New claims add strength to initial reports that Microsoft is set to launch smaller mobile devices in order to build its tablet market share.
The new tablets, which according to supply chain sources interviewed by Digitimes, will have 7-inch and 9-inch displays, are set to make their debut at Microsoft's upcoming Build developer conference on June 26.
Earlier this month an article in the Wall Street Journal claimed that Microsoft was in a race against time to develop and launch smaller tablets in order to stay competitive in the market place.
Quoting "people familiar with the company's plans" the article said that a seven-inch tablet was not in Microsoft's initial plans but following the success of the iPad Mini, plus the ongoing uncertainty in the PC market (sales are currently at their lowest for nearly a decade), the company is being forced to take bold steps to protect itself from reduced damand from PC makers for its Windows operating system.
During a conference call last week as part of its quarterly earnings report, Microsoft confirmed that it was working with its partners to produce "a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows." However, Microsoft's CFO Peter Klein stopped short of saying that the devices would have 7-inch displays. However he did say that the devices would compete in terms of price as well as quality.
Microsoft's existing tablets, the Surface RT and Surface Pro, launched in November (though the Surface Pro didn't actually go on sale until the end of January, and even then it was restricted to the US market) do compete well in terms of quality but both are seen as too expensive.
The company has refused to release sales figures for the devices but that hasn't stopped others from trying to guess. Figures published this week by IDC on this quarter's global tablet shipments suggest that in the last three months alone, 900,000 Surface devices have shipped, giving the company a 1.8 percent share of the market and putting it in the top five. However, IDC believes that tablets that run the Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems will struggle to build market share.
"Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7- to 8-inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition," says Ryan Reith, an analyst at IDC. "If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond."