Microsoft confirms cheaper Windows 8 mini-tablets coming 'in months'

Will the new lineup of cheaper, smaller Windows 8 tablets bridge that touch gap between PCs and Windows Phone handsets?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Microsoft has confirmed smaller, cheaper Windows 8 touch-enabled devices from OEM partners will be available within months.

On a call with analysts to discuss yesterday's Q3 results, Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said consumers should expect to see more Windows 8 touch devices across more attractive price points.

"[W]e also are working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows. These devices will have competitive price points, partly enabled by our latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices, and will be available in the coming months."

The forthcoming devices follow last month's changes to the Windows 8 certification guidelines for OEMs, which permitted smaller resolution displays suited to the popular 7-inch tablet market.

The move to smaller touch devices appeared to be on the cards back in February when Microsoft's new Windows co-chief Tami Reller told ZDNet the company was still trying to figure out why OEMs had been slow to build touch-enabled devices that took advantage of Windows 8.

Klein said the range of touch-enabled devices that take full advantage of Windows 8 was beginning to improve. On Best Buy, for example, there are over 20 Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets available — however, none are below $450.

The move to smaller tablets may also benefit Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, which Klein said was continuing to show momentum, pointing 10 percent share in some markets. However, he conceded there was "a lot of work ahead to break through in some key markets".

On Nokia's own Q1 call with analysts yesterday, Nokia chief Stephen Elop said that Microsoft, the Finnish company and operators were planning to boost marketing budgets to support Windows Phone.

But Microsoft's separate but massive Windows 8 marketing efforts were having limited value for Windows Phone. Elop said that Microsoft's Windows 8 marketing campaign was "positive" for Lumia, since it educated consumers about the concept of Live Tiles common to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. However, Elop also noted that the shortage of touch devices had posed some challenges. 

"It will be helpful when there are more touch devices in the market to support that," Elop said. 

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