7-inch Microsoft Surface in the works, claim sources

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft is planning to expand its range of Surface tablets later this year to include a 7-inch device, it has been claimed.

The rumoured extension of Microsoft's tablet family was reported by the Wall Street Journal, who claim to have spoken to several sources "familiar" with the company's plans.

The arrival of a 7-inch Surface would firmly pit the software giant against rivals Google, Amazon and Apple who have all released smaller tablets over the past year.

One of the sources quoted in the article cited the success of the Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Apple iPad Mini as the reason why Microsoft is now planning to add a smaller device to its its product line-up too.

To add weight to this claim, the source said "7-inch tablets weren't part of the company's strategy last year".

The release of a 7-inch Surface could help lift overall sales for Microsoft's own-brand tablet devices, which have been reportedly slow to date because of supply constraints and high costs.

The 32 GB version of the Microsoft Surface RT sold out in the UK within a week of its pre-order release last year. Despite this, industry estimates suggest the firm sold less than a million Surface tablets during the device's launch quarter.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted last November that sales of the first round of Surface devices had got off to a "modest" start, because they were only available to buy from launch via the Microsoft online store and a select few retail outlets.

Meanwhile, UK business buyers remain in the dark about when they can expect to get their hands on the Microsoft Surface Pro, despite the vendor promising several weeks ago that it would be coming to these shores soon.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.