While speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference this week, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer, Peter Klein, gave credibility to the speculation about the future of a 7in Surface tablet. Fielding a question from the audience about the possibility of such a slate, Klein responded, "We're really set up. The notion of flexibility and the scalability of the operating system is actually intrinsic to our vision and our strategy.”
"We talk a lot about devices and services”, Klein stated, “and when we say devices and services, we mean a set of experiences that are complete, that are compelling, and that are consistent across a whole range of form factors and devices, including size of form factor”. In an apparent reference to Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8, Klein continued, “you have the same core code base driving form factors from 4in all the way up to 27in all-in-ones and everything in-between.”
Klein further suggested that Microsoft will work with its partners to develop these small form factor devices. "I think we’re really set up to deliver the most versatile set of experiences across form factors, whether that’s 4in, 5in, 7in, 8in, 10in, 13in - and along with our partners in the ecosystem, we’ll work through that based on underlying demand." He said. Whether Microsoft will also produce some of these devices on its own is unclear.
Although the idea of a 7in Surface Pro tablet is exciting, it’s highly doubtful. Consumers have come to expect 7in tablets to be priced lower than their larger counterparts, and a 7in tablet equipped to power a full version of Windows 8, running an Intel processor, would be difficult to produce and sell at a low price. If there is to be a Surface “Mini”, it would more than likely be equipped with an ARM or Atom processor, and be compatible with the Windows RT operating system found in Surface RT tablets.
According to Microsoft, their current Surface tablets have generated real consumer interest, and sales are at expected levels. If so, a reasonably priced Surface RT “Mini” could greatly expand Microsoft’s influence in the tablet market, and move it from speculation to reality, sooner than we think.