Why Surface Mini Was Cut from Today’s Event, and Why it’s Genius
Microsoft’s big event has come and gone, and while some predictions of a larger Surface Pro powered by Intel’s Haswell processor proved to be right on the money with the reveal of the Surface Pro 3, conventional wisdom said that the company’s “small gathering” would see the debut of the Surface Mini. That didn’t happen, but a new report on Bloomberg today aims to explain why.
According to the report, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Executive VP Stephen Elop (of the recently acquired Nokia) decided to scrap the Surface Mini announcement because of its inability to stand out from the competition. A person “with knowledge of the decision” who asked to go unnamed said that “the product in development wasn’t different enough from rivals and probably wouldn’t be a hit.”
The post also reports that Microsoft had been working on the Surface Mini tablet with Qualcomm, the maker of the ARM processor that would have powered it, for a year. But then Nadella and Elop decided to keep the Surface Mini out of the event today, seemingly putting the smaller tablet on hold indefinitely. The decision had to have been made relatively recently; every tech site with sources inside Microsoft seemed to be 100 percent certain that the Mini would appear. Additionally, the event itself was advertised to the press as a “small gathering,” a choice of words that clearly hints at an announcement for a small device.
All that aside, this might have been a genius move on Microsoft’s part. What else was absent from today’s announcement? A Windows RT-powered Surface 3. That’s because Microsoft’s current CEO may have realized that the company shouldn’t bother with offering consumers derped versions of its flagship operating system. A Surface Mini would’ve undoubtedly run Windows RT. And since the Surface Pro line is the one that people are most interested in, why bother putting out a lesser product – with the same name and brand – that will only confuse people looking for a laptop replacement?
Late last year, just before the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 were unveiled, I speculated that it’d be in Microsoft’s best interests to drop the non-Pro line of the Surface entirely – or at least, give it a different name. Giving two devices with such different functionality and power the same name could only hope to irritate the average consumer.
But now, if someone walks into a Best Buy and wants the best new Windows computer, a clerk should have no trouble directing them to the 12-inch Surface Pro 3, and shouldn’t worry about any other products with the same name to confuse the issue. A Surface Mini likely would’ve further fragmented Microsoft’s own product line. With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft is smartly evolving the brand by delivering power, portability, and flexibility, and all for less than the cheapest Apple laptop.
Let’s hope that the combined wisdom of Nadella and Elop continues to result in smart, considered moves like this one. As it is, Microsoft has not yet earned a profit on the Surface line since its debut in 2012. By cutting away the dead wood of the Surface Mini and the non-Pro models, Microsoft is poised to actually move some Surface Pro 3 units. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not that pans out.