Retailer hints at Microsoft 'Surface Mini' tablet

An Amazon-affiliated retailer is selling a smart cover specifically for a Microsoft Surface Mini tablet. Are they trying to tell us something?

A 'Surface Mini' smart cover as advertised on a Vostrostone Amazon page. The rumored tablet would be smaller than the 10.6-inch Surface that Microsoft sells now. Vostrostone

Microsoft's smaller version of the Surface tablet has been rumored since at least last fall, but an Amazon-affiliated site seems to be offering some hard proof.

Electronics retailer Vostrostone has posted photos of a Smart Cover Case that's "specifically designed...for [the] Microsoft Surface Mini tablet."

The retailer adds: "Well built to protect your Microsoft Surface Mini tablet for the years to come."

Of course the problem is, the Microsoft Mini tablet doesn't officially exist.

Back in February, the supply chain of component and device manufacturers in Asia began chattering again about a device that ranges in size between 7.5 and 8.5 inches. Prior to that (last year), both IHS Technology and NPD DisplaySearch indicated that they saw a Microsoft tablet of that size being prepped at manufacturers.

What else do we know? ZDNet believes it will come with a stylus.

Another thing we know is that Microsoft has made Windows 8.1 better suited for small devices: with both technology and pricing tweaks.

Along those lines, Windows 8 can run faster on devices with less memory and processing power than laptops and high-end tablets and the operating system will be free on phones and tablets with screen sizes of nine inches and under.

One of the burning questions is whether the Mini will run the full version of Windows 8.1 on an Intel processor (e.g., Atom) or Windows RT on ARM processors from the likes of Qualcomm or Nvidia.

That's an important question because Windows RT does not support older "legacy" Windows software -- though ARM devices are more likely to support built-in 3G/4G.

Finally, note that Dell (Venue 8 Pro) and Lenovo (ThinkPad 8) both offer 8-inch tablets that run the full version of Windows 8.1.

Microsoft declined to comment.