microsoft surface hands on

Microsoft has dropped the resolution requirement for Windows 8 on tablets to 1,024 by 768, opening up the possibility for less expensive 7-inch or 8-inch tablets running the fledgling operating system.

While the company has released its own Surface tablets and Microsoft partners have released Windows 8 tablet/laptop hybrids, the smart play is to offer 10-inch and 7-inch experiences to hit every possible market. Apple, for example, offers both the iPad and iPad mini. Samsung, Google, and Amazon also offer a variety of tablet sizes. So it would be smart for Windows 8 to come to 7-inch screens to compete with the offerings of all these other players.

Microsoft quietly announced the changes in a “Windows Certification Newsletter” released March 12, but it was spotted by ZDNet on Thursday. Microsoft writes in the newsletter:

We’re changing the System.Client.Tablet.Graphics.MinimumResolution requirement to create a consistent minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 at a depth of 32 bits across all Windows 8 system form factors. The physical dimensions of the display panel must still match the aspect ratio of the native resolution. This doesn’t imply that we’re encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution. In fact, we see customers embracing the higher resolution screens that make a great Windows experience. We understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful.

At the lower resolution, Microsoft notes that the “snap” feature will end up being disabled to create a better experience. Manufacturers will need to disclose that snap is disabled.

Microsoft also used this newsletter to announce that Windows 8 tablet screen sizes peak at 17 inches and can be no larger than that.

Microsoft Surface photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat