Just recently, a spokesperson for Lenovo acknowledged that the company has decided not to sell 8-inch Windows-based tablets here in North America. That includes the 8-inch Miix 2, which launched back in October 2013, and the ThinkPad 8, which was released in January. The representative said that American consumers have a strong interest in the larger 10.1-inch tablets, but less interest in the smaller models.
"In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets. If market demand for ThinkPad 8 changes, we will re-evaluate our strategy," said Lenovo's Raymond Gorman.
PCWorld reports that the ThinkPad 8 is probably the most feature-packed Windows tablet so far, with a USB 3.0 port and a 1080p screen. But the tablet has had its share of problems related to the battery, connectivity, screen and charging. The remaining ThinkPad 8 stock will be shipped off to developing countries that have a large interest in smaller tablets.
As for the Miix 2, the 8-inch version currently lists on Lenovo's website as "sold out," and there's no indication that it will go on sale here in North America again. However, the 10.1-inch Miix 2 can be purchased straight from Lenovo's online store for $499.
Bob O'Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research, told PCWorld that it's impossible for small Windows-based tablets to compete with Android. He says that it's easier to use Windows 8 on the larger models, that it just doesn't make sense to have a small Windows tablet.
Currently, Acer, Dell, Toshiba and several other companies sell Windows-based tablets under 9 inches. Microsoft was said to be gearing up to launch an 8-inch Surface tablet of its own in May, but pulled out at the very last minute, choosing to debut the Surface Pro 3 on its own instead. Right now, there are supposedly thousands of the Surface Mini units stashed away in one of Microsoft's warehouses, waiting to be shipped.
Is this why Microsoft chose not to launch the Surface Mini? The Office 2013 "Gemini" apps are partially to blame, and may not surface until 2015. Microsoft wanted something to distinguish Surface Mini from a large number of similarly-sized tablets, and the Modern UI Office apps were it. Now with Lenovo pulling out of the 8-inch Windows tablet business in North America, Microsoft may decide to send its Surface Mini tablets overseas first before unleashing them here in the U.S.
Maybe what the 8-inch Windows market needs is the Surface Mini to lead the way. Microsoft introduced Windows 8.1 with Bing back in May, and it is free to hardware manufacturers. Microsoft launched this platform in retaliation against Google's Android, which doesn't require a licensing fee. The only requirements Microsoft is asking for is that devices ship with Bing as the default search engine in Internet Explorer.