Microsoft Reportedly Working on a 7-Inch Surface Tablet

Microsoft is reportedly getting ready to take on Apple and Google on their tablet turf with a 7-inch slate of its own.

Microsoft building a smaller version of the Surface — originally a 10.6-inch device — is hardly a surprise, given that Apple, Google and Samsung have launched tablets around that size. Photo: Ben Aston/Flickr

The software giant is developing a new lineup of its Surface tablets, including a 7-inch version expected to go into mass production later this year, said people familiar with the company’s plans, reports the Wall Street Journal.

People familiar with the situation say that the smaller tablet is expected to go into production later this year. Although the 7-inch tablet wasn’t part of Microsoft’s original strategy last spring, the executives realized they needed a slate to compete with Google’s 7-inch Nexus and Apple’s 7.9-inch iPad Mini.

Furthermore, Microsoft has recently changed its Windows 8 policy regarding screen resolution, and the OS now allows for lower-resolution (1024×768 instead of 1366×768) tablet screens.

The Journal did not reveal an expected price, but it will presumably be lower than current Surface prices to compete with Apple and Google’s tablets, making it more attractive to budget-conscious consumers.

Microsoft has previously been tipped to release three new and distinct generations of Surface this year — although, none of those prior rumors had pointed to a seven inch device.

Consumers’ appetite for smaller tablets is voracious.

Half of the tablet computers shipped in the fourth quarter was smaller than 8 inches, according to research firm IDC.

Market researcher Display Search recently revised an earlier forecast, suggesting that smaller tablets will outsell their larger counterparts in 2013, writes CNet.

The figures show last October’s debut of Windows 8—Microsoft’s latest operating software designed to work on touch-screen devices like tablets and on conventional computers controlled by keyboards and mice—hasn’t revived sales of personal computers and may be accelerating the decline.

IDC blamed consumer confusion about Windows 8 for some of the steep drop in PC sales.

However if those rumors are true, it raises a number of issues for Microsoft, supposes The Register.

The company may have to double down on the compact and battery-friendly processor architecture ARM – the family of cores used in its 12-inch Surface RT. Microsoft does have a 12-inch Intel-powered slab – the Surface Pro – but this is fatter, slightly heavier and has worse battery life compared to Surface RT.

If the company wants to sell more items this year, it may put ARM cores in the smaller Surface for the sake of expediency, of course without any  radical redesign on the Intel side.

Nevertheless the mail problem will be the lack of apps.

At least on the Intel-powered slabtops, existing x86-compatible software can be installed and run. Windows 8 on ARM is so new, however, there’s a paucity of programs for punters.

WSJ’s report also mentions that Microsoft is building a phone, which is currently undergoing testing.

Microsoft Surface is a surface computing product from Microsoft. It’s able to recognize physical objects from a paintbrush to a cell phone and allows hands-on, direct control of content such as photos, music and maps.

Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a dynamic surface that provides interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. The product is aimed at hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues.

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