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10 things we want to see in Microsoft's Surface Mini

Brad Chacos | May 8, 2014
If Microsoft indeed intends to release a shrunk-down Surface Mini this month, as an invite for a "small" Surface event suggests, merely downsizing the tablet's design to fit an 8-inch frame ain't going to cut it. Sure, the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 are beautiful pieces of kit, but they're made for big-screen productivity--the Surface Pro is essentially an Ultrabook without a keyboard. That experience won't translate well to a smaller form factor, better suited for content consumption than content creation.

Microsoft's pushing devices and services these days, so it makes sense for the company to push its ecosystem in the consumption-friendly Surface Mini. Plus, doing so could be a nice bonus for buyers. I'd like to see the Surface Mini include some free credit toward Microsoft's Video and Music stores, and perhaps even a small amount to the Windows Store itself. Maybe the Windows Store credit code could be included in that "suggested app" email I just mentioned?

Extra OneDrive space would also be a boon. With small tablets being so storage-constrained and cloud-focused, a permanent 10GB-plus boost to your OneDrive storage would be a gracious "Thanks for buying" to folks who pick up the Surface Mini. Alas, a OneDrive bump is more likely to be a temporary boost, forcing buyers either to pay up or have their docs revert to read-only mode when it comes time to renew. That's the route Microsoft took when it handed out 200GB of free SkyDrive space to Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 buyers — a generous total, but one that disappears two years after purchase.

8. The build quality we expect...

The Surface line is known for its eye-catching VaporMg chassis, vibrant 1080p displays, and abundant-for-a-tablet port options. Keep it up Microsoft! (But don't forget the thin-and-light tip from earlier.)

9. ...but without the kickstand or Touch Cover accessories

Haven't you been paying attention? A small-form-factor tablet begs to be held in the hand and thrown in your bag, not propped up on a table with a keyboard that's either 1) proportionally gigantic, or 2) incredibly cramped because of the 8-inch form factor. I mean, just look at this picture of the Acer Iconia W4. It's ridiculous. Do you really want to work like that?

Yes, the first wave of Surface devices are famous for their Touch Cover and kickstand, but those icons simply have no place on a tiny tablet unless they're nestled in a proper tablet dock and being used as a PC proper. Play to the Surface Mini's strengths; don't shoehorn it into being something it's not.

10. A more Windows Phone-like virtual keyboard

Windows 8.1's virtual keyboard isn't a complete stinker, but it isn't a standout either. I'd love to see a variant of Windows Phone 8.1's stellar Word Flow keyboard — complete with swipe-typing capabilities missing from Windows 8.1 proper — appear on the Surface Mini. It's a borderline must-have for the tablet, which — as I've already said — won't play all that well with physical keyboard accessories.

Don't expect it to be cheap!

If Microsoft implements even just a few of these features — the continued Surface build quality and the widely rumored digital pen, say — there's no way that the tiny tablet will be priced as cheaply as a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, unless Microsoft takes a big loss on each slate simply to kickstart the Windows ecosystem.

 

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