Microsoft may have shied away from a "Mini" Surface for good reason, having enough insight to realize that its tablet strategy was inimical to direct competition with the iPad and Android devices.
"What they didn't expect was tablet makers to fundamentally shift in 15 months," said Moorhead. "The Nexus 7 came out [ last summer], and everything changed. Now 80% of tablets are seven to eight inches. And Windows is optimized for an 11-inch tablet, so how do you squish a UI designed for 11 inches into seven inches?"
He also pointed out that a key advantage Microsoft's used — and continues to use — may play little if any role in a smaller tablet. "The value proposition will be much harder, because Office doesn't bring much of anything to an eight-inch tablet. People are not going to create content on something that size."
Moorhead was the least optimistic of the analyst trio that Microsoft's "same-as-it-ever-was" strategy with Surface would work. "Microsoft is trying to fight Apple at one end and Google at the other," he said. "The problem with that strategy is that very few have fought a two-front war and been successful."
Rubin challenged that, seeing Apple in the center of the tablet market, Android playing at the bottom. That leaves room for Microsoft.
"Android is trying to attack the iPad from below, Microsoft is trying to attack from above with larger screens, more features, more options in terms of a hybrid," Rubin said. "Microsoft clearly has an opportunity."
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