Earlier today, we saw how PC sales figures for this quarter tell a woeful tale. One of the principal reasons for this decline is the rise in acceptance and usage of tablets as primary computers. But with Microsoft already preparing for this eventuality with a refresh of the Surface brand, it was only a matter of time before a smaller Surface tablet came up. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Redmond-based company is developing a new line of the Surface tablets, which includes a smaller 7-inch tablet (Surface mini, perhaps?). The mini version of the device is expected to go into mass production later this year, sources clued in to the company’s plans told the paper.

Microsoft is preparing to give a big push to its Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8/RT offerings, with new products and software updates lined up from now till the beginning of the next year. As the company strives to compete with Android and iOS, it has stepped up its tablet plans and the next-gen Surface tablets are expected to debut with cutting-edge hardware and a smattering of software features.

A PC in a tablet form factor

Could come in a smaller package

The source revealed Microsoft had not accounted for the potential popularity of 7-inch tablets and that form factor wasn’t under consideration last year. Microsoft has apparently realised the need to compete with its rivals in direct terms, and the 7-inch tablet is seen as a response to the popular Nexus 7, iPad mini and other low-priced Android tablets. According to research analysis firm IDC, half of the tablets shipped in Q4 2012 were smaller than 8 inches, underlining the popularity of that particular market segment.

This news comes on the back of a sharp decline in the number of PCs sold in the first quarter of this year. Sales of PCs fell by 14 percent in the first three months of 2013 compared to a year earlier, according to Gartner and IDC. That's the sharpest decline in PC sales in nearly two decades. Even the introduction of a new Windows version in October hasn't helped sales of PCs. Gartner and IDC point out Windows 8 could be directly blamed for the lack of sales as consumers had trouble accepting the redesigned interface and experience.

In the tablet market, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 haven't helped nudge up Microsoft's negligible share. The fact that Microsoft missed out on the success of mini tablets means catching up will only be that much harder. Let’s hope the company brings all the polish and attention to detail of the original Surface to its younger sibling, whenever it sees the light of day.

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