The current edition of Microsoft Surface tablets, which have a 10.6-inch display. (CNA file photo)
Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Microsoft Corp. is likely to launch a smaller and less expensive tablet computer in the fourth quarter of this year to counter the popular Apple iPad mini, an analyst with the Topology Research Institute said Tuesday.
The Windows 8-based tablet called the Surface mini is expected to feature a touchscreen in sizes of 7.5 to 8 inches, a low-power Intel Atom microprocessor and to carry a price tag of US$299, Topology analyst Maxwell Chang told CNA during a media briefing on consumer electronics trends.
Microsoft has been in discussion with two or three Taiwanese original design manufacturers to produce the new gadget, but the list has not been finalized, Chang said, citing supply chain sources.
The U.S. software giant also plans to launch the second generation of its Surface Pro tablet, which is expected to use a more powerful Intel Haswell processor, he added.
"Microsoft is likely to aim at taking on the iPad mini because it knows it is hard to compete with Android tablets in terms of price," Chang said.
Taiwan-based Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc. have launched 7-inch tablets costing as little as US$129 to US$149, while Acer and South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. are also set to sell 8-inch models priced at US$249-US$399, Chang noted.
According to Topology's data, worldwide tablet shipments are forecast to total 161 million units in 2013, up 42 percent from 113 million units shipped last year.
Tablet models sized between 7 and 8 inches will make up 54 percent of the total shipments this year, a huge increase from 32 percent in 2012, the institute said.
Another report by research firm Strategy Analytics shows that the Windows operating system accounted for only 7.5 percent share of the global branded tablet market in the January-March quarter, lagging behind Apple's iOS with 48.2 percent and Google Inc.'s Android with 43.4 percent.
The Windows tablet shipments were held back by limited distribution and a shortage of top-tier mobile apps, the report said.
(By Jeffrey Wu)