Last year, I was the happy recipient of a steady stream of Surface mini news, as Microsoft geared to deliver this new device alongside the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. However, at the last minute, the firm quietly scuttled the Surface mini release. But now, after months of silence and questions, Surface mini appears poised for its belated appearance.
As a recap, Surface mini was originally slated (ahem) as an 8-inch device with a Qualcomm (ARM-based) chipset. Frankly, for a device with that size screen, ARM and Windows RT are probably fine for the most part, since the desktop is basically unusable. I was first advised about this product in late March 2013. (That was when I first heard about the Power Keyboard as well.)
But I never did hear why Microsoft halted its release last October. Many had speculated that the firm had second-guessed its decision to use ARM, given that all of the other Windows mini-tablets that appeared over the past year used Intel's more compatible Atom chipset. Some even questioned whether Microsoft was getting ready to exit the tablet market.
Neowin's Brad Sams was able to dispel both of these rumors earlier this month, however. In Surface mini: A few more details about the upcoming device, he explains the real reason Surface mini didn't debut last fall. As it turns out, Microsoft was facing supply chain issues, issues that in fact ensured that its Surface 2—which could have sold far better had it been in stock throughout late 2013—was hard to find in stores. Rather than enrage customers by announcing two products none could buy, the firm decided instead to hold off on Surface mini.
Sams also notes that Microsoft will be positioning Surface mini as a note-taking device. That is, it will feature an electromagnetic pen, just like Surface Pro 2, and not a cheaper and less usable capacitive stylus.
As you might expect, Surface mini will ship with Windows 8.1 and Update 1, which will help ensure that the device's on-disk software footprint is as small as possible. But it's unclear whether the device will still utilize an ARM chipset. My bet is that it will, if only because restarting with Atom would have required a major engineering effort that most certainly would have necessitated changing the body of the device, an expensive do-over.
Foley also points to an Amazon product listing for a VSTN case for the Surface mini. While some have foolishly suggested this listing "means nothing," this listing in fact is quite important: It means that Surface mini is indeed happening sometime soon. That said, the device shown in the shot is not the Surface mini, it is in fact a Lenovo ThinkPad 8, which you can tell from the unique placement of the headphone port below the Windows button.
Oddly enough, I also own this case, though I have the version for the LG G Pad 8.3. It is your basic iPad case knock-off and it works fine, but is nothing special.
The Amazon listing says May 18 for the release of the case. And you know what? I bet that's close to accurate for the Surface mini release date.