What Happened to the Surface Mini

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.

A Funny Thing Happened at the Apple Store Today

My daughter became apoplectic at the very idea of being in public with a Windows Surface Computer. “They are so uncool, Dad, everyone will laugh at me.” So she has been doing her schoolwork on a Surface RT or the home Desktop with Windows 8.1 for the last several months because she managed to crash the HDD on her MacBook Pro and I didn’t have the money and time to fix it. I decided it was time so I packed her MacBook Pro in my bag with my Surface Pro and off I went to take care of some chores figuring I would stop by the Apple Store and get what I needed to fix her system up for her.

When I got to the Apple Store I was met by a very friendly greeter, she took my information and purpose of the visit. Determined that I needed an Apple Genius and advised me that the wait was about 1 hour to 1 hour, 35 minutes! I explained I knew what was wrong with the system and just needed to get the disks to reload the HDD, we had lost the originals after three stressful cross-country moves. She said, “Sorry about the wait but only the Genius Bar can authorize the replacement discs.” So I had to wait. I was offered a stool and sat down wondering what to do to kill the next 1 to 1.5 hours…

I pulled my Surface Pro out of the bag and set it up on the desk, opened Fresh Paint and started to doodle. After a few minutes a girl of about 9 wanders over and says, “Wow! That is a neat app. What’s it called?”

I told her its name is “Fresh Paint”.

She wanted to play with it so I let her explore it a bit. While she is playing with the different media and how they work her mother comes over.

“That’s a pretty cool app, what did you say it’s called?”

“Fresh Paint”, I repeated. She is typing away on her iPad now.

“I don’t see it in the App Store”, she says.

“Oh, I’m sorry. This is a Microsoft Surface Pro. That is different from an iPad. I am sure that iPad has something like it though.” I responded.

“No,” she says, “I love to draw and would have noticed it. How does it do all that detail work?”

I explained that the Surface has built-in Wacom drivers and that probably is the difference. While I am explaining this my Surface has been getting handed to a couple different people in the small group surrounding me. Suddenly a new face appears and is calling my name.

I raise my hand and she comes over and says they are ready for me. I glance at the time and say, “It has only been less than 10 minutes, I thought I was going to be here at least an hour.”

“They will take you now” she informed me.

Five minutes later I had what I came for and was out of the store. The lady, her child and two other met me outside and asked where the closest Microsoft Store was! Ding!! A light came on and I realized that the secret to fast service in the Apple Store is to have a Surface in your hand while waiting. LOL. Who would have ever guessed?