In case you hadn't noticed, third-party manufacturers aren't exactly blitzing the market with Windows RT tablets right now. There's Microsoft's own Surface RT and... not a lot else.

To encourage greater uptake among its partners, the company has revealed a subtle change in its Windows 8 hardware requirement specifications, finally opening the door for smaller tablet devices.

The minimum display resolution for a Windows 8/RT device has now been cut from the current 1366 x 768 to 1024 x 769, meaning 7 to 8-inch devices may be in the pipeline.

The change, uncovered by Zdnet, is significant because it gives Microsoft's hardware partners the flexibility to build tablets to rival the iPad mini, Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire.

Higher res, smaller screens

Although some manufacturers may choose to take it there, the company made clear that it doesn't doesn't want low-res 10-inch tablets. It wants high-res, smaller tablets like the Nexus 7 (1280 x 800).

Within the Windows Certification Newsletter the company wrote: "We're changing the System.Client.Tablet.Graphics.MinimumResolution requirement to create a consistent minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 at a depth of 32 bits across all Windows 8 system form factors. The physical dimensions of the display panel must still match the aspect ratio of the native resolution.

"This doesn't imply that we're encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution. In fact, we see customers embracing the higher resolution screens that make a great Windows experience. We understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful."

Will we see a Microsoft-branded 7-inch slate to accompany the Surface and the Surface Pro at the company's Build conference in June? Is a flagship third-party device also on the way? Stay tuned.