Will there ever be a Microsoft Surface Mini?

Will there ever be a Microsoft Surface Mini?

Summary: Will Microsoft enter the 7-inch tablet space with an Xbox Surface? That's my guess how Redmond will compete in this segment.

SHARE:
30

With Apple launching a 7.9-inch iPad and Amazon proclaiming the similarly-sized Kindle Fire HD its fastest selling product ever, Microsoft watchers and users are no doubt wondering whether there might be a 7-inch Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet in the works.

surfaceremotecontrol

I've asked Microsoft officials about this a few times and received the expected no comments.

If you think through Microsoft's official positions -- 1. that tablets are PCs and 2. that the coming Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets are made for both creation and consumption -- I think you'd probably come to the conclusion that there won't be a 7-inch Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet coming any time soon.

Think about it. Microsoft is touting the availability of Office apps like Excel on Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets as a selling point for these devices. Would using Excel on a 7-inch tablet be a good user experience? It would be better than using it on a phone, no doubt. But optimal? Probably not.

I don't know whether any of Microsoft's OEM partners will take a chance on 7-inch Windows form factor devices. I'm not entirely clear if Microsoft's OEM licensing rules would even allow this. (Is there a minimum size restriction on devices upon which an OEM can preload Windows? I do not know.)

All that said,  I could see at least one scenario where Microsoft itself might offer a mini-WinPad.

Anyone remember the rumors about an Xbox Surface that emerged just ahead of the debut of Microsoft's Surface tablets? I'm starting to wonder if they weren't so far-fetched, after all. 

Leaks from June 2012 indicated that the Xbox Surface would be a companion device tethered to Microsoft's Xbox. We know about SmartGlass, a k a the Windows Live Companion 2.0 application that Microsoft introduced earlier this year and just rolled out this week. But that's just the software component. I can't help but wonder whether there's an Xbox Surface that is the hardware piece of SmartGlass.

(This idea isn't completely unfounded or original. Remember: GeekWire's Todd Bishop discovered earlier this year that the Microsoft's SmartGlass trademark applied to both software and hardware.)

Surface is, indeed, a name for more than just the two PC/tablet devices that Microsoft unveiled in Los Angeles this past summer and that will be generally available as of October 26.  We know that Surface refers a bigger brand of Microsoft-designed and -branded hardware products. There will be a Surface family.

Perhaps we've all been barking up the wrong tree, thinking the next Surface device from Microsoft would be a Microsoft-designed and -branded Surface Windows Phone. Maybe it's an entertainment-consumption-focused Xbox Surface that will be the next sibling in the Microsoft Surface family. And maybe that's the main (or at least the more immediate) reason Microsoft is locking down its Xbox campus.

This is all conjecture on my part, spurred by a recent tip about an Xbox Surface. What do you think? Could this be how Microsoft dips its toe in the 7-inch waters?

Update: One last tidbit. During a recent "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit, the Microsoft Surface team, when asked whether there'd be a 7-inch Surface at some point, didn't say no. They said "Keep the suggestions coming." Make of that non-answering answer what you will...

Topics: Tablets, iPad, Microsoft, PCs, Windows

About

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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

30 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Leaked Roadmap

    There was the leaked roadmap and spec of what appeared to be the XBOX 720? Anyway, within the specs there was a tablet mentioned as part controller for the system. I'm not sure if Daniel posted that blog but it pretty much detailed the system and the SmartGlass controller that went along with it. I believe they were forced to remove the doc images from the site, but it was pretty much laid out.
    dshane
  • Ballmer said it, no more free ride for apple

    It would be great device if MS can create a 7 inch version of Surface with Win RT that only runs Windows store apps. No desktop or office apps, a total touch only device. Sell it for $300.
    owlllnet
  • I don't think so

    Because that would defeat the purpose of the touch/type cover. Unless they make a cover with a keyboard for an RT mini, but that wouldn't look good at all. But they could still do it though.
    Free From Apple
  • Of course there will be 7" W8 tablets. The pure content consumer is one of

    MSs tablet targets. MS could announce a 7" surface next week. Or they may decide to let oems get into the 7" low end segment first.
    Johnny Vegas
  • I guess that...

    ...if Microsoft actually releases some kind of a "Surface Mini", the Microsoft supporters in this forum will NOT say that Microsoft is "late to the party", like they say about Apple.
    Smalahove
    • ...?

      wha? lol
      HunterGuy2
    • Why wouldn't they say that?

      Microsoft is not only late to the touch/tablet market, they missed the massive opportunity that Apple found with the ipad.

      Of course a 7 inch microsoft tablet would be late to the party. People point out Apple being late to the 7 inch party, because Steve Jobs flat out said smaller tablets will not work and that the 9.7 inch ipad is the perfect size.

      Instead of proactively crushing android in the tablet market, Apple ignore smaller form factor tablets long enough for Android to take some ground.
      Emacho
  • Mary Jo Foley, isn't 7 inch a blind spot for Microsoft?

    On a 7 inch tablet a physical keyboard does not really make sense. Either it's too small to type on or it's much bigger than the tablet. So maybe not the best size for Windows RT/8?

    Windows phone on a 7 inch could work, but the apps would feel a bit stretched out? Microsoft choice of making a desktop/tablet hybrid operating-system here show it's weakness vs Android and iOS. Android and iOS are more like phone/tablet hybrid operating-systems, thus very suitable for the 7 inch size. With a 7 inch form factor, I would also consider the ability to both use as a tablet and as a cell phone.
    Oden79
  • Will there ever be a Microsoft Surface Mini?

    If we are talking about a Microsoft Surface mini then probably not. After a certain point the keyboard would start to get a bit small and cramped. If you are talking a straight tablet then it is possible.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Why no 7" RT tablet???

    This is exceedingly annoying. I've been waiting for one, ANY 7" tablet based on RT. I don't need a laptop replacement right now (I'd rather wait until the second generation Surface with Tegra 4 which will be much more revolutionary than Tegra 3, since it'll be based on Cortex A15 and actual Kepler GPU cores).

    However, I've been showing all the restraint I'm humanly capable of, waiting for MS to announce something, ANYTHING 7" RT based and I-will-buy-it. Instead, months later, there's nothing.

    And you know what? I don't want to wait anymore, I'm tired of waiting. I don't care for Apple's ecosystem, specially when the Nexus 7 is 200 bucks, has a Tegra 3 cpu that's practically the same as in Surface (little slower), an HD 7" screen and millions of apps I care about. I'm fine with the limitations of my Samsung Focus, but I'm tired of waiting on the Windows ecosystem to produce a 7" RT device.

    You know what you did, MS? You just lost a tablet customer. When Google announces the upgrade to 16gb Nexus 7 for 200 bucks, I'm getting one next week. Enough is enough.
    Xabier Granja
    • HTC reportedly making a 7" RT tablet.

      Hope you haven't spent your $$ yet. "HTC could demonstrate 7-inch and 12-inch tablets as early as January, according to a report.
      HTC is developing a 7-inch Windows RT tablet that can also be used to make phone calls." This could be a killer....

      http://www.hindustantimes.com/technology/PersonalTech-Updates/HTC-is-building-a-Windows-tablet/SP-Article1-979289.aspx
      poor_beach
  • I think there will...

    But it might exclude the keyboard cover as we know it today. Remember, Microsoft has suggested that Surface is a brand open to multiple forms based on market need and interest.
    GoodThings2Life
  • I would like to see smaller Windows tablets

    a 7 inch windows tablet would be very attractive. Bonus if it somehow works with an xbox.

    Keyboard case or not, it would be a nice option.
    Emacho
  • MS doesn't need to release a 7" Surface tablet

    MS needs for the 10.6" Surface RT tablet to be a success.

    Once that happens, OEMs will be falling over themselves to release a 7" Windows RT tablet.

    But Surface RT does have to be a success first. If MS can't sell a Windows tablet after all the hype they've built around Surface, no one else stands a chance. The market will be owned by Android at the $199 price point (with profits hopefully coming from content - the Amazon model) and by Apple at the $329 price point (with profits coming from huge markups - and no, I'm not saying huge markups are bad).
    toddbottom3
  • Bill Gates himself said that Windows 8 and Windows Phone were merging

    Where better to merge than in a 7-inch device?

    As for Office, Windows Phone has a very light version of Office and it's great for quick tasks. I would expect a 7-inch tablet would have to have that much at a minimum.
    kinect_dev
    • That's an interesting thought

      "Where better to merge than in a 7-inch device"

      A size right between phone and tablet - I have to say it makes sense.
      William Farrel
  • 7 inch devices are the next big thing in the consumer market.

    MS and OEMs need to release 7 inch Win RT devices, (purely touch based , no cover and desktop) to compete with other players. Make no mistake, 7 inch devices are perfect for reading and watching while travelling or in bed.

    The key thing for MS is that it needs to be in the limelight, no matter which market segment it is.
    owlllnet
  • Will there ever be a Microsoft Surface Mini?

    Hummm, let me think......

    Ok, the answer is... If Apple kicks our butts, yet again, we'll copy what they're doing, even though they're copying Android success in that form factor!

    Come on Microsoft! Where's the leadership???
    Dewey2000
  • If you loose the touch cover and the "Snap" feature, it might work

    Use a similar form factor as the Surface, use an ARM processor, make it so that there is only every one app on the screen. Add in the Nook software (as part of the B&N deal) and you end up with a Nook, and Xbox smart-glass device and an a small-form Surface (I'll let other folks figure out what it might be called).
    Flydog57
  • Think of this

    Mary Jo, you said

    "Think about it. Microsoft is touting the availability of Office apps like Excel on Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets as a selling point for these devices. Would using Excel on a 7-inch tablet be a good user experience? It would be better than using it on a phone, no doubt. But optimal? Probably not."

    Now maybe Microsoft will instead of using Office as a selling point they'll use the Xbox as a selling point. If they made a 5 or 7 inch tablet instead of just connecting to a keyboard dock might also connect to a game controller dock. This way instead of having to use a tablet and a game controller you have an all in one solution. A solution that you might also be able to use this as a portable gaming machine like the PlayStation Vita. So then you have a tablet that can be used as a game controller and a portable gaming machine. That sounds like something Microsoft would do and by doing that they're just replacing office with gaming as the selling point.
    rkegel@...