Asus Confirms Smaller Windows 8 Tablets, Sub-$300 Prices

Asus Chief Executive Jerry Shen recently told The Wall Street Journal that the company plans to sell small Windows 8 tablets this year. He also expects to see prices for Windows 8-based tablets fall below $300, which in turn should help Microsoft gain more ground in the tablet sector. Windows 8 only commanded less than 4 percent of the tablet market during 1Q13.

"We're very optimistic about sales for Windows 8 tablets this year," Shen said.

Asus has done well with its own string of low-cost, 7-inch Android tablets, and is the manufacturer behind Google's highly popular Nexus 7. Asus is also currently the "low-price leader" when it comes to Windows 8 tablets, selling the VivoTab Smart tablet for $449.99 at Best Buy. However, Shen expects to see prices of smaller Windows 8 tablets cost a mere $50 more than similar models using Google's Android OS.

As reported on Friday, Amazon briefly published a listing sporting an 8.1-inch Acer tablet based on Windows 8 Pro and a dual-core Atom Z2760 SoC with 2 GB of RAM. At the time, the pricing was $379.99, and very well could have been a placeholder since the listing wasn't meant to go live. While that's not exactly cheap given the form factor, considerations for the seemingly steep price include Windows 8 licensing, the amount of internal storage and the amount of installed RAM.

These smaller tablets from Acer, Asus and other ODMs are expected to ship with Windows 8.1, the next incremental release slated to debut as a Public Preview during BUILD 2013 next month. The update brings a number of improvements, and is reportedly spearheading Microsoft's move into the smaller tablet segment. This "blue" update blanket also includes Windows Phone, Windows RT and Windows Server 2012.

During the first quarter of 2013, Asus reportedly fell in third place in tablet shipments, pushing 2.7 million units in that quarter. The company followed Samsung, which sold 8.8 million units and Apple, which commanded the tablet market with 19.5 million units. Amazon was fourth on the list with 1.8 million units, while Microsoft only pushed 900,000 tablets.

"Recent rumors have circulated about the possibility of smaller screen Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets hitting the market," said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker program. "However, the notion that this will be the saving grace is flawed. Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition. If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond."

In addition to Acer and Asus, Microsoft is planning to launch its own smaller Surface tablets later this year.