Casual users are swayed by content availability. Although it would be more portable and cheaper than a full-sized Surface tablet, a Surface Mini seems unlikely to help Microsoft make significant gains in a casual market currently dominated by tablets like the iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX and Samsung’s (SSNLF) huge selection of Galaxy Tabs, Pros and Notes.
Business users don’t care as much about games and media integration — being able to install Word, Excel or even Photoshop is more important than playing the latest freemium game.
But a Surface Mini would have reduced usefulness for many business applications.
I can review an Excel spreadsheet on my full-sized iPad Air; on an iPad Mini, the text becomes so tiny that it’s barely readable (yes, you can pinch and zoom to magnify sections, but that’s very fussy). Any cover with a built-in keyboard means the concession of typing with miniaturized keys, which is OK in a pinch, but hardly ideal for regular use as a productivity tool.
With the exception of specialized tasks — such as a handheld tablet for use in the field — smaller is not better when it comes to business tablet users, even if that does result in a small cost savings.
Since business users tend to be less price-sensitive than consumers, shaving $100 or even a few hundred dollars off the Surface with a Surface Mini isn’t likely to goose corporate adoption.
At the same time, shrinking that 10.1-inch display on current Surface tablets down to the 7 inches most Android tablets offer — or even the 7.9-inches of Apple’s iPad Mini — is going to make a Surface Mini much less useful to the majority of its enterprise market.
Microsoft might decide to pull the trigger and release a Surface Mini. If it does, the company might just strike gold and see iPad Mini with Retina Display levels of enthusiasm resulting in a big boost to that 2.1% share.
But I think it’s more likely to end in a Surface Mini fire sale and the kind of epic losses MSFT suffered with its original Surface RT.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.