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With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft and its hardware partners have been focusing on larger tablets, with screen sizes of more than 10 inches. But the company is increasingly signaling that it’s open to the notion of smaller tablets, more along the lines of the iPad mini or Kindle Fire.

“We’re really set up for that,” said Microsoft’s finance chief, Peter Klein, when asked about 7-inch tablets this morning at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference. “The notion of flexibility and scalability of the operating system is actually intrinsic to our vision and our strategy.”

He continued, “We talk a lot about devices and services, and when we say devices and services, we mean a set of experiences that are complete, that are compelling, and they are consistent across a whole range of form factors and devices, including size of form factor.”

Klein went on to note that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 share the same kernel, “so you have the same core code base driving form factors from 4 inches all the way up to 27-inch all-in-ones and everything in between. If you think about our developer platform, we’ve done a lot of the hard work so now applications can scale up or down depending on the size of the form factor. So core to our vision of delivering a set of services across form factors is the scalability of the operating system.”

“So I think we’re really set up to deliver the most versatile set of experiences across form factors, whether that’s 4-inch, 5-inch, 7-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 13-inch. And along with our partners in the ecosystem, we’ll work through that based on underlying demand.”

Talking with Windows executive Tami Reller recently, Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet received a similarly open-ended response to the same question, which seemed to leave the door open to the possibility of a smaller Surface tablet from Microsoft or a Windows tablet from HTC.

One question long term is where Microsoft will draw the line on which screen sizes will run Windows Phone vs. Windows 8, so long as those two operating systems remain distinct beyond the common kernel. Another issue to be resolved is the ongoing division between the Windows Phone and Windows 8 app stores.

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