Does the world really need a Surface Mini Pro?

Tomorrow Microsoft will likely introduce a 7- or 8-inch Surface Mini running Windows RT. Some rumors also point to a Surface Mini Pro as well, running full-blown Windows 8. Does the world really need a full-bore small Windows 8 tablet?

There have been many reports about a Surface Mini being introduced tomorrow, including one by Bloomberg that says it will be powered by a Qualcomm processor rather than the current Nvidia ARM-based chip. The Verge and others report it will probably run Windows RT rather than full-blown Windows, and that it will have a 7.5-inch 1440 x 1080 display with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Several weeks ago, the electronics wholesaler Vostrostone (VSTN) posted a listing for what appears to be a Surface Mini case on Amazon.

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People have been speculating that the Surface Mini will also have a digitizer pen, which makes sense for several reasons. Its big brother Surface tablets have pens. In addition, a pen would make it stand out in a crowded field of small tablets, notably the iPad Mini. With a pen and Microsoft OneNote, the Surface Mini would be a great small productivity tablet for taking notes and performing similar tasks.

If the Surface Mini is priced right, particularly if it seriously undercuts the iPad Mini's $299 starting price, and if it is just near Google's Nexus 7's $229 price, it can be a big seller. If it's priced up at the $299 range, it will likely have a hard time gaining any traction.

And that brings us to the possible Surface Mini Pro, which would run full-blown Windows 8 on an Intel processor. Several reports say that some Intel-based tablet might be introduced at Microsoft's press event tomorrow, and PC World's Brad Chaco speculates one might be a Surface Mini Pro running Windows 8.

Does the world really need a Surface Mini Pro? I think not. Windows 8's advantage over Windows RT is that it can run desktop apps. But do people really want to run desktop apps on a 7-inch or 8-inch tablet? Not really, particularly since there's an RT-based version of Office that would run on the RT-based Surface Mini.

A Surface Mini Pro would be more expensive than a Surface Mini, and price is key in the small tablet market. There's currently a very big price difference between an RT-based Surface 2 and a Windows 8-based Surface 2 Pro, with the Surface 2's starting price $499 and the Surface 2 Pro's starting price $899 -- a whopping $400. That means there would necessarily be a big price spread between a Surface Mini and a Surface Mini Pro of likely at least $100 and possibly more. That $100 or more would probably doom the device. So if Microsoft announces a Surface Mini Pro tomorrow, it likely won't sell.

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