Microsoft reportedly will be the latest tablet player to enter the 7-inch device market.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is working on a smaller, 7-inch version of its Surface tablet and will launch the new device later this year. The exact dimensions and technical specifications, however, of the 7-inch tablet aren't known.
The Journal's report said Microsoft hadn't planned on producing a mini-Surface model but changed course after seeing the success of smaller tablets such as Apple's iPad Mini, Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire. The report also stated that the software giant is working on its own smartphone, but suppliers told the Journal it's unclear if Microsoft will actually release the device or if it will be used as a reference design.
Microsoft has struggled to gain momentum in the tablet market over the past year. The company first released the Surface tablet last June, with two initial versions of the 10.6-inch device -- one for its Windows RT operating system running ARM processors, and one for its Windows 8 OS running Intel x86 processors. But Surface sales were lower than expected, and many Microsoft partners were disappointed with the vendor's go-to-market strategy for the device, which bypassed the reseller channel in favor of retail stores.
Microsoft followed up its Surface launch last year with the introduction of the Surface Pro model in February. Microsoft said demand was high for the Surface Pro, which runs Windows 8 Professional on an Intel chip, but the device experienced product shortages during its launch and, like the original Microsoft Surface, wasn't made available for Microsoft partners to resell.
The pressure on Microsoft to boost its Surface business is mounting. This week research firm IDC released a scathing report that showed worldwide PC shipments falling nearly 14 percent last quarter compared with the first quarter of 2012. In addition, IDC reported that the market's negative reaction to Windows 8 was a contributing factor to the steep decline, and that the expected increase in PC sales following a new Windows release hasn't materialized.
PUBLISHED APRIL 11, 2013