A recent spate of stories on the Web (The Verge, Ed Bott/ZDnet, and so forth) disclose Microsoft’s interesting alteration of its minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8 devices. Whereas tablets had been limited to a minimum of 1366×768 in the past, Microsoft has dropped that number to 1024×768 (which old-timers like yours truly recognize as the old XGA monitor standard that’s been around since the early 1990s). This matters because it opens the door for seven- and eight-inch display form factors on Windows 8 tablets, which has naturally also led to speculation that a “Microsoft e-reader” could be in the offing, as well as a Windows Phone 8 based competitor to the wildly successful Galaxy tablet/phablet designs from Samsung.
Ed Bott reports further that this change appeared in the March 12 (2013) Windows Certification Newsletter, which provides information for hardware OEMs interested in selling systems — tablets, in this case — that meet Microsoft’s requirements for obtaining an official Windows Logo designation (this program had been known as the Logo Program in the past, but is now called the Windows Certification Program, not to be confused with credentials offered to IT professionals through Microsoft Learning).
There is a catch, however, and it’s not a pretty (or convenient) one: the lower resolution does indeed disable the Windows 8 “snap” feature, which permits two Modern UI/Windows Store apps to appear side-by-side on a Windows 8 display. OEMs will be required to warn buyers in advance that this particular screen resolution does NOT support this feature. Bott goes on further to discuss the on-year anniversary of a patent settlement between Barnes & Noble and Microsoft, and a possible partnership between those two companies to produce an e-reader based on the upcoming “Blue” version of Windows 8. The most interesting aspect of this partnership, which Bott obtained via Mary Jo Foley (another ZDnet Windows maven) is “…the formation of a joint Microsoft/B&N company (Nook Media, LLC, called ‘NewCo’ in the SEC disclosure, with this tantalizing language in the agreement: ‘Microsoft Reader.
If Microsoft creates such an e-reader, Microsoft may include an interface to the NewCo Store in that reader and may surface in that reader all Content purchased by customers from the NewCo Store.'” Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery interesting, sez I! If, as Bott speculates, such a item could hit the market at a price under $300, there could be a whole new game in town, not only because of the B&N relationship, but also because a Win8-based 7″ tablet could also run any of a number of other PC-ready e-reader programs, including the Amazon Kindle app.