In an apparent attempt to compete against devices such as the iPad mini and Nexus 7, The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is planning a smaller 7-inch version of their Surface in order to address the growing market for smaller tablets. The smaller Surface tablet is expected to launch some time later this year.
The personal-computer business is at a crossroads, and Microsoft Corp. isn’t sitting still. 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.
One person familiar with Microsoft’s product plans said the 7-inch tablets weren’t part of the company’s strategy last year, but Microsoft executives realized they needed a response to the rapidly growing popularity of smaller tablets like Google Inc.’s GOOG +0.03% 7-inch Nexus, which was announced last summer, and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini introduced by Apple Inc. AAPL -0.31% last October.
Half of the tablet computers shipped in the fourth quarter were smaller than 8 inches, according to research firm IDC. Microsoft declined to comment.
It’s hardly surprising. When Apple moves, Microsoft follows, as they have show time and time again through their desktop platform, the Zune, and now, finally, their Surface tablet (which itself is difficult to see as anything but a direct response to the iPad). Previous comments from Microsoft CFO Peter Klein also suggested that Microsoft was considering a smaller Surface – and as I said in response to those comments, Steve Jobs’ famous quote “Redmond, start your photocopiers!” comes all-too-quickly to mind…
Considering that sales of their Surface tablet have been underwhelming at best, and the fact that Windows 8 is driving the PC market to a record 20-year decline, it’s hard to imagine that shaving a few inches off of the Surface will turn things around for Microsoft’s ill-fated tablet – but as always, only time will tell.