Microsoft was a little slow to enter the tablet market -- this is something the company would not deny -- and it has been slightly slow in making up lost ground. Some 18 months after the initial launch of the Surface family, there have now been a total of five models to choose from: first and second generation RT and Pro variants, and the more recent LTE version of the Surface 2. But there have long been rumors of a miniature version which is still yet to emerge, blinking, into the sunlight.
It was the same with Apple. Just about as soon as the iPad was released, there were rumors that a smaller version was also on the cards. Sure enough, the iPad Mini did ultimately make an appearance, but whether it appeared because it had been planned all along or because there was so much apparent demand for such a device remains unclear.
The same could be said of the fabled Surface Mini. But there is an important question that needs to be asked -- it is something we want? The answer is, yes, we probably do, actually. Look to the world of Android tablets for a moment if you will -- it's ok… it's only for a moment. By far the most popular device size is a 7 inch screen. There is a hint that slightly larger devices are increasing in popularity, but smaller generally seems to go down better.
Way back in June 2012, there was a leak of a document about the intriguingly named "Xbox Surface", which was indeed a 7 inch tablet. This -- obviously -- never came to anything, and all of the Surfaces that have been released have featured the same 10.6 inch screen size. There's no denying it's a great screen -- one of the best your eyes will fall on, I'd venture -- but would the devices work on a smaller scale?
In short, yes, it would. Smaller quite often better, and switching to a smaller form factor could help to give Surface -- and Windows 8.1 -- the boost it needs. Microsoft has made no official announcement, but over the past couple of years, there have been suggestions that there could be a 7 inch variant, a 7.5 inch model, or perhaps an 8.5 inch Surface.
Following the announcement at Build that Windows will be made free for devices with screen under 9 inches, it's clear that Microsoft is interested in manufacturers producing devices that are slightly more diminutive. And it would be crazy if Microsoft didn't get in on the action itself. The release of an LTE version of the Surface 2 shows that the company realizes the value that some users place on tablets with a data connection, and this is something that is more commonly found in smaller screened devices.
Windows 8.1 has already proved itself to be highly functional at a range of different screen sizes -- it could be argued that larger screens actually fare less well (have you tried running certain modern apps on a 24 inch screen? Just silly in some cases) -- and 7 to 8 inches would be a great, and different way for user to experience the operating system. It would open up the platform to a whole new audience, and demonstrate that there is more choice in the tablet market than Google and Apple would have you believe.
Other hardware manufacturers have had so much success with devices of these sizes that it would be difficult to imagine Microsoft failing -- but there is always the danger that the boat has been missed and the launch has been left just that little bit too late.
I know that if the Surface Mini was released tomorrow, I would snap one up without a moment's hesitation.
So, it's over to you. Would you be interested in a cut-sized Surface, assuming there was a cut-sized price tag to match? Would you be more interested in Windows RT, or full-blown Windows 8.1? How about the spec -- would a smaller version of the current Surface Pro 2 be what you were looking for? How about extra features such as build in Kinect support or Cortana assistance?