Water under the bridge?
Acer CEO J.T. Wang warned Microsoft to "think it over" before launching its Surface tablet. "It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem, and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at, so please think twice," he told the Financial Times last summer.
On Oct. 26, 2012, the Surface RT tablet hit store shelves regardless. Yet when it comes to the white-hot small tablet market, it appears that Acer is willing to beat Microsoft to the punch.
Eagle-eyed shoppers noticed a curious new addition to Amazon's virtual store shelves: the Acer's W3-810. The listing, since removed from the e-tailer's catalog, revealed several details, including an 8.1-inch, 1280- by 800-pixel touch-screen and a $379.99 price tag, comfortably within the iPad Mini's price range. The W3-810 weighs 1.1 pounds and offers eight hours of battery life.
According to a report in The Verge, the device houses a dual-core, 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor and 2GB of system memory. Other features include 32GB of onboard storage, 2-megapixel front and rear cameras, a micro USB 2.0 port and a micro-HDMI (micro-High Definition Multimedia Interface) connector.
The presence of the Atom processor indicates that the device will run an x86 version of Windows 8, much like Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet. Hence, W3-810 owners will likely be able to run most of the software in the Windows ecosystem, a feat that ARM-based Windows RT tablets cannot perform natively.
Acer isn't the only company adding to the buzz surrounding small Windows tablets.
Asustek CEO Jerry Shen told The Wall Street Journal that his company plans to release small Windows 8 tablets later this year. He also expects prices to plunge into sub-$300 territory.
"We're very optimistic about sales for Windows 8 tablets this year," said Shen in the May 6 Journal report. Shen added that this year may see the release of Windows 8 tablets with a price premium of just $50 over similar Android devices.
Microsoft is also somewhat responsible for building anticipation for mini tablets that carry the Windows logo.
Amid swirling rumors and leaks, Microsoft's departing Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein revealed during an April 18 earnings call that the software company was "working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows."
On March 21, Microsoft changed its Windows 8 certification requirements, opening the door to small tablets. The company is also reportedly working on its own 7-inch Surface Mini tablet to compete against popular devices like Apple's iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 from Google and Asus.
While Microsoft has made some small, yet encouraging gains in the tablet market, dwindling PC sales are endangering the company's Windows OS division. A small tablet success could help the company better weather the post-PC era.