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Microsoft Surface RT with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and Windows 8.1 to revive tablet’s fortunes?

Microsoft’s bold hardware venture with the Surface tablet has not been a roaring success since its launch in 2012, forcing the Redmond firm to consider an overhaul to the consumer-focused Surface RT device.

Reports suggest this will take the form of a substitution in the engine room, with a Qualcomm chipset potentially ousting the Nvidia Tegra 3 currently powering the RT.

Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans have disclosed the information to The Verge and Bloomberg, with the former claiming that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor will be the chip of choice in a selection of updated devices.

The Snapdragon 800 sports integrated LTE connectivity, opening up the possibility of mobile broadband on the new tablets – something that could prove a useful selling point alongside a likely Windows RT 8.1 refresh on the software front.

Microsoft will be desperately seeking a boost to its beleaguered tablet line, which has struggled to compete alongside established models from Apple and Samsung, as well as big-sellers like Google’s Nexus 7. The Surface accounted for just 1.8 per cent of global tablet shipments in Q1 this year, according to figures from IDC, while the Windows RT OS featured on just 0.4 per cent of tablets sold during the period.

It has been suggested that pushing smaller 7in devices to compete with the iPad minis and Nexus 7s of the market could be Microsoft’s next move to revitalise its tablet strategy, but analysts argue the company’s problems lie elsewhere.

"Recent rumours have circulated about the possibility of smaller screen Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets hitting the market. However, the notion that this will be the saving grace is flawed,” said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker project.

“Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges centre around consumer messaging and lower cost competition,” he added.

Despite its travails in the market, the Surface with Windows RT picked up a strong 4 out of 5 stars in our review; follow the link to find out why.