Lenovo caused a bit of a kerkuffle last week when it came to light that the company had stopped selling its 8-inch Windows tablets in North America due to insufficient consumer demand. A Lenovo spokesperson even said as much, telling PCWorld that "we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets."
That news must not have sat well with someone, because it prompted the company to issue a statement clarifying its position with regard to small-screen Windows tablets. In it, Lenovo said that it had not, in fact, abandoned producing 8-inch slates running Windows 8; rather, it had sold out of the smaller-sized Miix and stopped selling the ThinkPad 8 (pictured above).
In other words, the company had stopped selling in the category for now, leaving open the possibility that it would produce 8-inch Windows tablets in the future: "[W]e are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media." (Emphasis from Lenovo)
The timing of Lenovo's decision to (temporarily) exit the smaller end of the Windows tablet market was not particularly well timed with Microsoft's announcement last week that it was going to bolster that segment by giving away Windows 8 to manufacturers creating smartphones and tablets that sport screens of 9 inches or smaller. Both items do suggest, however, that despite the popularity of the form factor (whether for budget Android tablets or the iPad mini), Microsoft has not been able to capitalize on it as much as it would like. (The long-rumored Surface Mini is still M.I.A., for instance.)
Microsoft is clearly focused on extending Windows market share to the new world of cheaper mobile devices, including low-cost laptops that can compete with Chromebooks. The small-screen tablet realm is another facet of that strategy, so the fact that Lenovo has to clairfy its position in that market would suggest that its partnership with Microsoft in producing 8-inch slates is gearing up for a second act. While the PC maker's decision to leave the space now indicates a notable bump in the road for Windows 8 on smaller screen tablets, it remains to be seen if it's a symptom of a fatal flaw in getting consumers to use the OS on 8-inch devices.