New tablets set to give boost to weary PC market
Vendors such as Dell and Microsoft bring back a refreshed tablet PC concept in an effort to draw the attention of smaller organisations.
Hybrid netbooks and tablets were the stars at this year's Consumer Electronics Show event in Las Vegas, as major vendors including HP, Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft displayed a range of prototype devices. The moves seem strategically timed to deflect the media hype building around Apple's oft-rumored upcoming tablet device.
Notebook vendor Toshiba was one of the first out the gate with its new Atom N450-based range of netbooks which boast up to 11 hours of battery life, as well as impact sensors which ‘park' hard drive heads safely in the event of a fall or collision to prevent data loss. Arch-rivals HP showed off a new 10.1 inch capacitative touchscreen device, the Mini 5102, which comes with a raft of features including an optional handle for the education market, a spill-resistant keyboard and facial recognition-based security.
But the real action was in the tablet arena. Unlike previous generations which featured swivelling screens, fullsize keyboards and stylus input, this year's crop of devices are firmly rooted in touchscreens for input and interaction. Dell revealed plans to release a slate-style tablet PC with a five inch screen based on Google's Android OS, although few further details were forthcoming. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated a similar but much larger 10-inch device using Windows 7 that he said the Redmond-based firm was designing in conjunction with HP and would able to run e-reader applications like Amazon's Kindle.
"Almost as portable as a phone, but powerful as a PC running Windows 7," said Ballmer of the device during the presentation.
Lenovo's entrant fell somewhere between the two camps. Its IdeaPad U1, which is expected in the second quarter of this year, resembles a regular laptop running Windows 7. However, the screen can be detached to act as a standalone 11.6-inch multitouch slate with 16GB of flash memory and a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, running the firm's proprietary Skylight OS.