Microsoft’s Surface 2 unveiling on Sept. 23, 2013, was the first event where the Surface Mini was expected. Microsoft instead killed the product months later.
Image: Mashable, Christina Ascani

Microsoft has confirmed it cancelled plans to release a Surface Mini tablet in the spring.

During Tuesday’s quarterly earnings call, CFO Amy Hood said that part of the reason revenue from the company’s line of Surface tablets took a hit was because it had decided to kill an unreleased product.

“During the quarter, we reassessed our product roadmap and decided not to ship a new form factor that was under development,” Hood said. While she doesn’t identify the Surface Mini by name, other reports claimed Microsoft has scrapped plans to release the tablet late in the game, then the company accidentally confirmed the product’s existence in a user manual that referenced the Mini directly.

The decision to take the ax to the Surface Mini was reportedly influenced by CEO Satya Nadella, whose bid to reshape Microsoft includes a clear focus on productivity. While the company has many consumer-facing products (notably Xbox), Windows devices have been criticized as not serving small-screen tablet market as well as iPads and Android models, and market statistics reflect this.

The small-screen tablet market has grown quickly over the past two years, but Windows didn’t support those designs until fall 2013 with the release of Windows 8.1. It appeared inevitable that the Surface line would get a Mini version after that, but since smaller tablets are inherently more about consumption than productivity, such a product wouldn’t fit with Nadella’s vision of the new Microsoft.

When Microsoft held the next Surface product launch in May, it instead announced the Surface Pro 3, a 12-inch tablet that runs full Windows 8.1 Pro, powered by an Intel Core processor.

Other manufacturers have filled the void with small Windows tablets, and most run Windows 8.1, powered by Intel Atom chips. Lenovo was reportedly going to stop selling small Windows tablets in the U.S. due to lack of demand, but the company quickly reaffirmed its commitment to different-size tablets and said it would bring a new small Windows tablet to the American market before the end of 2014.

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It’s rapidly starting to look like your best chance at getting a Surface tablet in the next couple weeks is to head over to a Microsoft retail store, unless your order’s already in. For those of you planning to make the trek, Microsoft has revealed an additional incentive to help sweeten the deal, offering some customers a year’s worth of premium Xbox Music service.

We talked about Xbox Music a little last week, when Microsoft announced the cross-platform streaming service. While it’s going to be free as an ad-supported edition on Windows 8 devices, a premium $10 monthly subscription is needed to access the service through Xbox consoles and smartphones.

As part of Friday’s launch event, the first 100 people in line at any Microsoft retail store will be eligible for the free Xbox Music Pass. Microsoft seems to imply that the purchase of a Surface tablet is required for the offer, but the terms and conditions leave a bit more leeway; you might just be able to get away with any purchase in the store — but don’t quote us on that.

The offer should be good at both full Microsoft retail stores and its pop-up kiosks erected for the Surface launch.

This article originally published at Pocketnow

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What’s the long-term impact of Microsoft’s Surface tablet? Will the Olympics impact tablet viewing and the live streaming of pro sports? And more!

One of the biggest rumors of this week—debunked now—was the quote-unquote news that Microsoft’s Surface tablet would ship with a $1,000 sticker on its box when released this October 26.

Wrong! The rumor spread like wildfire, and then was quickly extinguished the next day.

But the white-hot bloom around the story made me wonder why Microsoft hasn’t released pricing for the Surface yet. This in turn made me realize that we’re in the middle of some fairly unknown waters these days, with lots of unanswered questions.

Let’s get started.

What impact will Microsoft’s own-brand Surface Windows 8 tablet have on the ecosystem of partner OEMs planning to release Win8 tablets of their own?

This is the question of the week. Since the moment Microsoft announced the Surface, critics have piled on, predicting that a first-party tablet will adversely affect Microsoft’s relationships with the HPs and Dells of the world.

This week, Microsoft essentially admitted as much in an annual report the company submitted to the SEC. “Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform,” the report said.

Ultimately, however, I’m predicting no negative impact for Microsoft in the short-term. In fact, the end result will only be positive—for Microsoft and its partners. Even if it operates at a loss on the Surface project, more Win8 tablets will be sold than without the Surface. And OEMs will certainly learn something while it happens.

The early reviews of the Surface tablet and associated keyboards are positive.

Why hasn’t Microsoft announced the price for the Surface tablet yet?

It erupted this week in falsehoods, but this has been the question of the month. So what now? And why hasn’t Microsoft announced pricing yet?

The biggest answer is that MS is probably still lining up distribution for its own tablet. Other possibilities include:

  • Microsoft hasn’t set the price yet. Not likely.

  • Microsoft has settled on a price so low, it’s waiting to create some big news around an announcement. Highly likely.

  • Microsoft has settled on a price that’s so low, it’s going to hold the price back until the last second.

If Microsoft does charge $199 for a basic Surface tablet, I expect the company to come up with some kind of Xbox Live-type yearly subscription service to temper losses. It’s the only way the company can make it work.

Will NBC make or lose money on its live broadcast of the 2012 Summer Olympics?

There are some interesting implications here for tablet users, content providers, and professional sports.

In several ways, NBC’s experiment with streaming the summer games via the Internet to PCs, tablets, and mobile devices could have a profound impact on the future of sports broadcasting.

you think about it, the ability to watch any live sporting event via an Internet connection is a no-brainer and an eventuality. The key question, as always, revolves around advertising revenue. Under the assumption that a great percentage of Americans watching the games via the Internet will not tune in to the tape-delayed broadcast in the evenings, the question is whether or not NBC can recoup its primetime ad revenue via the live stream.

Answer: Under the assumption that NBC will keep its existing ad partnerships and on-air placements intact during the live streams, and wrap in some lower-premium ads around its video player, I’m betting NBC will find this strategy successful and perhaps even more lucrative than it imagined. There’s a big old world out there, and lots of people in lots of different corners only have Internet access via mobile devices.

The potential for long-term impact is clear. Currently, most broadcasts of pro sports (MLB, NBA, NFL) are blacked out in local markets. It’s not apples to apples, but If NBC’s mobile and Net-based broadcasts prove to be additive in terms of revenue, you can bet some of these leagues will take a second look at their arrangements.

BTW, for a great look at other great iPad apps for Olympic viewing, check TabTimes’ 8 great tablet apps to stay on top of the London Olympics.

Will Apple release a 7-inch iPad “Mini” in September?

My crystal ball for technology says “not likely”. Given my track record of making Apple predictions, this probably means “likely”.

I don’t care, though. I just don’t see Apple releasing a 7-inch tablet. For the last five years, the company has refused to follow anyone’s lead in mobile tech.

Plus, under the assumption that Apple does release an iPhone 5 in September, the odds of the manufacturer stacking major announcements on top of each other is nil.

So what will Apple do next in the tablet space?

I knew you were going to ask that. The easiest possible answer is a slimmed up, slightly improved iPad 3, perhaps in a few new trims or configurations.

We pretty much know for sure that Apple will announce a new iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s called) this September. Not that exciting, I know. And Apple probably knows this also. So what could Apple possibly do to drum up some hysterical enthusiasm at the end of the year?

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present the wildly speculative, bigger-screen iPhone—the iPhone 5XL. I know what you’re thinking: How big could an iPhone 5XL’s screen run? Seven inches seems way too big for a phone/tablet combo. 5.5 inches though—that’s not out of the question.

What is Barnes & Noble’s new screen technology for its newest Nook?

This is an interesting one, what with B&N’s teaser about something “unprecedented” in screen technology. Odds are on either color e-ink, a joint e-ink plus LCD, or a non-starter.

What devices did I take on my vacation, after all?

Sadly, I have to admit that I took my laptop and iPad. Why? Mostly because of this column. Like most content management systems, in its current form, Drupal breaks down around image input and manipulation.

Sad but true, and absolutely a topic for another column.

This week’s winner: Apple

An $8.8 million operating profit is ridiculous in any industry. Even more amazing is that some analysts and writers thought Apple actually underperformed in Q2.

And you know what? The analysts are right. Lots of people didn’t buy an iPhone last quarter and aren’t going to buy an iPhone this quarter because they’re waiting for the iPhone 5 to debut.

The most encouraging news in the report—and the most upsetting for Microsoft—is that Apple’s sales to Fortune 500 enterprise clients has tripled in the last year, according to Apple’s earnings call.

This week’s loser: RIM

The company looks set to release a 4GB PlayBook tablet, but it doesn’t appear that anyone cares. It’s increasingly beginning to look like the tablet ship has sailed, leaving RIM on the shore.

On the horizon

Finally, it’s not really a question per se, because Amazon has been fairly consistent and straightforward with its tablet reveals, but Amazon should be unveiling a new Kindle device or devices in the near future. The company raised some eyebrows earlier this week with a job posting that hinted at some enterprise-class functions for the Kindle division. 

This article originally published at TabTimes

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