*Update* The Microsoft Surface Mini was pulled from the Microsoft website and it would seem there are no longer any plans to release it. This page will remain live with all the information that was circling the time of its announcement, but if you want to check out a spiritual successor, please read our Microsoft Surface Duo review.
Does Microsoft have a Surface Mini in the works? If so, it's certainly living up to its name as after all the hype, rumors and guesswork, the company's elusive smaller slate is still nowhere to be found.
That said, we wouldn't bet against one rearing its head soon. According to Microsoft's latest financial report, the company's Surface revenue increased more than 50 per cent during the first quarter of 2014. More than half a year has passed since then, and it would make sense to build on the Surface Pro 3's momentum by launching a smaller Surface before the momentum completely fades.
But no new Surface is guaranteed success: Microsoft is still sore from writing off $900 million of unmoved Surface RT stock back in 2012, and new CEO Satya Nadella will be keen to avoid repeating Ballmer's missteps.
One area where a Surface Mini could excel that's been central to the product line's appeal is productivity. From the start, all Surface tablets have come with excellent keyboard accessories, a chunk of free OneDrive cloud storage and a free copy of Office Home & 2013, giving any new product a solid base to build on.
No small task
But let's not get carried away: even with the Surface Pro 3 let loose into the wild, Microsoft still has its work cut out - and then some. A need to diversify the Surface product line to include devices smaller than the 10.6-inch category is still important for the company to remain competitive.
Apple has enjoyed a lengthy head start with its iPad mini, iPad mini 2 with Retina and iPad mini 3 tablets, which now run Microsoft's capable Office for iPad suite. Even Microsoft's own hardware partners including Acer, Toshiba and Dell and Lenovo have been putting out 8-inch devices running full-fat Windows 8 for almost a year at a price that by far undercut even the cheapest Surface on the market.
The question is: what areas will Microsoft focus the Surface Mini's strengths? Will it go down the predicted productivity route, or could it throw a curveball by outing a miniature rottweiler of a gaming and entertainment machine?
Surface Mini release date
Update: The latest report from China pegs the Surface Mini for a late 2014 launch, a claim we're taking with a pinch of salt. That's because the same article reckons the device will launch with a 8- or 10.1-inch display and will run Windows 10, which isn't scheduled for a consumer release until mid-late 2015.
Microsoft invited guests to a "small gathering" back in May, prompting many to think that the Surface Mini was about to land. It was, in fact, something of a curveball, as the event was used to unveil the Surface Pro 3.
So what happened to it? When Microsoft released its financials for the second quarter of 2014, it offered an admission that it axed the Surface Mini. "Current year cost of revenue included Surface inventory adjustments resulting from our transition to newer generation devices and a decision to not ship a new form factor," read the illuminating item under a section titled "Computer and Gaming Hardware."
Other rumours paint a brighter future for the device that nearly was. A source that spoke to Neowin claims that Microsoft is waiting for a touch-enabled version of Office (codenamed Gemini) to arrive, which some say is expected to launch in late 2014.
It's more than likely that Microsoft has a Surface Mini and it's waiting for the best time to let it loose upon the world. Neowin journalist Brad Sams even claims that he's seen the Surface Mini, which he says unsurprisingly looks just like a Surface Pro 3 - only smaller.
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