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Not releasing a Surface Mini doesn't mean Microsoft has failed at Tablets.

This is why I don't spend a lot of time on rumors and leaks.

Showcasing a new larger screen, and a variable angle kickstand, Microsoft hopes this new Surface will convince consumers to stop investing in separate laptops and tablets with this all in one hybrid.
Showcasing a new larger screen, and a variable angle kickstand, Microsoft hopes this new Surface will convince consumers to stop investing in separate laptops and tablets with this all in one hybrid.
Juan Carlos Bagnell

If you've been following the buzz leading up to today's Microsoft announcement, then 48 hours ago you would have been convinced that Microsoft was going to release a Surface Mini 7-8" tablet. This "knowledge" came with the requisite hand-wringing over whether it would have been Windows RT, or Windows 8.1, or have an ARM processor, or an Atom, or a Core, or BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Helpfully Microsoft circumvented all of that speculation by releasing the newest revision to their Surface Pro line up of hybrid laptop/tablet devices. Full Windows PC's in tablet form factors, the Surface Pro 3 includes a larger 12" screen, with up to a Core i7. It'll feature handy tricks like a variable angle kickstand and an newer, more sensitive stylus. It's thinner than the Surface 2, more powerful, and Microsoft estimates it'll pack up to 20% more battery life, while only weighing in at 800 grams. A full Windows 8.1 experience which can replace a desktop or laptop in a 12 inch shell, weighing less than two pounds (hit the related video for more details on today's announcement).

Of course now the narrative is shifting on sites that "knew" the Surface Mini was going to be announced, that since it wasn't released (and they look a little foolish for vetting the false rumors) Microsoft is "giving up on tablets" or that they've "failed" at tablets. I'd link to specific articles, but I'm no great fan of supporting flame bait.

Since the release of Windows 8, it's largely been Microsoft's job to redefine the PC market. Companies like Lenovo have contributed with flexible hardware designs, but since the introduction of the iPad, computer sales just haven't been what they used to be. Microsoft was late to the party, lacking any cohesive strategy for consumer grade tablets. When they finally did release Windows RT on the original Surface RT, it was met with a lot of skepticism. The push forward today with another Surface Pro might lend some to think that Microsoft is walking away from that consumer market, and that RT is an abject failure which is destined for the chopping block. Those folks would be absolutely correct...

Except for the fact that they're incredibly short sighted and missing the point entirely.

It was Microsoft's job to save the PC by destroying it. Surface Pro 3 shows the third iteration of that strategy in a device designed for professionals, yet starting at a price point only $50 more than a Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2 or $100 more than a 64GB iPad.

Microsoft's consumer strategy however wont be scaling back from their pro Windows 8 offerings. It'll be built on the back of Windows Phone.

We know next year that the code base for Windows Phone and Windows RT will merge. The codename for the project is "Threshold", and we're already seeing the beginnings of this transition now. For Windows Phone 8.1, all future Metro apps will be built on the same code base, so software designed for phone, tablet, or laptop can easily be ported to any screen size a developer wishes to support. Eventually even the XBox will benefit from this platform, adding more apps to your living room.

The experience of using Windows Phone 8.1 on large phones like the Nokia Lumia 1520 is very reminiscent of using just the Live Tile interface on tablets like the Surface 2. At this point the only major difference is Windows Phone lacks a traditional desktop. It's not difficult to imagine a 7 or 8 inch screen device utilizing only the Metro UI. It already works quite well on a six inch phone.

Pro devices will retain the old school desktop for mouse and keyboard users, while maintaining support for legacy software not downloaded from the Windows App Store. "Threshold" devices will more resemble Android in using only the touch optimized Live Tile UI for consumers, and will share a common code base for apps. Buying Nokia, and building a few new manufacturing relationships with companies like BLU and K-Touch, further reinforces they're approach towards consumer products, phones, and smaller form factor gadgets.

In the most roundabout way possible, maybe the people claiming RT a failure are at least technically correct. The name "RT" probably will perish. We might see the sticker on the box shift to something like "Windows Phone 8.2" or "Windows Tablet 9", much the same way that Windows 7, built largely on Vista code, needed a re-brand. Windows RT is dead! Long live Windows RT service pack 2!

Until we see that happen however, we now have a new high end tablet PC hybrid to play with. Actual hardware is a lot more fun to play with than rumors are...

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