Microsoft is expected to announce new Surface tablet computers, including a version with a smaller screen to compete with Google’s Nexus 7 and Apple’s iPad Mini. The company has an announcement event scheduled in New York on Monday.
It comes about a month before Microsoft releases an update to its Windows 8 operating system on October 17. Among other things, Windows 8.1 will be usable on smaller touch screens, which have become popular because they are cheaper and easier to carry. The previous version of Windows 8 was limited to tablets with 10-inch to 12-inch screens.
The new Surface tablets could also get lighter and thinner thanks to a processing chip that uses less energy and doesn’t require a fan. Known as Haswell, the chip is already used in laptops from Apple, Samsung, Dell and other companies. Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air with Haswell gets up to 12 hours of use, compared with seven hours before.
Microsoft began selling Surface tablets last October, but sales have been slow. The company shipped about a million tablets in the first three months of 2013, according to research firm IDC. That includes about 260,000 of the slimmed-down RT version of Surface and 750,000 of the Pro version, which is compatible with older Windows programs. The shipments gave Microsoft a meager 2% share of the tablet market in the first quarter. By the second quarter, Microsoft tablets dropped out of IDC’s Top 5.
Microsoft absorbed a $900-million charge in the April-June period to account for its expected losses from the Surface RT after it slashed prices to stimulate demand.