The rumor mill has been predicting the arrival of smaller Windows tablets for a while. Microsoft lent weight to those predictions when it lowered Windows 8's resolution requirement last month, but we were still awaiting a proper confirmation.
And now we have one. During Microsoft's earnings conference call last week, CFO Peter Klein shared the following nugget of news:
Over the last couple of months, we’ve started seeing devices that take full advantage of Windows 8, and we expect to see more devices across more attractive price points over the coming months. As part of this, we are also 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 full transcript is available at SeekingAlpha.)
Note Klein's careful choice of words. He mentions that the mini tablets will be "powered by Windows," which leaves the door open to either Windows 8 or Windows RT offerings. Also, the quoted time frame ("in the coming months") is conveniently vague, though it seems to hint at a spring or summer launch. That may rule out devices based on Intel's Bay Trail Atom processors, since those chips aren't due out until the holidays.
If you ask me, Windows RT would be a great match for mini Windows tablets. The lack of backward-compatibility wouldn't be much of a downside, since I doubt anyone wants to run x86 desktop apps on a 7" screen, and ARM chips could provide both good battery life and great gaming performance. Also, the platform could benefit hugely from an influx of sales spurred by low-cost hardware. We've seen that work with Android, whose market share is soaring thanks to inexpensive tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. Windows RT could really use a similar boost in popularity.