When companies like HP come out with their own operating system (WebOS) and get in the business of making Android and ChromeOS devices, they chose to become competitors of their partner long before Microsoft made the Surface.

          Some might even say that OEMs horrible practice of filling computers with bloatware is one of the most damaging acts happening to the Windows experience currently.

          TLDR: Don't feel bad for Meg, her company made their own bed.

          Lastly, it might just be possible that Microsoft sells more Surface Pros than Apple sells MacBooks Airs, which is exactly what Microsoft is targeting with the Surface Pro line of devices. MacBook Airs have seen several price cuts since Surface released and considering Apple only sells a total of about 4 million Macs across all models; laptops, AIO, desktop, etc.
          • 4 to 5 millions per quarter

            If all surface models sell half of that during the entire year it will be already nice.
            Reaching 15 to 20 millions unit sales a year is just out of reasonableness - I'm sure Microsoft doesn't even dream of that mark.
            Surface "RT" is unloved for now, Pro 2 sales were so far weak, surface 3 is probably more of a niche product, but that will enjoy those first time enthusiastic buyers - 2 millions surface for 2014 is a very good number.
          • I don't feel even a little bit bad for Meg.

            I really don't care much about how they deal between themselves.

            To be fair, I must say that HP, makes OSes before Microsoft even existed, they made mobile devices even before Microsoft started thinking about making them, ... Competition is good and they can still be friends.
          • I agree.

            Microsoft is not really competing with OEMs. OEMS exist in the Android space. They exist in the "whatever people can afford" space. Microsoft is positioning it's devices as premium devices. There is nothing like the SP3 out there, and that's also why it's the most expensive. OEMs can race to the bottom, and the people who want the more premium device will go for the Surface line. Plus, the same paradigm still exists. Just like with Windows Phone and people getting mad over MS buying Nokia, Either OEMS are not making great hardware, or when they do they're not putting real marketing and ground work behind pushing their products. They put a product out there and leave it to Microsoft to do all the heavy lifting. Plus, let's not forget that the Surface Mini is not competing with anyone because no one else is making RT devices. The people who want a Surface Mini and the people who want Dell Venue 8 are two different customers. I do think Microsoft needs 15-20% price cut across the board for all Surface products and accessories, but that would still place them higher than OEMs. There is room for both. If OEMs don't want to compete with Microsoft, get out there and push both your devices and Windows 8.x. Make consumers see the value in your offerings. If more OEMs and thier reps when they were quoted in articles, would have come out and pushed back against the tide all the anti-Microsoft, Anti-Win8 media over the last couple years, they'd probably all be selling more devices.
          • Also

            At the end of the day, Microsoft doesn't care if the Surface Tablets are #1, the most important thing is that Windows tablets are a success. If Windows tablets are a success and their own devices only make up a single digit share of that, they're happy with that. They just want to be in the black on the devices they sell and have Windows tablets overall move numbers. They probably would like to be the #1 OEM of their software, but I'm sure that's more of a long-term goal.
      • No choice!

        MaryJo, you have to think like a business person. You ask, who wants to race to the bottom? Consumers. Microsoft has no choice,...they have to race to the bottom. It's like MSFT intercepts a pass and are running in the wrong direction for the touchdown.
        • Utter Rubbish

          Apple haven't raced to the bottom and they seem to be selling.
          • Quality vs Quantity

            Apple has the advantage that they don't have any competing OEMs to worry about. It's amazing that the various incarnations of Windows work as well as they do on a wide variety of hardware, but the fact remains that Apple continues to put out premium products (admittedly at premium prices) that are, if nothing else, consistently designed from top to bottom. If they were able to sell at the same "race to the bottom" prices as the Microsoft equivalent products, they would have no problem wiping out the competition.
        • VictorWho,

          Why am I not surprised to see negative post from you? ;)
          • And another post from you

            Complaining about someone not saying only good things.
            Is he wrong in your opinion, and why?