Look at that chunky monkey. You might be inclined to think that's a photoshopped iPad Mini in a really thick case. But you are wrong. The photo above is supposedly a picture of Microsoft's Surface Mini — a Windows tablet that Microsoft reportedly axed just days before its expected announcement in 2014.
— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) June 30, 2017
Windows Central editor Zac Bowden told us he managed to score some face time with a prototype of the abandoned device through "sheer luck and a lot of sweet talk". The device powered on, which allowed Bowden to note that it ran on Windows RT (yikes), it had 1GB of RAM (double yikes), and was powered by a Snapdragon 800 processor clocked to 2.15GHz (triple yikes). Even in 2014 that would have been a rough computing experience. A user would have only had apps available on the 2014 Windows Store and they would have been using those apps on a severely underpowered device.
At Microsoft's Build conference, the dorkiest of companies put on a big show, complete with fog machines and fancy lights, in order to show it's a cool competitor to Apple and Google. The speakers who came on stage during keynotes had stylish hair. "Do they have dressers backstage?" an attendee asked a group of us when it was all over.
The Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm is a mobile processor that wouldn't have been well-suited for the multitasking the Windows OS demands. Also, as we noted back in May, the Windows App Store has struggled compared to the stores from Apple and Google. It has just one third of the apps.
In his post, Bowden notes the device had Pen support, but unfortunately, the Windows Store didn't have much to offer pen users in 2014. Autodesk only found its way to the Windows Store last year, and the full version of Photoshop still isn't available.
Besides Pen support, underwhelming guts, and a reliance on Windows RT, the terrible precursor to Windows 10 S and Windows 8.1 with Bing, we learned that the Surface Mini actually sort of looked like a Surface wrapped up in fabric. In Windows Central's additional images we see the fabric-swathed back and hinge in its unsightly glory. It looks sort of like someone attacked the back of a Surface with crap they found at Lincraft.
Had Microsoft released a device as bad as the photos and specs suggest back in 2014, it could have been disastrous. Heck, even if it had defied odds and somehow been a great device it still would have been a disaster. At the time, everyone had a crummy tiny Windows tablet. Acer, Dell, Asus, HP and other computer makers were all trying to figure out if Windows could fit on an 8-inch tablet. The manufacturers flooded the market, and consumers didn't care. By late 2014, it was already clear tablet sales were stagnating despite the glut of products.
Bullet dodged, Microsoft.