8-Inch Windows Tablets: The Next Big Thing?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Some of the complaints about the first round of Windows 8 tablets - aside from the Windows 8 software - centered around the high price of admission. It looks like that's about to change.

Lenovo announced its first Windows tablet with an eight-inch (800 by 1280) touchscreen. The "Miix2" runs the full blown version of Microsoft's (MSFT) newly updated Windows 8.1 software, and comes with a much more attractive starting price, starting at $299 for the 32 GB version.

The Lenovo tablet is designed to be a step-up from both Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (AAPL) iPad tablets. Miix2 runs Windows 8.1 on a quad-core Intel (INTC) Bay Trail-T processor and features the Home and Student version of Microsoft Office 2013 as standard equipment. It also has 2 GB of RAM, and comes in either 32 or 64 GB worth of storage, an SD card slot, plus a 5 megapixel camera on the back and 2 MP up front.

For an additional $20, consumers can buy a protective cover and stylus (for drawing/sketching) combo. The device doesn't offer a keyboard or mouse.

Unlike Microsoft's own Surface tablets, there is no pop-out kickstand on the Lenovo. That makes it a full-blown Windows computer which almost always must be held in your hand and used solely as a tablet. On the other hand, the Lenovo device is listed as weighing a mere 12 ounces.

Other manufacturers have announced they are jumping on the 8-inch Windows tablet bandwagon too. Dell (DELL), Toshiba and Asus will all releasing their own version of the new size format before the holiday shopping season.

Despite an 8-inch tablet's lower price and the promise of improved Windows software (Microsoft is even bringing back the iconic Windows "START" button), one question remains - will the public embrace smaller Windows tablets?

Considering the competition's giant head start this new Windows form factor seems to be facing an uphill battle. Android devices are priced much more aggressively. For instance, a small firm, Ematic, just announced its new 7-inch Android 4.1 tablet with a dual-core processor and a retail price of $90. Its being sold on the Amazon (AMZN) and J&R websites.

Next week, Apple is holding another event to announce what is expected to be its next versions of the iPad and the iPad mini. Whatever Apple has in store for rumored new iPads could deliver a crushing blow to the competition.

According to Bai Peng, Vice President and General Manage of Lenovo's notebook business unit, "Many users want the convenience of a smaller screen tablet, but do not want to lose the performance and convenience of a powerful, quad core Windows 8.1 device." We'll know soon enough if he's right.

Lenovo promises its Miix2 tablet will begin shipping later this month.

Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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