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Microsoft Surface Mini to arrive in 2014, powered by ARM architecture?

The rumour mill is still churning with speculation that Microsoft will launch a "mini" version of its Surface Windows tablets. According to a report over on ZDNet, we could well be seeing the product launch in early 2014. Microsoft has recently announced its second generation of Surface tablets, so what could we be looking forward to regarding a smaller form factor?

It's believed the Surface Mini will be powered by ARM, thus will be running Windows RT. Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans say the Surface Mini is indeed on its way, but won't be with us anytime this year. As noted above, we should be looking at a 2014 launch alongside a Windows 8.1 update, codenamed "Spring 2014 GDR" (General Distribution Releases - similar to the updates we're seeing for Windows Phone).

Should the operating system division at Microsoft be able to launch Windows 8.1 Spring 2014 GDR, Windows Phone Blue and the Surface Mini, we'll witness the first combined rollout and signs of the company restructuring taking effect. 

Windows Update

The reason for the later than expected rollout for a Surface Mini? According to Mary Jo Foley, the delay is partially attributable to the new OS team working around the clock on the Xbox One operating system. The team, led by VP Terry Myerson, has its priorities laid out to finish the Xbox One OS, release Windows 8.1 and push Windows Phone GDR3 to consumers. 

So why is Microsoft sticking to its guns when it comes to ARM and Windows RT, especially given the negative reception by both the media and consumers? Foley explains that the company believes ARM provides better price points and battery life. In addition, you're also looking at a locked down environment with little bloatware and other unwelcomed additions.

It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft further expands its ARM portfolio, with the possibilities of including both phones and tablets. The Surface Mini could well be joined by a "phablet" running Windows Phone 8 (not to mention the rumoured Nokia Sirius tablet). With the confusion surrounding Windows RT when Microsoft made the announcement alongside Windows 8, we'll have to see how the company attempts to unite everything under one umbrella.

So, Surface Mini likely to come in 2014, folks. Until then, we have more Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1 to play with. Good times ahead.

Source: ZDNet

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Noo I need bigger and high res to replace a laptop not smaller!!
  • If Amazon can announce a "mini" tablet with Full HD display, so can Microsoft .
  • Huh? You can get a windows 8 machine up to... 60 inches if you so choose. I think bigger shouldn't be your problem. The empty gap has been with smaller devices. Or that in-between phablet territory
  • This.
  • My need is a surface tablet with around 13 to 14 inches screen with res and quality to compete with retina display. Im not apple fanboy but I give them credit for a good screen. That also means more room for trackpad.
  • Thats... A really large tablet. Possibly unwieldy
  • Not really.
    my fujitsu pc tablet has a 12" screen, and its just fine
    for working on.
    now granted 13-14 inch adds even screen area. but the
    newer technology makes things lighter and batteries
    last longer.
    i wouldn't mind upgrading.
  • I would love a 13" surface pro. My only reason to not get a pro now is because the screen is just a little cramped to replace my laptop. The RT version I love and will upgrade to the surface 2.
  • I would love to get a 13" Surface Pro. Screen size is the only thing that I miss from my MacBook Pro with respect to my first gen Surface Pro.  Everything else is superior.
  • Take a look at the Lenovo Yoga 2 hybrids.  I think there is a 13" model with a very high resolution display.  I know it's not the same type of hybrid as a Surface, but it might fit your needs.
  • There's always someone like you....
  • Yeah I think its funny when I see people demanding that Surface fulfill all their form factor desires.  Do they forget that there is Dell, Samsung, HP, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, etc...?  The beauty of going with Windows 8 is your not stuck with just one choice.
  • Yeah, Aaron, there are.. But, they arent a quality product like surface is. Accessories are next to none. And it's not 'funny', its realistic. Many people desire bigger screen. If surface team was to come out with something like that, I bet a lot of people would buy it to replace their systems. I just can't agine myself coding apps on a 10" screen. Honestly.
  • I don't know if you noticed, but the trend has been for phone to move up in size and tablet to get smaller. The smaller tablets have been selling very well. There probably is a market for larger tablets, but its not as big as the one for smaller devices. MS need to establish itself in the mainstream market first and then worry about the niche groups.
  • There certainly are quality products from the other OEM's.  I have a couple of friends who have the Lenovo Yoga and love it.  From what I've seen, their second gen Yogas will be pretty big improvements.  That might be the product for you.
    In my humble opinion, larger screen sizes don't make sense for Surface because its a tablet first, laptop second.  Whereas something like the Yoga is great for larger screen sizes because its obviously a laptop first, tablet second.  So get the Surface if you want a tablet that can sometimes act as a laptop.  But get something like the Yoga if you want a laptop that can sometimes act as a tablet.  Its a subtle but important point.
    I just use the Yoga is an example, but Dell, Samsung, ASUS, and the other OEM's have pretty cool hybrids as well.
  • Yogas are pretty cool and there is a cool hp hybrid, but the Dell Xps 12's keyboard cannot get damaged in tab mode and has a nice battery. A bit heavy for a tablet/laptop (12in screen) but it should not be a problem if you own a 920 I am biased
  • I actually like the XPS 12 a LOT.  Its probably my favorite hybrid form factor.  I just mention the Yoga instead because I think its gained more attention from people.
  • Lenovo tablets aren't as high of quality as Surface tablets❔ How❔
  • Lolol
  • I wouldnt mind a Small device, but i wouldnt get it perosnally. I have a cellphone to do stuff like that. The Surface is the perfect size. 
  • Yup. I'm with you. I'm waiting for 17" Surface.
  • Too big...but I'd buy it anyway :-)
  • Damn look at all the first world problems today.
  • You said damn, I'm telling. Try to act like a respectable human being please. Ahhh, never mind. Some peoples kids!!
  • Same here. I want a 13 inch Surface Pro. The formfactor, quality and peripherlas are beyond what any other OEM are offering.
  • I don't think this is meant to replace a laptop. I see it more as an "enhanced mini tablet"...somewhere between a smartphone and laptop and more for consumption than productivity.
  • I want to get an RT tablet, but I won't until there is a WPCentral app and a Weave app. I use the two at least a dozen times a day.
  • Apparently Weave has stop updating their app so i wouldn't hold my breathe for a tablet version.  I rather have Flipboard anyways.
  • Now that you mention it, it has been a really long time since I've seen an update from them...
  • That's all that's holding you back❔.. Well, there is a WPCentral app in the making.. Just get it already..
  • Yeah pretty much. On my phone, I basically use those two apps all day so if I'm using a RT tablet, I would like to be able to save my phone battery and use my tablet for those tasks.
  • I understand Weave (although Flipboard is coming soon), but why not just visit WPCentral through the web browser?
  • I guess cause I'm just used to using the app. I like seeing the live tile pic and top stories and missed number of stories at a glance. If I use the web, I'm foregoing one of the best parts of Windows. I mean if that's the case there wouldn't be a need for apps for most things if you just used the web browser.
  • flipboard, a much better news app, is on its way, partially in thanks to Nokia, if im not mistaken.
  • Funny thing is I have the Flipboard app (on my note 8.0 tablet), but I've never tried it. With so many suggestions I guess it's time I give it a try.
  • im assuming you mean on a different device, seeing as I cannot find it for either windows nor windows phone.
  • Yes, on my Galaxy Note 8.0.
  • There is a WPCentral app. Its called "IE10" :)
  • But then I miss out on the "live" tile experience. Which is pretty much the reason I enjoy Windows 8 and WP.
  • This is one area where the Apple store has ruined, ahem, redefined our world.
    When you have wifi, a Surface tablet has a full blown browser (IE11) with a perfectly functional keyboard/mouse.  In that scenario, why do you need an "app?"  Apple has rewritten our brains to equate tablet = apps.  The only reason iPads require apps is because the keyboard/mouse situation stinks so they compensate with apps (and profit handsomely).
    On my Surface, I have a great touchscreen w/ a great keybaord/mouse.  So I can browse full website with either touch or mouse.  And 9/10 times, the website is more robust than it's app counter part anyway.
    Surface RT gets knocks cause it doesn't have many apps.  In practice, I don't need them.  Right now, I'm typing this from my RT using the actual website ...and it's just as good than if I were on a PC.  The apps that are available usually just slow me down however the live tile is cool.
    ...anyway, my 2 cents.  Carry on.
  • And that's a perfectly valid reason, but I feel like the whole appeal of Windows 8/WP are the live tiles and Metro design. Something you can't get from the website. I absolutely love the work WPCentral has put into their app and would love having that experience on a tablet. If Windows didn't have those two things, I might as well use iOS or Android.
  • Actually, you can pin the webpage as a tile on the W8 Start screen and it will take you there at a touch...
  • True, but that still defeats the idea of the live tile (glance-able info, notifications for new articles, etc.)and metro interface.
  • So eye candy is more important than functionality?
    Ok.  To each his own.  Me?  I'm quickly typing this on my keyboard and can easily make corrections by using my mouse to highlight/correct mistakes ...which is always more time consuming on any tablet over a PC (or Surface w/ a keyboard).  An app doesn't help me.
    Regarding notifications, I use Pouch (Pocket) instead of Weaver.  I get notifications of new articles that way.
  • That is the very option I require form my Windows Phone 9 Phablet in 2015
  • Well...yeah! Isn't the beauty of the OS the live tiles and the metro design? The "eye candy" is what helps differentiate the platform from ios and android. I can understand why you use your mouse and keyboard a lot cause you're doing a lot of typing, but I mostly just consume information without typically needing to type anything, so my needs and interactions are a bit different from yours. If I'm able to power on my tablet and see a live tile of WPCentral real quick and see the number of stories I've missed and read the subject of the articles all on the tile, then that informs me of whether I need to even open the app at all or just power back off. Doing it your way, I still need to open the web browser and go to the site where there may or may not be new articles. The app just cuts all of that extra stuff out for me.
  • It would be nice to be able to connect a mouse and keyboard to a 920 .
  • it wouldnt be would be weird.
    Actually, you can have pinned sites with notifications in IE10, and in IE11 you can even have messages on your pinned site. It will be like a live tile. Follow the link above. :)
  • Here's a nice article describing it:
  • That's pretty cool! Well, once Windows 8.1 is officially available for download, I'll give this a try. 
  • Flipboard is coming :D
  • If it would have an intel atom i would probobaly buy it.
  • I think there should be an ARM and a Bay Trail version. Personally I prefer having full Windows 8 on my device, but I like the idea of RT in the sense that it's more secure and easier for regular consumers to use (well, it would be if they weren't getting confused between the difference of RT and Pro)
  • The average consumer doesn't know that there is a RT, and Pro.. Seriously, the average consumer can still only name the iPad, and maybe might mention Android if they've been paying a little more attention... Let me just put it to you like this... Apple has two ginormous advertisements covering two skyscrapers sides here in Downtown Dallas.... I can see the from Arlington❗❕❗❕ LOL❕❕
  • I wonder if they will help stop their slide in market share (below 50% now).
  • i think a baytrail edition would be redundant. I dont know how much performance improvements baytrail has, but i doubt its enough to make it run most desktop apps decently (my current clover trail atom device lags on desktop apps like GIMP and VLC, and cannot even run freshpaint, a windows 8 app, which causes explorer.exe to crash.). At best, with its power and performance improvements, baytrail is a decent x86 alternative for ARM when it comes to windows 8.
    However, intel processors cpst more, meanimg a baytrail surface would cost more than the arm surface. So theres, at best afaik/imo, the abilitiy to run a few lightweight desktop apps on a baytrail surface, if it were to exist. Microsoft probably hasnt done this because at the end of the day it would only be marginally better than a surface running RT, and would cost the cpnsumer more.
  • You need to read bay trail's review on Anandtech. Its definitely fast, competitive with S800, and not much more, if at all, expensive. And it is fast enough to reach that "good enough" computing stage that we had with core 2 duo years back. Bay Trail killed windows RT, or should have. Cherry Trail will be beating RT's corpse with a sledgehammer.
  • 1. an  intell still cost more than ARM.
    2. "With the exception of a few benchmark installs or loads that simply took forever, my Bay Trail experience was really quite good under Windows. Bay Trail is obviously not as fast as Haswell when it comes to general usage, but it's definitely worthy of a discussion. Whether or not it actually is good enough for an entry level machine will depend on how OEMs choose to configure their Bay Trail systems. I'll hold off on a final verdict here until we have some time with final Bay Trail devices and not just FFRDs." It all depends. reall world devices may function less efficiently than the device in the article.
    3. It benchmarks about the same as Tegra 4, which is in the surface 2
    4. "It seems safe to say that Intel will have the fastest CPU performance out of any Android tablet platform once Bay Trail ships later this year."
    TL;DR. I'm dubious untill devices actually hit the market, but even so, my point on cost still stands. At best, a baytrail device will function just as good as a tegra 4 device, when it comes to windows, and devices with baytrail will cost more (relatively. a baytrail surface would be more than a tegra surface, but a cheaply made plasticy baytrail device could potentially be less tban a tegra 4 surface) (last i checked, Intel processors cost more than arm processors)
    PS: pardon any spelling mistakes. Cracked display + WPCentral's text input System = mistakes
  • Here you go dude! check this article out. Its actually a lot of little things that make BayTrail really worth the wait lol Its Intels first true architectural update to Atom since its introduction in 2008. Which is a huge deal its the new Silvermont platform which aims directly at Sanpdragon800 and Arms Cortex A15
  • I would buy a Surface RT mini if I could synch it to my car through Bluetooth. I must have Bluetooth audio. And please have a regular mini USB power plug. That apple type thing they got going on now is stupid.
  • Surface RT already supports Bluetooth audio.
  • This would be a very welcome addition. Xbox One, Surface Pro 2, Surface Mini, Lumia 920. That's a heck of an ecosystem right there.
  • L920❔ Don't you mean WP❔
  • They might as well go for quadruplet and release the surface phone!
  • Yesssss! I'll be getting one.
  • I'm hoping for a 13inch surface over a surface mini...    We already have phones approaching 6 inches so i don't think a 7inch has much a better offering.
  • Exactly.
  • Looks like im holding my money for this. Make it 8" and i'll gladly fall in line.. haha
  • "Should the operating system division at Microsoft be able to launch Windows 8.1 Spring 2014 GDR, Windows Phone Blue and the Surface Mini, we'll"... be damned sure that @ATT had nothing to do with it. rolleyes
    On a somewhat related note the wireless accesory adapter will come in handy allowing you to use any of the touch or type covers with the smaller Surface via bluetooth. Nice.
  • Ooooo hands tingling to spend money on this when released
  • With the recent announcement of the Dell Venue Tablet. I would like the surface mini to be comparable.
    Maybe a Mini and a Mini Pro? But i dont think it's going to happen. If MSFT sticks to Arm I will have to pass and go with the Venue Tablet. I just prefer legacy support and im smart enough handle bloatware.
  • It'll fail again just as the orginal RT failed. Just as the RT2 will fail, due to pricing. They won't break into the Kindle Fire marketshare, let along the iPad.
  • But, the overall tablet market is still very small. There's plenty of customers for MS to get without having to steal from the others yet... First time buyers are where it's at... But, as far as price, I have to agree with you.. This is just not competitive enough.. A smaller tablet needs to be priced at $249.99..
  • I have a feeling this "Spring GDR" will be the removal of the desktop environment from RT (which would actually be a weclome thing to stop confusion.
    all this would take is the completeion of the "metro" office suite and metro file manager (which is already in place in win 8.1)
    it makes sense for these tiny devices not to run the desktop at all and i genuinely beleive that is what they are waiting for. basically, for the metro office to be finished
    I think it is only by that point that "RT" and "Pro" make sense. one is just metro, one is metro with legacy. as someone who has used Windows 8 (and phone) on numerous different size and shape devices, i think this "Win 8.1 and Win 8.1 Pro (with desktop) is the only way they can convince people of RT. its a little like iOS plus OSX except the two things talk together FAR better and the only difference is the desktop
  • That's a good idea I'd like to see the desktop removed from my surface rt because I never use it except when I need word
  • everything points to that being what they are trying to achieve. I just think creating "metro" office apps (and file manager/ settings manager) took them longer than expected!
  • Or command prompt, or file explorer, or device manager, or powershell or.... Yeah desktop is going nowhere. I don't want my surface RT crippled further. And it won't be. Keep dreaming guys
  • i didnt mention the Surface RT at any point as it is not a "tiny device". I am talking abuot the 7 inch devices where using the desktop would be ridiculous
    i own a surface pro as my sole computing device btw. (and its incredible as that)
    the only time i see desktop being appropriate on a 7 inch device is if it is powerful enough to push it to a large screen monitor ( like i do when i park my Pro at home or work). apart from that, desktop on a 7 inch screen would be ridiculous 
  • This, with bells on. With iWork being free now, free metro versions of Office are what they need to compete. I wonder whether what we are going to see is the rebirth of Microsoft Works as "Metro Office". Sort of like how the Metro version of OneNote is; a very usable subset of functionality that gives you most of what you need on a tablet device. Then we can get rid of the desktop in RT completely.
  • i think that is EXACTLY what they will do first off. just like One note. metro versions, free with RT. again, they are KIND of doing that now but they run in desktop and are probably too powerful for most people.
    I have office 365 2013, but havent ever even opened onenote 2013 because Onenote metro is just so damn good ( for basic organization, notetacking and on a phone/ tablet type device in particular.
    They can then position it as "surface with free metro office" for basic users and "surface pro with desktop (and therefore optional full office) " for proffessionals
  • You guys are all dreaming. The desktop is going NOWHERE in RT. Quote me on that. You'll see. *sigh* get so tired of this whining about the desktop sometimes.
  • I really, REALLY hope this will let us see surface mini on RT, surface three on atom (I think cherry trail), and surface pro on broadwell next year at $250,$450, and $850.
  • If not ARM then I dont see anything else fitting in there besides a bay trail chip.
  • .....All I want is a atom baytrail based surface with a wacom digitizer pen just like the surface pro.
  • Agreed
  • Too bad they couldn't get it out at the same time as the other tablets. Well I just pre-ordered a 256gb Surface Pro 2, so I'm happy.
  • I know, it would have been epic to cover all price points and form factors simultaneously.
  • The Windows Phone 8 Blue update is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo far way!!! ;(
    "Early 2014" in Microsoft means the last day in the last month of the first halph of the year... :/
  • If they want this to succeed they should brand it and skin it as the portable Xbox.  Tons of games would come to it overnight and you would have gamers beating down the door to get one.  it would make people adopt Windows 8 too because their games would be availabe on their PC.  I would hope with the unification of the divisions at Microsoft they would see they have an easy sell using their currently most popular brand.
  • I say keep it RT. In the beginning I may have listened to the hoards of naysayers online and then I used one. And loved it. Don't get me wrong the BayTrail/Atom Win8 tablets are fantastic, especially for having a full OS in such a compact package. But, I have no need for legacy/x86 apps on a a small tablet with an Atom processor. I need more power. Thus the Surface Pro I have. If its not matching that amount of performance its not needed. At the same time I don't always want to be hampered down by the thought of work or alot of additional programs when Office and Windows apps can handle what I need on the go. That's the beauty of RT to me. It keeps it light, efficient and productive. I preordered one for the wife (Surface 2) because she needs nothing more. Even thought she has a monster of a laptop (SSD, video card, ram etc etc) she doesn't touch anything but Office and apps she downloads. Not a single legacy app in sight. Alot of people I feel fall into the same category (probably not many of us following tech sites), but get worried for so many people saying, "You won't be able to download this software!", "You can't buy this program!".... and on and on. Those that do not need it or use it, will not miss it. However, planting a seed of doubt/worry is what causes people to either spend beyond what they need, get what's unnecessary or miss a great product. My line of work literally is me having people crush their fears or doubts and getting the solutions that work best for needs. RT has amazing potential and performance. It lacks a huge amount of apps, that is the only thing it needs. Continue of support of its store. So far, its going well.
  • ^^ This
  • mm with this phablet/mini we might even see an merging of RT and Windows phone [which is confusing considering that there will be both RT and wp8 in the same size and one of them can do more]
  • i still don't the point of WinRT other than the the lockdown more secure has really made leaps when it comes to their x86 poer comsumption/performance.  For me it renders RT null and void 
  • i still don't the point of WinRT other than the the lockdown more secure has really made leaps when it comes to their x86 poer comsumption/performance.  For me it renders RT null and void 
  • i still don't the point of WinRT other than the the lockdown more secure has really made leaps when it comes to their x86 poer comsumption/performance.  For me it renders RT null and void 
  • how many posts does it take you to see? Three?
  • ARM please, Tegra 4 or Qualcomm 800 with great GPU's. No need for desktop apps on my current Surface RT and Vivotab Smart, so hello Surface 2 and Surface Mini :) 
  • Am I the only one who wants a BIGGER surface? Gimme a 13 inch Pro! What do I need a smaller for when I have my phone?
  • This.
  • Yes
  • I don't understand the better price points comment, RT is more expensive than Atom, the argument for Arm should be cheaper devices.
  • I think the argument is that ARM is still cheaper than Intel CPU's. Manufactureres can obviously still skimp in other areas to bring down the cost.
  • "powered by ARM architecture" I guess I'll have to keep looking.
  • Well that's too long to wait. Guess I'll be going with the 8in Dell.
  • Stubborn Microsoft is stubborn.
  • I can't wait to see Alan Mulally arriving as a new MS CEO and killing all those stupid ideas such as Surface RT that clearly no one wants yet still MS insists it's a good idea and keep throwing money on it.
  • Yeah and make a bigger one! Same height, just wider; so I can still palm it. Like double wide, and let me fold it in half.
  • Good times ahead!
  • I thought the reason they're keeping RT around is because the end goal is to merge RT and the phone OS.
  • Here is what I would like to see:
    8 inches - ARM
    10 inches - BayTrail
    12 inches - Haswell
  • IM guessing this is to combat the iPad mini that apple has right now
  • I'd love a 7-8" surface RT tablet. Great for content consumption and to use SmartGlass with the Xbox.
  • Microsoft better ship this fast because Amazon and Google with their Nexus 7 is gonna eat their lunch