We’ve known for months that Microsoft will improve Windows 8 this year to support a new generation of mini-tablets and that it will prep its own 8" Surface to take on the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD. But this past week, Amazon offered the first conclusive evidence of this next generation of machines when it outted a coming 8.1" Acer tablet by mistake.

According to an Amazon product page that was quickly taken down, the Acer W3-810 will feature an 8.1" screen—much like the expected new Surface tablet, which will also ship this year—running at just 1280 x 800, below the minimum 1366 x 768 resolution requirement for the Windows 8 “Snap” feature, in which two apps can run side by side.

Related: "Tablet Growth Tied to Success of Mini Devices"

The device will utilize a dual-core Intel Atom microprocessor, either the current-generation version (code-named “Clover Trail”) or the next-generation version (code-named “Bay Trail”). It will include 2GB of RAM and come with 32GB of internal storage.

Battery life is a claimed 8 hours, about right for this sort of configuration, and the device will weigh just 1.1 pounds.

Aside from the odd screen resolution, these specifications are exactly what I’d expect from a mini Windows tablet. But the most interesting aspect to this device has nothing to do with the hardware: Its price, $379.99, is well below the starting price of any Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet today. But it’s still a far cry from the $200 starting price of the Android-based competition, including the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD. In fact, it’s almost double that price.

(And Acer is releasing a $169 Android tablet, the Iconia A1, this month.)

This kind of pricing will continue to be Windows’ Achilles Heel until Microsoft does something to lower the licensing cost of this OS for mini-tablets. As I wrote in "Yes, Windows RT Has a Role to Play in the Future of Windows," today’s Windows tablets are simply too expensive to be competitive. Microsoft’s Surface RT still starts at a whopping $499 and goes up from there.

Coincidentally, Acer did announce a few other Windows 8 tablets this week, though the W3-810 was not among them. Most notable is the 15.6" Acer Aspire R7 hybrid PC, which sits on the other end of the size/capability/price spectrum from the rumored mini-tablet, and will cost $999 and up when it hits the market later this month. That’s actually a decent price for that type of machine. Perhaps the mini-tablets could be priced accordingly as well.

Related: "Amazon, Apple, Google Focus Attention on Mini Tablets: Where's Microsoft?"