First Samsung offered a range of sizes for its Android-based tablets, including a 7-inch version. Then Apple followed suit with its 7.9-inch iPad mini and Google unleashed the Nexus 7. BlackBerry's Playbook, released in 2011, has a 7-inch touchscreen.
Next in the domino effect is Microsoft, which appears to be readying its hardware partners to build a 7-inch sibling for its Windows RT tablets. Published reports at week's end suggested that Microsoft was already telling engineers and developers to prepare for the smaller form factor.
Greater Design Flexibility
In its March 12 Windows Certification Newsletter, for companies that make or want to make tablets running Microsoft hardware, the company lowered its minimum resolution for Windows 8 devices to 1024x768 and a depth of 32 bits, from 1366 x 768. The change was first reported by Ed Bott of ZDNet.
He reported that Microsoft isn't exactly encouraging smaller devices, but, as it states in the letter, "we see customers embracing the higher resolution screens that make a great Windows experience. We understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful."
The certification newsletter warns original equipment manufacturers, however, that "The lower resolution would disable snap, a feature that allows two Windows Store apps to be viewed simultaneously side by side. To avoid potential consumer disappointment, OEMs need to disclose the loss of snap." Microsoft won't certify lower resolution devices unless they include "appropriate, clear, and conspicuous disclaimers" via ads, Web sites, packaging or store materials alerting them to this fact.
Tablet market expert Jeff Orr of ABI Research told us it was all but inevitable for the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant and software pioneer to come around to smaller screen sizes.
"Microsoft's guidelines for obtaining a Windows 8 logo on tablets were simply ahead of the times with one significant limitation -- tablets had to have display sizes 10.1 inches or larger," Orr said.
"The guidelines are reminiscent of laptop and netbook computer licenses for previous versions of the Windows operating system, which also had screen size requirements baked into the agreements. Rarely do these types of technical specifications hold up to the whims of how the market evolves."
Closing a Loophole
Orr said lower screen resolution requirements pave the way for Microsoft and its partners to better compete not only with the Galaxy Tabs and iPad but with Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's tablets and e-readers.
"With Windows Phone and Windows 8 on the market, Microsoft has a giant loophole in products that are larger than a smartphone and smaller than a large tablet display," he said. "Clearly, it was overdue to make some changes and enable its OEM device partners to compete in this space."
Microsoft needs all the help it can get in the tablet market. IDC Research predicts the platform will garner just a 2.8 percent share in 2013 for Windows 8 and a 1.9 percent market share for Windows RT.
Posted: 2013-03-30 @ 10:17am PT
Big mistake!! Google is about to release the HD version of the nexus 7 (may) and apple will follow with the ipad mini HD. Really, who wants a low low resolution version of anything?? Nobody is going to go near these tablets unless they are HD and cheaper. This just seems like Microsoft thinks that consumers are stupid bots. Whew are they wrong. Consumers are savvy and want good quality for a low price. This is just another string in the list of sales mistakes that Microsoft has made in the past. Will they ever learn or will their greed continue to rule their sales policy??