There’s now less small tablet choice in the U.S. Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker based on sales, is no longer selling Windows tablets under 10 inches in size, based on a lack of U.S. market demand. The company shared the news with PC World in an email, saying “In North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets and are pleased with initial customer demand for the ThinkPad 10.”
That means the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 and smaller version of the Mix 2 — Lenovo sells a 10.1-inch model — are both disappearing from store shelves and Lenovo’s U.S. retail site. Remaining stock will be diverted to other countries where demand is higher for lower-cost, small Windows tablets. That includes Brazil, China, and Japan, according to the company. Both tablets run the full version of Windows, not the ARM-powered Windows RT software.
Microsoft has long been expected to debut its own small Windows tablet, likely running Windows RT, but the rumored plans were put off earlier this year. That could be due to the lack of a more touch-optimized version of Microsoft Office for the smaller screen. Or the company may have data similar to what Lenovo has: In the U.S. consumers either don’t want or need Windows on a small screen, at least not when current prices pit the devices squarely against less-expensive or comparably priced Android tablets.
If that’s the case, the situation may change a little by year’s end. Microsoft has already eliminated its Windows licensing fees for devices with screens measuring 9 inches or less. That could reduce prices, as Microsoft recently noted at its Windows Partner Conference. I’ve also noticed falling prices of small Windows tablets over the past six months or so. The Dell Venue 8 Pro I bought earlier this year can now be had for about $50 less; with a starting price now at $249, you get a pretty capable Windows slate.
Still, these devices compete with tablets such as the Nexus 7, which has a high-resolution display and only costs $229 to start. It’s notable that Lenovo isn’t stopping sales of its small Android tablets, just the ones that run Windows. The market isn’t suggesting there isn’t demand for small slates; instead, it’s saying there isn’t demand for small slates running Windows just yet.
Update: Lenovo published a press release late on Friday saying it is not leaving this market. Full text follows:
We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday. Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media. In short, we will continue to sell both 8 and 10 inch Windows tablets in both the U.S. and non-U.S markets.