Microsoft plans to launch Surface Mini later this year -

The dark satanic rumour mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn that Microsoft's Surface Mini will be ready to ship sometime this year.

The mini is Vole's 7 to 8-inch Windows tablet but Microsoft cannot work out how to market the gear.

Competing 7 and 8-inch tablets are all about pushing content to users and are usually heavily subsidised. But Microsoft wants to sell the gear as the ultimate note-taking device. That means access to OneNote, new apps or software tweaks, and support for a digital pen.

It is rumoured the Surface Mini will be a smaller version of the other Surface tablet and feature a built-in kickstand like the rest of the Surface line, though if Microsoft is positioning this tablet as a note-taking tablet that will be a bit of a chocolate teapot.

Microsoft considered launching the Surface Mini year but gave up when the Surface 2 release was hit by supply chain issues. If Vole does release the product in summer it could be just the sort of toy which could catch the imagination of users. Or else it could just tank until it is re-discovered and marketed by Apple, much like every Microsoft innovation.

Also in the rumour mill is one which says that Vole is developing prototypes for a smartphone that would have shared the Surface branding that Microsoft uses for its tablet products.

The project is being overseen by Terry Myerson, who is currently the head of all Microsoft's operating system projects. Ironically, Myerson stated back in April that the company would only consider making its own smartphone if third party OEMs were "not providing the consumer experience we think is possible with our platform".

Apparently, they aren't or now that Microsoft owns Nokia it needs to get some products out of its own.

To give you an idea how long Microsoft has been working on this project in September 2012, the benchmark app WP Bench detected the use of a device that it identified as "Microsoft Surface Phone". In November 2012, the company posted up a render of an unnamed Windows Phone device on its Facebook page.