Microsoft scrapped iPad mini competitor late in development process, documents suggest

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References to a "Surface Mini" discovered in the user manual for Microsoft's latest tablet foray suggest that the software giant scrapped or delayed the long-rumored 8-inch variant — which would have gone up against Apple's iPad mini — at the last minute, opting to put all of their eggs in the larger basket.

The manual makes at least four references to the more diminutive version of Microsoft's tablet, referring to processes for pairing and using the Surface Pen with the Surface Mini. Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott first discovered the references and they were published by PC World.

Microsoft was widely expected to unveil a smaller, ARM-based version of the Surface at their media event late last month. Instead, the company only showed off the Intel-powered Surface Pro 3, leading to reports that the smaller variant had been pulled at the last minute — whispers now backed up by the recent discoveries.

Surface chief Panos Panay seemed to confirm that the Mini was still in the works during an "ask me anything" session on social news site Reddit following the May event.

"As you've likely already read, we've said all along that we have a roadmap of products," Panay said at the time. "Exactly what they look like and precisely when they might come to market, you'll have to wait and see."

The iPad mini has proved popular for Apple, with its two variants — one with a Retina display, one without — taking some 41 percent of Apple's tablet sales over the holidays. It is unclear how that might change if Apple follows through on rumors of a 5.5-inch "phablet" version of the iPhone, with many consumers likely to consider the slightly smaller device in favor of simplification.