The Surface Mini is not only Microsoft’s last ditch attempt at propelling its Surface tablet line beyond its current Brand-C niche status. It’s also the first attempt on the part of new CEO Satya Nadella’s crash course when it comes to turning around the slowly lurching mess that outgoing boss Steve Ballmer created through thirteen years of unfocused leadership. Microsoft will unveil the Surface Mini at a small press event on May 20th, according to multiple outlets who say they’ve been invited. But the story will be less about the new Mini, and more about what Nadella has up his sleeve going forward.
Satya Nadella’s first move is to try to salvage the Surface, which was borne from a series of mistakes. First, Microsoft waited too long to enter the tablet market, instead hoping tablets wouldn’t take off so its dominance of the desktop market could remain intact. And once Microsoft did finally make a first attempt with tablets, it couldn’t decide whether to offer an ambitious tablet-PC hybrid or to go with a straight up iPad copycat, so it offered both simultaneously. Whatever hope one or the other might have had of succeeding was wiped out by the other’s mere existence.
Now that the Surface is such a market outlier that Microsoft’s commercially literally suggest that people should “be brave” and buy one, Nadella is taking what feels like the obvious next step: offer a smaller version in the hopes that a Surface Mini will attract the kind of interest the iPad mini has. One catch: the original full size iPad was already widely popular before the iPad mini launched. The existing Surface doesn’t have that same draw.
But with the rise of tablets in place of desktop computers continuing to happen whether Microsoft likes it or not, Nadella is compelled to give the Surface one more chance to succeed before pulling the plug and starting over. He’ll have to hope the Surface Mini is the answer. And he’ll get a chance to show off at least the tip of the iceberg of his vision for Microsoft going forward when he takes the stage for the Surface Mini event.