It's not a good time to be a small Windows tablet. Microsoft's Surface Mini never even entered production, and now, Lenovo is discontinuing its eight-inch ThinkPad and Miix2 tablets in the U.S.
In an email exchange with PCWorld, Lenovo confirmed the move and blamed "lack of interest" for the cessation of sales. Raymond Gorman, a Lenovo spokesperson, said that "in North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets and are pleased with initial customer demand for the ThinkPad 10." Other parts of the world seem to like smaller Windows tablets better, though. Gorman added, "in other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets."
There are cogent reasons for customers to balk at smaller Windows tablets. The Verge called Win8.1's desktop mode "unusable" on the ThinkPad 8. Also, the selection of Metro apps is still relatively thin compared to what's available on Android and iOS.
Whatever the reason for the lukewarm reception, this news isn't good for Microsoft. Windows 8.1 is free for devices with screen sizes under nine inches, but without the broad support of hardware partners, getting a foothold in a market dominated by the iPad Mini and a variety of Android tablets may be difficult. A glance at the Microsoft Store reveals only Asus and Dell selling 8" tablets. Lenovo's withdrawal might discourage other manufacturers from entering the market.