Microsoft has, until now, set a tight specification requirement for Windows 8 devices—demanding the tablets have screens no less than 1,366 by 768 pixels. The resulting widescreen shape marries with the user interface Microsoft has designed for the touch-friendly OS, and means the devices are for use in landscape orientation. But ZDNet has found that Microsoft recently changed its specs, suggesting that the minimum resolution for a Win8 tablet should now be 1,024 by 768 pixels. That's a much lower resolution, which is in the 4:3 proportions that the iPad mini has, and could be compatible with the manufacture of much smaller screens at lower cost. By a curious coincidence, the iPad mini has a 7-inch screen containing 1,024 by 768 pixels.
Online speculation has resulted, inevitably. A smaller, cheaper Windows 8 tablet format may help Microsoft's OS become more competitive in the tablet market—a market that is currently sewn up by Apple and makers like Samsung, and where the little iPad mini is selling like the hottest of hot cakes and even Google is making a splash with its Nexus 7 tablet. Even more interestingly, it's been spotted that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have created a joint effort which centers on a "Microsoft reader" device. This may be a sign that B&N is planning on refreshing its Nook line of readers and tablets with some Microsoft magic in a big to take on the Kindle Fire from Amazon.
Separately, Apple may not wait for long to update its hot iPad mini, and watchers of Apple's Eastern supply chain are now saying that production of the current line of mini tablets is being wound down. That's exactly the sort of move you make before you wind up production of a whilly new device. The feeling is that the improved iPad mini will arrive in the summertime, though there's still a rumor-based disagreement about whether it will sport a retina display like its bigger iPad brother in order to stand above its 7-inch tablet peers.
Can Microsoft make a dent in the tablet market by selling smaller, cheaper tablets to rival the iPad mini?
[Image: Flickr user jasonahowie]