Although a smaller Windows-powered tablet was suspicious by its absence at this week's Microsoft product launch, sources persist in reporting that the company has developed a smaller slate to sit alongside its new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 10-inch tablet devices.
Research and analytics firms IHS iSuppli and NPD Display Search both claim that a third Surface-branded tablet is on its way and that it will boast a not-quite-HD 7.5-inch display. The company's sources also claim that the device will run the Windows RT operating system rather than the full Windows 8.1 desktop and notebook OS, while tech site CNET is speculating that it will come with 3G and 4G/LTE built in because it will use an ARM processor which puts less strain on a battery than the Intel equivalent, therefore saving enough power to run mobile Internet antennae.
As for the price and release date, it is not expected to hit the shelves until 2014 and it will be cheaper than the new Surface 2 which goes on sale on Oct. 22 priced $445 US.
At 7.5-inches, the Surface Mini will have to pack quite a punch in order to compete with the Nexus 7 and Amazon's completely overhauled range of Kindle tablets. What's more, Apple is reportedly currently gearing up to launch its second-generation iPad Mini which is expected to have a faster processor and a full HD retina display when it goes on sale just in time for the holiday season.
The company's existing tablets show that despite being a software company, Microsoft knows how to build premium hardware, however, in the case of Windows RT devices in particular, it is still lagging in terms of attracting app developers to its mobile platforms. And this will be the ultimate deciding factor as to whether or not a smaller Microsoft tablet is a success or failure. Hardware is nothing without engaging software and services. Both Apple and Android can offer 1 million apps to their customers, Windows RT users have access to 100,000.