Rumors are swirling about a new device about to burst forth from the fertile loins of Redmond. A Surface Mini looks to be unveiled later this very month and it will bring Microsoft up to speed with all the form factors that are held by today’s tablet-toters. The only problem is, that Microsoft is kinda already up to speed in this arena, but it’s throwing another tablet into the mix anyway.
The Surface Mini follows in the footsteps of other devices that carry the “Mini” tag, which is to say it will be a smaller, 8” inch version of it’s older and larger sibling. This is all fine and good, but it seems to beg the question: “Why?” Don’t get me wrong; the Surface line of tablets is a very solid lineup both in hardware quality, features and power – especially the Pro line. So expanding that field into the 8” territory might seem like a good move on the face of it. But “device strategy (or something like that – I forget) is only skin deep” as the saying goes.
After all, the 8” Windows Tablet space is not exactly barren. Quite the opposite, there are quite a few really solid options for the discerning I-want-Windows–but-not-too-big users out there. Just the other day, I tweeted that the Dell Venue 8 Pro was a very solid little device with a price tag that is almost impossible to argue with (unless of course you have a non-tech-geek significant other…but anyway…). The overall quality and price of the tablet brings me to near-Cortana levels of excitement.
That’s just one offering out there (and will be my benchmark going forward in this article). A number of other OEMs have jumped on the 8” bandwagon, and strangely they all fit. A quick Amazon search gives us results by the aforementioned Dell, Acer, ASUS, Toshiba, and Lenovo. That’s just page 1. So bringing an 8” tablet to the market now, doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
Maybe if Microsoft had busted out this little baddie back when the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 had come out, there might have been something there. Having a mini-tablet out for the winter holidays would’ve been a pretty awesome thing and great for the kids at the end of November or December or whenever one does such things. But now, it just seems, late to the game.
Lost in the shuffle
Plus, the latest rumors have the Surface Mini being announced along side other Surface tablets as well, which can’t bode well for the little (potentially kickstandless) whipper snapper. At least an announcement on it’s own could have put a proper spotlight on Microsoft’s first venture into the 8” tablet space. But the mini tablet is bound to be overshadowed by the ‘new and improved Surface 3’ or whatever the other tablets are.
One might argue that Microsoft can make it’s mark in the high-quality 8” tablet space, and that might be a very good point. The Surface tablets are very high-quality devices. As I mentioned earlier, they have great form, feel and power. A surface Mini could conceivably continue along those lines and really bring the sexy to the 8” tablet space. But the problem with that philosophy is that others have already gotten that covered as well.
The Dell Venue Pro 8 that I had the pleasure of using already has a very high-quality feel and is already pretty snappy. Microsoft would have to build the Surface Mini out of diamonds and unicorn farts to be able to brag about the “premium” status of the Surface Mini. That is, of course, unless Microsoft wants to rethink their pricing strategies which are comparatively high.
Microsoft != cheap
In the unlikely event that that happens, if Microsoft can offer what basically amounts to an 8” Surface in look, feel, specs, and everything else, and do it for the $200 price tag of the Dell offering, then good on them. I don’t see it happening, but if it can swing it, then the Surface Mini will jump to the front of the pack in terms of Windows 8 offerings.
Unless of course it runs Windows RT, in which case…*facepalm*. With Dell’s Windows 8 experience at that price tag, Windows RT would be a nail in the coffin before the coffin has even been made. I’m sorry Windows folks, but I am solidly not on the RT train. This piece is not going to turn into an RT rant either. But it’s worth mentioning that if the Surface Mini does not come in a competitively priced Windows 8 variant, there are issues here.
Overall, history is not on Microsoft’s side for making the Surface Mini make sense. A lot of things would have to fly in the face of Microsoft’s track record for this tablet to be a success. I for one am not overly confident in Microsoft’s ability to bring a real solid competitor to the space. I think Dell, HP, and Lenovo and all the others can rest easy. There will be a market for the Surface Mini, but will it be as big as some others (no pun intended)? I doubt it.