Is Microsoft missing out on a 7-inch tablet opportunity?

When Apple first jumped into the tablet scene with its iPad, they were 100%-confident that the 10-inch form factor was the way to go. For a while this proved to be correct, but recently 7-inch tablets have become quite popular.

This is in large part thanks to the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. Even Apple is supposedly working on a 7-inch iPad now. With Microsoft preparing to rock the tablet world with Windows 8 and RT, you have to wonder why we’ve yet to hear about any devices smaller than 10-inches.

While a Windows 8 model with the full desktop experience might not work too well on a 7 or 8-inch device, RT would be a very similar experience to Windows Phone 8 and therefore should work just fine on a smaller device— for the most part.

I have a few ideas on why we’ve yet to see a smaller tablet offering that runs on Windows 8/RT. The first reason has to do with the overall design of Windows 8 and RT. Unless Microsoft found a way to make a version of RT that completely ditched the desktop and was only METRO-based, 7-inches would probably be a little hard to navigate for things like MS Office and legacy settings.

It is also worth mentioning that Windows 8 Metro/Modern UI really is meant to be used for landscape mode, while 7-inchers are usually kept in portrait mode for things like reading books. Sure, portrait does technically work in Windows Modern from what I’ve heard, but not nearly as well.

The restrictions with such a small screen might very well be the main reason we’ve yet to see Windows tablets in a smaller form. With that in mind, there are other reasons that vendors might not even want to consider a smaller tablet design. Licensing costs on Windows is pretty high. Supposedly it costs $85 for vendors to put a copy of RT onto a tablet.

If true, it might be awfully hard to make the 7-inch tablets price low enough to compete with the Asus Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD. I’d like to see a 7-inch tablet, but I don’t think I would be willing to pay more than $250 for something in that size factor.

The bottom-line is that we don’t know if or when a smaller tablet will be considered. There is nothing officially ruling out the idea, but the truth of the matter is that a 7-inch tablet with Windows might not have enough appeal to compete against existing offerings.

Would 7-inch Windows Tablets appeal to anyone?

While there are many reasons to love Windows 8/RT, I believe they have two things really going for them in the tablet space: they have desktop legacy functions that are familiar to Windows users and they are being billed as content creation devices.

With built-in keyboards and hybrid designs for most Win8/RT tablets we’ve seen so far, it is clear that vendors and MS want people to think of these devices as more than just content consumption toys.

A 7-inch tablet doesn’t work well for legacy desktop or content creation. Considering the plethora of cheap Android tablets that already dominate this space, MS might just realize that their strengths play to better to larger 10-13 inch tablet devices.

While Windows 7-inch tablets might not be as popular I don’t think this means we will never see one, especially if/when MS opens up its licensing of RT to more vendors. What do you think, would you like a 7-inch tablet with Windows or would you prefer to stick to a bigger-screen device? Is Microsoft missing out on an opportunity here or does their future lay with larger screen sizes?

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