Microsoft’s Smart Decision To Cancel Its Surface Surprise – Forbes
This weekend has seen a number of product images of the unreleased Surface Mini make the rounds. The Surface Mini was due to be released in the summer of 2014 and featured an 8-inch 1440×1080 touchscreen, a Snapdragon 800 processor, 1 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. It’s clear why Microsoft was right to cancel it.
The biggest issue with the Surface Mini was that it was an ARM-based machine and as such would be running the limited version of Windows RT. Unlike the then-current Windows 8 machines that could run legacy Windows apps the Mini would have been severely restricted to the Universal Windows App available directly through the Microsoft Store.
With hindsight Microsoft would have been releasing the Mini into a crowded and declining market of smaller tablet, it would have drawn direct comparisons to the Apple iPad Mini, would have been restricted in the apps available, and would likely have been seen as a serious mis-step by Redmond.
Instead Microsoft switched to the awkwardly phrased ‘cloud first mobile first’ strategy that gave its cloud-based services priority that allowed itself to reach beyond the Windows platform to also successfully encompass the Android and iOS platforms. It’s inconceivable that the Surface Mini would have halted the dominance of Android by volume and iOS in influence in the mobile space. It’s also very unlikely that the Surface Mini would have had any significant impact that would have affected Microsoft’s strategy.
Since the Surface Mini’s cancellation, Microsoft’s hardware has focused on higher-end devices, with top-line specifications and high-quality materials that help showcase not just the Surface brand, but the potential of the Windows ecosystem. The Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Laptop and Surface Studio have given Microsoft a significant presence in the hardware market and influence over the design of the hardware that runs either its operating system or its cloud-based services.
Every company has devices in the historical portfolio that show paths not taken. Nokia’s Linux-powered Nokia N9 showed the potential of a Finnish smartphone world without Windows phone, and Apple’s iPod-based iPhone shows the safe choice is not always correct for finding long-term success.
Microsoft’s Surface Mini was for a world where Windows 8 and Windows Phone had at least a ten percent market share in mobile devices. It was for a world where the phablet revolution was based around smaller desktop operating systems and not larger smartphone OS platforms. it was for a world where developers embraced Windows RT instead of Android and iOS. In other words, not this world.
The Surface Mini is a tantalising ‘what if’, but the real success of the Surface Mini is that, even with the sunk costs in hardware design, software engineering and marketing, Microsoft made the smart decision to not release it.
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