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For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets

Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated

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Lenovo has pulled some 8-inch Windows tablet models from the US market, citing lack of demand, but a Lenovo spokesman has told The Register that contrary to reports, the Chinese firm has no intention of giving up on smaller Windows fondleslabs in the US.

ITworld was first to claim that the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 and the smaller model of the Miix 2 – both tablets with 8-inch screens – are no longer available for sale in North America.

That report cited an emailed statement from Lenovo spokesman Raymond Gorman, who said the company has been seeing stronger demand for the 10-inch ThinkPad 10 model in North America and had therefore diverted its remaining ThinkPad 8 stock elsewhere.

"In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets. If market demand for ThinkPad 8 changes, we will re-evaluate our strategy," Gorman was quoted as saying.

Industry analysts were quick to interpret Gorman's statement as an admission of defeat, and multiple headlines proclaimed that Lenovo had written off small Windows tablets for the US market as an unprofitable dead end.

But when El Reg contacted Lenovo for further clarification, Gorman himself responded to say that this was, in a nutshell, all bollocks.

"Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the USA, and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business," Gorman wrote in an email.

"We intend to keep making small screen tablets with Windows for both USA and non-USA markets."

'Replacement' for the 8-inch Miix 2 tablet is on the way

To be sure, small Windows tablets have never been a sure bet. When Windows 8 debuted, it couldn't run on anything with a screen smaller than 10 inches, so the first wave of Windows 8 fondleslabs were all that size or larger.

But the success of the iPad mini, in addition to poor sales figures for 10-inch tablets over the 2012 holiday buying season, caused Redmond to rethink its strategy. In March 2013 it relaxed its hardware requirements for Windows 8 to pave the way for smaller tablet designs.

Even then, however, the software giant seemed wary of the idea. "This doesn't imply that we're encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution," Microsoft's revised guidelines explained. "In fact, we see customers embracing the higher resolution screens that make a great Windows experience."

Here at Vulture Annex in San Francisco, we were unimpressed by the Acer Iconia W3, one of the first 8-inch Windows tablets. But our complaints had more to do with the compromises the manufacturer had made when designing the device than with the idea of a small Windows tablet per se, and Acer has since corrected many of these shortcomings in later models.

It seems perfectly plausible that some US customers would prefer a more compact Windows tablet, if done right – and although it has made no formal announcement, even Microsoft itself has long been rumored to be working on a "Surface Mini" model.

As for Lenovo's offerings, Gorman told The Reg that the 8-inch Miix 2 tablet is no longer available in the US, not because it has been withdrawn, but because it sold out ahead of schedule. Gorman said Lenovo's US sales organization is currently awaiting that model's replacement, but he didn't disclose whether the next product will be a direct successor to the Miix 2 or a different design entirely.

"Watch this space for future Lenovo-branded small-screen tablets with Windows being sold in the USA," Gorman told El Reg.

In an emailed statement, Peter Han, Microsoft's VP of worldwide OEM marketing, concurred with Gorman's comments, saying, "We are continuing to see worldwide demand for the small device category and are expecting several of Microsoft’s OEM partners to ship devices in this category for holiday, including exciting new 8 inch designs from Lenovo." ®

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