Touch was the hot trend at last week's Computex trade show in Taipei, with computer makers showing off tablets and ultrabook-tablet hybrids with detachable or folding touchscreens. The devices ran either Windows 8 (for Intel processors) or Windows RT (for ARM processors), OSes due for release later this year that are designed for touch interfaces. Prices were not immediately available on most tablet or hybrid models, leaving questions about whether touch devices will be priced at a premium. For example, Dell has already said that it would price touchscreen devices higher compared to the non-touch counterparts.
A week ahead of Computex. Asus teased that it was coming out with something big, and the company didn't disappoint. The Taichi is a thin-and-light, laptop-tablet hybrid highlighted by two high-definition screens on both sides of the display panel. The laptop looks like a thin-and-light laptop, but when it is closed, the second outer screen is activated, giving it the look of a tablet. Both screens can be activated in laptop mode, allowing the same desktop image to be viewed on both screens when users are sitting on opposite sides of a desk. Users don't have to sit next to each other, and it's a good way to share content, said Jonney Shih, Asus' chairman, during a press conference at Computex. Prices were not available, but the Taichi is expected to come later this year with Intel's latest Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge and Windows 8 OS, The laptop will be offered with screen sizes of 13.3 inches and 11.6 inches.
Asus Tablet 600
Asus's second surprise was the Tablet 600, a Windows RT tablet running on an ARM processor. Windows has grown up on x86 processors, and this was among the first tablets announced combining Windows with ARM. Tablet 600 should give Microsoft a foothold in the tablet market and an opportunity to complete with Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile OSes. The Asus tablet has a 10.1-inch screen and Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor. A keyboard dock can make it a fully functional laptop and provide extended battery life. But questions remain regarding how fast and effective a Windows RT tablet will be, and whether it will appeal to buyers. The Tablet 600 was kept under glass at Asus' booth in the Nangang exhibition hall in Taipei, preventing showgoers from playing with it.
Tablets with Intel's Clover Trail
Intel said that close to 20 Windows 8 tablets are in the works with its upcoming low-power Atom chip code-named Clover Trail, and some were on display at Computex. One of them was Asus' Tablet 810, which has an 11.6-inch screen and weighs 700 grams. In tests, the tablet booted up in about 20 seconds but stuttered when running some programs. The same was the case with the ThinkPad Tablet, which fumbled in executing some touch features during an Intel keynote. Intel's aim with Clover Trail is to provide a legitimate competitor to ARM processors, which are used in most tablets. Clover Trail seems to be a work in progress, and tablets are due to become available with the release of Windows 8 sometime later this year.
Samsung's Series 7 slates
Samsung last year gave out test units of its Series 7 tablets at Microsoft's Build conference as a showcase to highlight the touch features on Windows 8. That laptop was upgraded at Computex to the latest Ivy Bridge microprocessors. At 12.9 millimeters and 860 grams, it isn't the lightest tablet out there, but with powerful Ivy Bridge processors, it can provide serious horsepower to run resource-hungry programs and games. The tablet ran swiftly when tested, and the touch features worked flawlessly. But with the powerful processors also comes heat, an issue that dogged the Series 7 laptops with Sandy Bridge processors. The upcoming laptop will come with 64GB and 128GB solid-state drives. Prices and availability were not immediately available.
MSI's Slider S20
MSI's Slider S20 ultrabook was attracting a lot of attention at Computex for its unique sliding screen design. The ultrabook has a 11.6 inch touchscreen that collapses over the keyboard to turn the laptop into a Windows 8 tablet. The ultrabook is 20 millimeters thick and weighs just 1.3 kilograms, which is comparable to the lightest laptops available. The ultrabook comes with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors, and offers up to eight hours of battery life depending on usage. Laptop features include USB 3.0 and high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) ports, and price and availability were not provided.
Acer's Windows 8 tablets, ultrabooks
Acer incorporated touchscreens in new ultrabooks and tablets introduced at Computex, but the designs were more conventional compared to Asus. Acer introduced two Windows 8 tablets -- Iconia W510 and W700 -- which run on Intel processors. The W510 has a 10.1-inch screen and is priced from US$599 to $799, while the high-performance W700 ranges between $799 and $999. Acer's new Aspire S7 touch ultrabooks come in an 11.6-inch model, which offers nine hours of battery, and a 13.3-inch model, which offers up to 12 hours. The ultrabooks are priced between $999 and $1,799. Acer will also introduce new Windows RT devices with ARM processors in the first quarter next year.
(Michael Kan of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.)