Microsoft Hints at Surface Mini Launch on May 20

A play on words in recently issued press invitations suggests that Microsoft is getting ready to finally release a Surface mini tablet.

The long-rumored launch of a Surface mini tablet from Microsoft may be just weeks away, judging by the software company's latest attempt to wrangle up technology journalists.

On Tuesday, May 20, Microsoft is hosting a Surface press event in New York City. The company, not known for intimate, low-key events, is asking potential attendees to join the company "for a small gathering."

Reading between the lines—and taking months of leaks into account—Microsoft appears to be gearing up for the launch of the Surface mini. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who made waves by headlining the high-profile Office for iPad event on March 27 early into his new role, will also be on hand to introduce the device, sources told industry watcher Mary Jo Foley.

Soon after the launch of the original, full-sized Surface in 2012, Microsoft has been plagued with rumors that it was readying a version for the booming market for small tablets. Worldwide tablet sales rose 68 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year, reaching a total of 195.4 million units, according to Gartner. The IT research firm credited affordable small tablets and first-time buyers for the sales spike.

Rival Google, whose Android operating system powers the vast majority of low-end, non-iOS tablets, was the clear winner. Gartner Research Director Roberta Cozza said in a statement that last year, "tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications."

Last September, Microsoft refreshed its tablet line with the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Conspicuously missing was a Surface slate to compete with nearly pocketable slates like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad Mini, despite Microsoft relaxing its Windows 8 certification standards to allow for smaller tablets.

Now the company seems prepared to plug the gaping hole in its tablet lineup.

Expected to carry over the Surface's design language and choice of premium materials, the Surface mini will run Windows RT 8.1, the ARM-compatible version of the company's Windows 8.1 OS, according to Microsoft expert Paul Thurrott. The device will be geared toward mobile productivity, a recurring theme in Microsoft's marketing of Windows mobile devices.

The Surface mini is rumored to support pen input by shipping with a highly accurate, Wacom-esque stylus and touch screen. OneNote integration further pushes the device into content capture and creation territory. The company recently released a free version of the note-taking software, formerly a paid Office application, for Mac OS X and began offering it as a no-cost download for other platforms.

The industry will have to wait at least two weeks for Microsoft to officially reveal its small tablet strategy. As of this writing, the company has yet to provide eWEEK with further details on the upcoming event.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...