Microsoft’s new iPad rival is the Windows 8 tablet

Even the most ardent Microsoft fans will admit that the company’s tablet rivalry with Apple has been one-sided for quite some time.

No matter how well designed, Microsoft’s marquee tablet, the Surface, has failed to gain much traction, and the iPad still sits high atop the market share list — although Android competitors are closing the gap. And early Tuesday, Apple finally made its latest move on the mini tablet front: The iPad Mini with Retina Display went on sale in the United States and a handful of other countries.

But Microsoft’s play against the iPad may increasingly have less to do with the Surface, and more to do with smaller tablets running Windows 8 and 8.1 software. Only recently — since the second half of this year — has Microsoft had Windows 8 offerings on smaller display tablets like the Acer Iconia 8.1-inch tablet. That one goes for as little as $321.77 (though it’s also worth noting that Microsoft’s original Surface now goes for $350.)  More