Prior to the June 20, 2014 release date for the Surface 3 line there was a lot of chatter in the tech blogs about an impending Surface Mini. There was even ‘proof’ that the product existed. Look at the below picture from a downloadable manual for the Surface 3.
Note that highlighted in the text is the word Mini. So yes, it does appear that such a product was considered ready for market. So what happened to it?
What I am feeling is that the Surface Mini is going to be a phone companion device. Many of us carry both a phone and a tablet. I carry a Surface Pro. It is my phone that alerts me to something needing attention. Often I find myself using the Surface to provide the required attention; work called with a server issue, need an edit to a technical document. Right now that means turning on the Surface and navigating to the document (or whatever) to do the work. Suppose what they are doing with the ‘mini’ is setting it up to pair completely transparently with the phone you carry such that when you get an alert the Surface Mini starts up in complete synch with the phone. You read an email that says you need to edit “blanket-blank.docx” and so you click the link with the Surface Mini icon (tile) and the Surface Mini opens up ready to go with that document in an edit window. Perhaps you get a message that an employee will be terminated at 12:30 and they need the account locked no later than 12:15, it is 12:05 and you are sitting in the park having your lunch. You activate your remote desktop app by selecting the Manage on my Mini icon (tile) on the phone and the Mini opens up with a connection to the server desktop using the internet connection sharing of your phone. Suppose you are editing an email to send to someone on the Surface Mini and you decide a phone call would be more appropriate so rather than hit the send button you instead tap the “Call Contact” button in the email editor on the mini and your phone automatically dials and connects you to the contact?
Right now none of this exists on any ecosystem out there other than to a very limited extent. And let’s face it, this is the vision that Microsoft has been talking about since the inception of Windows 8. But the vision got waylaid by coming to market before the ecosystem was ready. Enter new CEO. He realized that the product, while excellent in its own right, is not fulfilling that overall vision; he is stuck with an early release of Windows 8, an early release of Surface Pro and RT and then the backlash of millions that realize that the promise in NOT being kept, indeed it seems, to many, a huge step backwards.
Nadella is going to redirect resources where needed and delay product releases in order to put the entire project back on track. It is obvious that the vision they have in mind incorporates those who carry android and iOS devices in addition to those that are in the Microsoft ecosystem from top to bottom. It may seem to be self-damaging on the surface (pardon the pun) but I don’t think so. They are selectively releasing products that are mature in and of themselves, at least in the hands and minds of the relative few that have adopted them and come to enjoy using them. All else aside the Surface line as it stands is a terrific product, no sincere reviewer has ever been able to fault them for quality of build or reliability. And the future of seamless computing can be added to the existing Surface line as easily as adding a large update on a singular patch-Tuesday.