The Little Surface That Didn’t

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Earlier today when Microsoft’s Surface event was wrapping, and Greg Chiemingo took to the stage to head off a stampede of writers trying to get their hands on the latest device, tweets were still kicking around wondering what had happened: Where the heck was the much-rumored smaller Surface?

Bloomberg published a piece later in the day indicating that Microsoft had worked on the small device, but had reversed on showing it off. Here’s the key paragraph:

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella and Executive Vice President Stephen Elop decided that the product in development wasn’t different enough from rivals and probably wouldn’t be a hit, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans weren’t public. Engineers had been working on the device and had planned to unveil it as early as today at an event in New York, two of the people said.

Surface has struggled with unit volume through its life, so to head off a new variant of the product due to concerns relating to its hit potential is slightly ironic. What about the Small Surface would have stood out, when stacked next to other devices in the market?

It’s worth noting that the strong points of the Surface line, which help to differentiate it from other tablets, came together in the Pro 3 — its set of keyboard covers and the kickstand. Would those have translated well to a smaller device with a screen of, say, 8 or 9 inches? I can only speculate, but I doubt the translation would be that great. (I can’t confirm Bloomberg’s entire post, but I’ve heard similar things, regarding work on a smaller Surface, and a later decision to put it back in the box.)

So, as far as things can be “Surface,” the Surface Pro 3 is darn pure.

Could we see the smaller Surface down the pike? I have heard nothing on that. It’s not impossible, I’d wager, but not that likely either.

What’s interesting in this is that the media appears to have been right most of the time, but were caught flat by Microsoft’s choice to cancel its plans. Fair enough. TechCrunch will have more on the Surface Pro 3 over the next few days. Microsoft has laid its bet. Let’s see how it pays off.