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Microsoft Surface Mini Said to Use Qualcomm chip, Run Windows RT

Rumors surface mini 3continue to circulate concerning the new smaller Surface tablet which Microsoft is expected to launch in a couple weeks, and for once I am hoping that the rumors aren’t true.

Bloomberg reported this morning that:

Microsoft is planning to introduce a new, smaller version of its Surface that will use Qualcomm processors for the first time, according to people with knowledge of the companies’ plans, a move that ends Nvidia’s run as a chip supplier to the tablet.

Microsoft will unveil the new device at an event in New York on May 20, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Microsoft will also take the wraps off other new Surface models at the event, including ones powered by Intel Corp. processors, the people said.

Well that’s disappointing (assuming this rumor is true).

The problem with a Surface Mini running on a Qualcomm chip is that it can’t be running Windows 8, but instead has to be running Windows RT. That moves the Surface Mini firmly into the "why the Bleep  would I want to buy it" category.

As has been reported elsewhere, the biggest shortcoming of Windows RT is that it cannot run Windows apps, only Windows 8 apps. This renders the OS much less useful that Windows, much less Windows 8, which is why Windows RT is on my AVOID list.

microsoft surface mini 2

The Surface Mini is expected to have an 8″ screen, but unless it also ships with an Intel chip it simply won’t be worth buying. My recommendation is that anyone looking for a 7″ or 8″ Windows tablet instead look to Dell, Acer, Lenovo, etc rather than Microsoft. Those other device makers all offer one or more small Windows 8 tablets in the $200 to $400 range. Those tablets can run Windows apps, and are much better values.

But it is worth noting that this rumor might not be true, and we might also see a Surface Mini Pro at the event a couple weeks from now. There is a mention of Surface models with Intel chips, and that could be the Surface Mini Pro or it might be the next-gen Surface Pro.

The existing Microsoft Surface tablet models have a 10.5″ screen, and it has been close to a year since the last new models were released. Microsoft might be planning to debut new models a couple weeks from now.

Edit: The Surface 2 Pro shipped in October, so it’s only been 6 months.

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fjtorres May 7, 2014 um 11:31 am

MS is committed to building up the RT ecosystem so a Mini RT at (well?) under $200 is not a totally bad idea. Especially if they also throw in a surface Pro Mini at $300-350.
The gameplan remains the same as always: use the Surface Pro to build up the Market for Win app to the point the RT becomes attractive to more people.
As a long time WinCE user, I know there is value even in a limited Windows device…at the right price.
It’ll take time but they can get there.
If the price is right.

fjtorres May 7, 2014 um 11:51 am

To clarify: the primary failing of Surface RT so far is the half-baked version of Office.
Give RT a full native GUI suite, especially Outlook, the new Powerpoint addin, and the Office Reader and it’ll sell in the corporate world where the lack of games and lifestyle apps will be a plus (less stuff to police and block out).

Nate Hoffelder May 7, 2014 um 12:20 pm

"The gameplan remains the same as always: use the Surface Pro to build up the Market for Win app to the point the RT becomes attractive to more people. As a long time WinCE user, I know there is value even in a limited Windows device…at the right price."

Microsoft’s misstep was in not making WinRT synonymous with Windows Phone. WinCE was foused on PDAs, that that market morphed into smartphones. Building WinPhone up would have worked; cutting Win8 down will not.

William Ockham May 7, 2014 um 1:41 pm

Have you ever used a Windows app on a small, high DPI screen? Most of them are unusable.

I really don’t think you understand the enterprise market and how Windows RT fits into it. While I agree that Microsoft needs to unify Windows Phone and RT (which they are doing, btw), saying "building WinPhone up would have worked" displays a complete ignorance of what it takes to deliver a viable platform. Windows Phone was NEVER going to be a viable platform and Microsoft knew that. Windows RT is the future of Windows on devices.

Usuro May 7, 2014 um 6:34 pm

All Microsoft needs to do is to build tablets the same size, weight and resolution as iPad mini and iPad Air, but with an active digitizer for handwritten or drawn input and running full x86-Windows. Then, everybody would want one or more of these.

fjtorres May 10, 2014 um 7:29 am

Not sure about everybody wanting one but Dell already built one and WalMart has them st $199. Active stylus extra.
Early reports showed issues with the touch and stylus but updates have cleared it up.

I’m tempted myself…
Add the stylus, a 64GB card, Calibre… yup, tempting…

Nate Hoffelder May 10, 2014 um 7:47 am

Indeed. If Microsoft tried to build this as the Surface Mini it would cost $500.

fjtorres May 10, 2014 um 9:20 am

Or at least $399.
But it would have more RAM, a Haswell CPU instead of an Atom and very, likely, LTE. The Surface line exists to prod the OEMs into doing more than me-too generics. Or, if they do, to price them low.
Dell gets it.
Lenovo, more or less.

Nate Hoffelder May 10, 2014 um 9:56 am

I don’t think anyone wants or needs a Haswell chip in their tablet. That’s what laptops are for.

fjtorres May 10, 2014 um 10:24 am

If by tablet you mean "media consumption pad", no.
Then again, RT is good enough for most of those users.

But if the Tablet is a true TabletPC running a full spec OS, it sure as heck can use one. I’d buy a Surface 2 right now if it weren’t the wrong time in my upgrade cycle. Next year? Maybe. With a dock and stylus.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if the Intel part of the Surface party is a 12in core7 tablet.

Nate Hoffelder May 10, 2014 um 2:14 pm

The Dell Venue 8 you linked to sports a quad-core Atom CPU. That is a heck of a lot of power for a tablet – more in fact than you need for a tablet. It is well into the low-end laptop/netbook range.

If you need more power than that on a regular basis, chances are you also need a full on keyboard. I say go for a laptop or at least a convertible like a Yoga. That is a much more conveniently portable setup than carrying around a tablet, keyboard, dock, etc.

Luther May 8, 2014 um 10:35 am

On the plus side, there are no viruses for Windows RT at this point and, given how difficult it is to get RT devices to run unsigned code, there are probably not going to be many.

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