If Microsoft does plan to release a consumption-oriented Surface Mini, executives did a good job during Monday's Surface 2 unveiling of keeping it under wraps.
Cyril Belikoff, director of the Surface for Microsoft, declined to comment when asked repeatedly about whether Microsoft planned to release a smaller version of the Surface tablet, geared toward content consumption, rather than productivity.
"I didn't allude to that or anything at all," he said, when asked if Microsoft would either build a smaller Surface, or, conversely, cede that role to its hardware partners.
"Surface is really a great consumer tablet," Belikoff said. "There are many consumers who buy Surface RT and are loving the Surface or will continue to love the Surface 2. Same with the Pro. Surface Pro is great for businesses, and individual professionals, who love Surface Pro. Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 are great for consumers, for businesses, and large enterprises."
Microsoft watchers have long suspected Microsoft of having a mini Surface tablet in the works, perhaps powered by Intel's "Bay Trail" Atom chip, which runs both Windows and Android. Last week, for example, outgoing Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer acknowledged that the "bulk of the tablet market is actually moving to smaller tablets." And Microsoft handed out eight-inch Acer Iconia W3s at its Build conference as proof that smaller-form-factor Windows tablets can be successful.
LTE-equipped Surface 2 in 2014
In a "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session Monday afternoon with the readers of Reddit, Julie Larson-Green, executive vice president of the Devices and Studios business unit at Microsoft, and Panos Panay, the executive in charge of the Surface launch, did reveal one new Surface is coming: an LTE model.
"We didn't talk about it today, but Surface 2 will be launching an awesome LTE SKU early next year!" Panay wrote. "Nice catch on your part, no one else has asked this question...... what better way to tell people than through Reddit!!"
Users also wondered why Microsoft had "ignored" the Bay Trail chip.
"We don't ignore," Larson-Green and Panay wrote. "Intel is a great partner to us, and we continue to look at all roadmap options to bring you the best products possible. We are excited about the current products, and we think they meet the needs they were designed for. We will continue to evaluate options for the future."
Fortunately, the AMA also cleared up one question: the new backlit Touch and Type covers will work with previous versions of the Surface.
But when asked if Microsoft planned to announce a new Mini, the answer was the standard non-answer: "We don't have any additional products to announce today," the team posted.
According to Martin Reynolds, a vice president and fellow with Gartner, the Surface 2 generation offers several advantages: "High-resolution screens are a big deal; the ability to get more information on a screen. Smaller and lighter is a big deal, and the extra angle on the kickstand makes it more useful under the circumstances."
But will the Surface 2 generation pull Microsoft out of its niche? Doubtful, Reynolds said. "Everybody's in a niche, unless you're called Apple or a white-box manufacturer," he said.