It was always a matter of when, not if, rivals would follow in Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iFootsteps and push the envelope with display resolutions. Over the past few years, Cupertino has been proudly touting its Retina Displays, while enjoying soaring demand in the meantime.

Longtime rival Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) got the memo and has now detailed some of the various screen sizes that Windows 8 will support. Microsoft will naturally have a large stable of hardware partners and is probably shooting for an October release for the next major upgrade. That ubiquity will inevitably come with a wide range of hardware options, including screen size and resolution.

Mr. Softy has segregated the common sizes that Windows 8 will support into three primary device categories: slate (tablet), workhorse PC, and family hub. Some of these slate resolutions promise to give the new iPad a run for its money and its "resolutionary" (that tagline makes my heart cry) display. For quick reference, the new iPad sports a 9.7-inch display with a 2048 x 1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch, or ppi.

Editorial

Source: Building Windows 8 Blog.

Some of the higher-end Windows 8 tablets might include densities that go as high as 291 dots per inch, or dpi (same thing as ppi). A 10.1-inch screen at 2560 x 1440 would be 291 dpi, sharper than the new iPad, although short of the iPhone 4/4S density.

The software giant is also setting a minimum support resolution for developers to heed of 1024 x 768 (same as iPad 1 and 2). It laid out three primary reasons for doing so: (1) It's big enough to support the layouts that it expects from Metro apps, (2) many websites are already designed for that minimum so developers are familiar with shooting for that resolution, and (3) Microsoft's data shows that only 1.2% of current Windows 7 users have screens with resolutions smaller than that.

As of right now, there are no Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android tablets either out now or in the pipeline (that we know of) that pursue such sharp displays. The best-selling Android tablet right now, Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire, has a 7-inch display at 169 ppi. But at $199, you get what you pay for.

This is more evidence of why Windows 8 can beat Android in tablets. Microsoft is focusing on areas that users clearly care about, and it has more experience with coordinated global rollouts than Google does, which include lining up all the hardware partners and app developers simultaneously.

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