Microsoft Is Betting on a Smaller Surface

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To go with its not popular enough Microsoft Surface RT and Pro, the Windows maker has decided to make a smaller, and hopefully cheaper, tablet that in theory more buyers will want, sources tell The Wall Street Journal. Neither of the current Surface models with their 10.6 inch screens and price tags starting at $600 and $1000 dollars sold that well. In total Microsoft sold a little over a million of the RT version, and 400,000 of the Pro, according to March numbers. To put that in perspective, Apple did 3 million in sales after announcing the iPad mini in just three days. And those sad figures are on top of the overall slump in PC sales, which probably has a lot to do with Windows 8. But this mini tablet, this will fix that—in theory.

See, Microsoft sees the trends: Half of the tablets shipped in the fourth quarter had screens that are smaller than 8 inches, according to research firm IDC. Microsoft doesn't currently offer that sort of model, so this is the logical thing to do for them. The move broadly makes sense, but only if Microsoft drops the price of what many have called its too expensive tablets. Part of the reason people haven't taken to the Surfaces are the prohibitively expensive price tags. Not only was the gadget "too pricey" but even worse, it was "too much money for too little tablet." The 7-inch tablets, especially the very affordable Kindle Fire, have attracted masses not just because of their size, but because they cost a lot less than a computer. 

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The Journal report doesn't mention possible prices. To be competitive, it would have to come in somewhere around $350 or less. The iPad Mini, one of the more expensive 7-inchers, sells for $329. Of course, price isn't everything. Size has something to do with it. Even the gadget snobs love the iPad Mini, with its inferior, non-Retina screen, because of its portable build. But will that be enough to draw hoards of people to Microsoft? It's not like they can't get a quality small tablet elsewhere. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.