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Microsoft Surface

Microsoft’s next round of Surface slates may include a competitor to the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire.

The company is reportedly working on a 7-inch Surface tablet, which is expected to go into mass production this year, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s unclear if this is the same gaming-focused 7-inch Xbox Surface tablet we heard about last year — but I’d wager they’re two separate products.

From what we’ve heard of the Xbox Surface, it’s going to be jam-packed with cutting edge hardware, which means it likely won’t go cheap. At the same time, Microsoft will also need an inexpensive small tablet to compete with Apple and Amazon.

Small tablets (under 8-inches) accounted for half of all shipments in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. Given just how much cheaper smaller tablets tend to be — ranging from $200 for the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, to $329 for the iPad Mini — they’ll certainly end up taking over much more of the market over the next few years. Microsoft simply can’t afford to wait on developing an inexpensive small tablet.

Additionally, the WSJ notes that Microsoft is still testing a Surface phone, though component suppliers aren’t able to confirm if it will ever be released. We’ve heard a Surface phone could appear this year, especially if Windows Phone 8 fails to catch on with consumers.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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