Back in 2014, Microsoft infamously cancelled its smaller Surface Mini tablet, just weeks before it was scheduled to be announced. It was reported that Microsoft just didn’t think it was special enough to stand up against the Apple iPad.
Now, three years later, leaked images obtained by Windows Central give us our first actual look at the Surface that never was. And it reveals an intriguing, if flawed, experiment from the Microsoft Surface labs.
Here’s the Surface Mini (images shared with permission):
This Surface Mini would have had an eight-inch screen, making it slightly larger than the current Apple iPad Mini’s 7.9 inches. It also would have run Windows RT, Microsoft’s early foray into making a version of Windows 8 that would only run software from the Windows Store app market.
Windows Central further reports that the Surface Mini would not have shipped with the Surface’s signature Type Cover accessory, the snap-on keyboard that turns the Surface Pro tablet into a laptop. Instead, Microsoft was going to pitch the Surface Mini as a note-taking device — it wouldn’t have had a keyboard or mouse at all, instead focusing on stylus input with the Surface Pen.
A funkier aspect of the Surface Mini design is that it looks like it’s in a case, but it actually has a fabric back with a kickstand that slides out. A closer look at the back:
Funnily enough, some of these ideas would come back later: The Microsoft Surface Laptop, the newest entry in the line, has its own fabric coating. The Surface Laptop also ships with Windows 10 S, which also only lets you install software from the Windows Store.
Either way, hindsight is 20/20, but it’s hard to see a Windows RT tablet without even a keyboard making much headway against the Apple iPad. Perhaps Microsoft made the right call in scuttling the Surface Mini after all.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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