April 19, 2016
Last year we saw Microsoft release the Surface 3 which was more of a mini Surface Pro 3 with a massive 10.8" screen and Intel Atom X7 internals. This confused a lot of people who thought the Surface 3 was like the Surface 2 which couldn't install Win32 applications.
Later Microsoft release an LTE version which slowly rolled out as it was validated by other countries carriers. We then saw Microsoft release not one but two products at the Surface Pro 4 event where Microsoft unveiled and launched the Surface Book. I feel Microsoft are becoming confident in their market niche, especially with the release of the luxury Alcantara Surface Pro 4 type cover recently.
Something else interesting happened in between, Apple launched the massive 12.9" iPad Pro with ink capabilities that complement and compete with Microsoft's ink offering. Then Apple upgraded the iPad Air to a 9.7" iPad Pro with ink addressing then need for a smaller device with class leading ink capabilities. Side by side the iPad Air is far more portable than the Surface 3. For the surface 4 I don't believe Microsoft will change the dimensions electing to bring the smaller bezels of the Surface Pro 4 and an approximately 11.1" screen. I believe Microsoft needs this product to compete in the education sector but it really doesn't make much sense in the consumer market. Microsoft won't abandoned the Surface 3 type cover after a single generation, especially with so many schools signed on.
What is needed is a 9.5" Surface mini that is really portable and sub half kilogram (1 lb) mass. I believe we will have a double announcement to keep up the element of surprise. I jut hope they will be able to bring the LTE variant to market quicker.
Why not 8" or less? I believe Microsoft feel small screens are not productive. The iPad mini is 7.9" but it's 4:3 form factor has some interesting implications that make it more productive for the diagonal length equivalent in area to a 16:9 10.3" screen. Going from the 16:9 10.6" display on surface 2 to 3:2 10.8" surface 3 provides extra screen area the equivalent of going to a 16:9 11.2" display. I think that Microsoft believe in the productivity of Windows and won't even license Windows 10 with a desktop to screens less than 8" because of this.
What would a 9.5" Surface Mini look like?
- 233 x 162 x 7.4 mm (9.17" x 6.38" x 0.29")
- 2112 x 1408 px display (267 ppi)
- 444 g (0.98 lb)
- 71% screen to body ratio
- 92% screen area of the iPad Pro 9.7" and an 0.2" larger 16:9" movie size (2%)
- 112% the volume of iPad Pro 9.7"
- Windows Hello
- 802.11 ac WIFI, LTE optional
- Intel Atom 2016 Cherry Trail-T platform
If there is no surface mini this year it will be disappointing because the platform needs a more portable flagship with LTE 10 hour durable battery (1000 charge cycle) fast changing vibrant IPS display and ink input. Portability is the key to the success of a Surface Mini.