Will Microsoft's Partners Build a Windows 8 Tablet to Compete with the iPad Mini?

Don't look now, but in the near future, it's possible we'll see a smaller size Windows 8 tablet designed to compete with Apple's iPad mini and all those 7-inch slates, like the Nexus 7 (Google) and Kindle Fire HD (Amazon). Maybe Microsoft will take the reins and build a smaller Surface. As Kevin Garnett famously said, anything is possible. But is it plausible?

I'd argue that it is. According to Apple Insider, Microsoft recently tweaked its Windows 8 hardware certification guidelines to allow for devices with screen resolutions of 1024x768 at a depth of 32 bits. Guess what resolution the iPad mini sports? That's right, 1024x768.

Surface RT

"This doesn't imply we're encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution," Microsoft said. "In fact, 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."

iPad mini

Fair enough, but now that Microsoft's opened the door, you have to think an OEM partner will step through it. The one that does could reap big rewards, too. Think about it -- customers are loathe to pay premium prices for tablets, which is precisely why the 7-inch category is thriving. Amazon figured that out before everyone else and, as a result, its Kindle Fire line is immensely popular. Even Apple, which has an unofficial tax named after itself, ventured into the smaller size (and lower price) tablet market, and I think Windows 8 will get there as well.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a 7- or 8-inch Windows 8 slate in the neighborhood of $250-$350, or is going big the only way to go with Microsoft's latest OS?