Will there ever be a Microsoft Surface Mini?

Will Microsoft enter the 7-inch tablet space with an Xbox Surface? That's my guess how Redmond will compete in this segment.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.


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...

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