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It seems that no company can escape the pull of smaller, 7-to-8-inch tablets. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is planning a 7-inch Surface tablet to compete with smaller devices in the space.

Microsoft is planning to release a 7-inch version of its Surface tablet to compete with products like the iPad mini, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.

The market for 7 and 8-inch tablets has been an interesting one to watch over the past few years. Samsung kicked off the party with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab. Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, and Google and ASUS partnered on the Nexus 7; these two tablets really helped establish the form factor’s popularity. Even Apple, after saying that a 9.7-inch tablet provided the optimal experience, entered into the race with its 7.9-inch iPad mini.

Microsoft, now feeling the heat from these smaller competing tablets, seems compelled to shrink its own 10-inch Surface tablet down to 7 inches in order to have a presence in the sub-8-inch market segment for tablets. According to research firm IDC, over half of the tablets shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012 were 8 inches or smaller.

The company is likely looking for new ways to get its Surface line and Windows 8 in front of more consumers, as well. PC sales are currently falling fast as more people buy into the tablet experience; this has had a very big impact on Windows 8 adoption. Microsoft is betting big on Windows now and into the future, so it’s extremely important that the company finds a way to get more people using the product.

Putting out a 7-inch Surface tablet could do just that, though it remains to be seen how the Windows experience would work on a tablet that is a full 3 inches smaller than the original Surface and Surface Pro models.

Price is also something to keep an eye on with a 7-inch Surface tablet. The entry-level 10-inch Surface comes in at $499, which equals the cost of the iPad with Retina. Would Microsoft drop a 7-inch Surface tablet to the iPad mini’s price of $329, or could the company afford to go a bit lower than that — perhaps $299? It’s also safe to assume that the trademark snap-on keyboard accessory would be available for a smaller Surface tablet, and that would likely add to the total cost of the device.

Microsoft has offered no comment on the WSJ’s report at this time, but we’ll be sure to keep you up to date if we hear anything more on the 7-inch Surface.

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