So far Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet strategy has been squarely aimed at the higher-end. There are really no Windows RT or Windows 8 options out there (that I’m aware of) that cost under $450, part of that is also because there aren’t any smaller sized tablets.
The vast majority of Windows 8 tablets are somewhere between 10 and 12-inches. What about smaller more budget-oriented tablets? I’ve certainly expressed my opinion about this more then once, and have even suggested that it is possible that Nokia might end up releasing something in this smaller size range.
Now earlier today at a Golman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference, Microsoft’s finance chief Peter Klein also spoke up a little about 7-inch tablets running Windows technology.
“We’re really set up for that,” he states. “The notion of flexibility and scalability of the operating system is actually intrinsic to our vision and our strategy”. Further he continues, “We talk a lot about devices and services, and when we say devices and services, we mean a set of experiences that are complete, that are compelling, and they are consistent across a whole range of form factors and devices, including size of form factor.”
Klein also noted that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 share the same kernel, “so you have the same core code base driving form factors from 4-inches all the way up to 27-inches and everything in between. If you think about our developer platform, we’ve done a lot of the hard work so now applications can scale up or down depending on the size of the form factor. So core to our vision of delivering a set of services across form factors is the scalability of the operating system.”
He doesn’t end there. “So I think we’re really set up to deliver the most versatile set of experiences across form factors, whether that’s 4-inch, 5-inch, 7-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 13-inch. And along with our partners in the ecosystem, we’ll work through that based on underlying demand.”
Recently Tami Reller also mentioned that there is a possibility that a smaller-sized Surface or other Microsoft hardware could eventually surface.
So what are they waiting for?
Although this is admittedly pure speculation on my part, I think that Windows Blue might be the answer. We’ve heard rumors in the past that Blue might help with a transition to the smaller screen. Now we are also hearing whisperings of a merge between Windows Phone Store and Windows Store.
Finally, Windows Blue is now believed to be an update that will affect both Windows Phone and Windows (among other things). The writing seems to be on the wall, and if I’m guessing right – there is much to be excited about.
Microsoft said at one point that they had no plans for tablets running on Windows Phone. At the time, Windows Phone was still on CE. Now that the change has been made, there isn’t much difference between Windows RT and Windows Phone 8.
Once the storefronts are unified, the line blurs even more. What if these smaller form factors are waiting on this unification? At which point perhaps Windows will truly be scalable on all levels, running Windows Phone 8 for 3-5 inch devices, running Windows RT “Small Screen” for 6-9 inch form factors, and Windows RT or 10 for larger sizes.
The Windows RT Small Screen would likely have a better name, though I can’t think of what they’d call it. The idea, in my opinion, is that such a version would have a UI that looks more like Windows 8/RT but would not have a desktop in any shape or form. Conversely, they might just decide to run Windows RT on all ARM tablets, even 7-inchers, I just personally think they’d be wish to eliminate the desktop if possible for smaller screens.
Again, this is all speculation at this point. I’m hopeful though, as I believe that low cost tablets are where it is at and could help Microsoft gain a bigger foothold in the tablet market.
As a more traditional PC user, I like having a more expensive PC, but I don’t need much out of a tablet. This is why my only tablet is an Android 7-incher. If I could get a smaller-sized Windows tablet for around $300 or less though? I’d strongly consider it.
What do you think, is Microsoft’s recent talks about 7-inch tablets a sign of something big to come or not? Do you think that Microsoft would create a third Windows product for smaller tablets or would doing so only serve to confuse customers more? Share your thoughts below.