It's Official: Microsoft Surface Mini Is Real

Microsoft's Surface Mini was supposed to be unveiled last minute. Management had a last-minute change of heart, though, and here's the evidence.

Jun 21, 2014 at 12:00PM

Surface Pen

Surface Pro 3 user manual mentions Surface Mini. Annotation added. Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Mini was supposed to launch last month. The smaller version of Microsoft's tablet has been talked about for quite a while, and nearly all industry watchers expected it to be unveiled at the May press event. It wasn't.

At the last minute, management reportedly backtracked on its plans to unveil the device. CEO Satya Nadella and devices chief Stephen Elop didn't feel confident enough in the product's success, so they pulled it at the eleventh hour. Instead, Microsoft erased all references to Surface Mini ahead of the event, and Surface head Panos Panay showed off the Surface Pro 3.

But Microsoft missed a spot.

Microsoft posted a user manual for Surface Pro 3, but it forgot to purge the manual of numerous references to Surface Mini, including the one shown here. Other than passing references, not much was detailed about the smaller tablet. Microsoft has since taken down the user manual.

Rumors had suggested that it would carry a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and run Windows RT, Microsoft's controversial watered-down operating system. Realistically, not launching the Surface Mini was likely the right call to make, as Windows RT has a horrendous track record in the market. Every single third-party OEM had abandoned the platform because of consumer confusion.

The last manufacturer to introduce a Windows RT device other than Microsoft itself was Nokia (NYSE:NOK) -- whose devices business now belongs to Microsoft. That means that Microsoft is officially the only company selling Windows RT devices.

ARM Holdings-based chipmakers had high hopes for Windows RT, believing it could give them exposure to desktop PCs and nudge in on Intel's turf. Unfortunately, the lack of legacy app support combined with unclear messaging have doomed the platform.

When Microsoft chose not to launch the Surface Mini, some saw it as possible indication that the company was shifting focus away from the consumer market. However, Microsoft is probably just taking a different approach.

Just days after the May event, Microsoft announced Windows 8.1 with Bing, specifically noting that it would allow hardware partners to build low-cost devices. This version of Microsoft's flagship operating system is available only through OEM-made devices, and Microsoft has either eliminated or significantly reduced the licensing fee. The company will try to make up for that lost revenue with services and advertising.

Dead or delayed?
Surface is growing as a business for Microsoft (Surface revenue grew 50% last quarter to $500 million), but one of Surface's main strategic purposes is to provide an example. It's a not-so-subtle reminder to OEMs that Microsoft is willing to take matters into its own hands if it doesn't think they're doing a good job. In this sense, the smaller Windows tablet category still needs a leader. There are some devices in this market segment, but none are as prominent as Apple's iPad Mini or Google's Nexus 7.

Using Windows RT is probably a mistake, but a Windows 8 version of a Surface Mini does make sense. The device probably isn't dead; it's probably just getting a makeover.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning -- it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee that its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are even claiming that its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts that 485 million of these devices will be sold per year. But one small company makes this gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and to see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A and C shares), and Intel and owns shares of Apple, Google (A and C shares), Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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