It looks like the tower case can finally be laid to rest outside the IT environment as Lenovo, NVIDIA and others shoehorn the PC, or streaming access to it, into all kinds of new formats.
Saving Windows 8
Windows 8 is failing to ignite the computer-using world's imagination when it comes to hardware, software and ultimately sales. A neat Paul Thurrott piece using NPD sales data sums this up pretty well, highlighting our love of inexpensive netbooks, cheap tablets and other devices that leave us shielding our credit cards and turning away when asked to fork out more than $500 for a piece of hardware, however sexy.
That leaves the touch-features of Windows 8 unused by the vast majority of users, thus leading to a degree of confusion over any benefit above Windows 7. It is a quandry that should eventually ease as Windows 8 becomes the default OS in the coming years, but that won't help Microsoft and partners in 2013.
So, the vendors are using CES to promote differentiated products that aren't like your typical tablet, notebook or PC in an attempt to drive interest and sales. Roll on the great CES product unveiling as makers big and small clamor for attention in the oxygen-starved atmosphere of Las Vegas.
Lenovo Goes Big on Table Stakes
Pity the player with the middle-sized, middling product these days, to stand out at CES, things need to be really, really big or really small to catch the attention. So all eyes are on Lenovo's Horizon Table PC on the first day of the show.
This 27" monster is designed for the coffee table with a neat stand, or it can work as a regular tablet, assuming you have the thighs and padding of an NFL linebacker to rest it on. It is just over an inch thick and can be kitted out with the decent PC hardware including Intel's Core i3 to i7 processors, VIDIA GeForce GT 620M graphics and up to 1TB of storage.
Accessories include a keyboard, games controllers and the stand, plus a digital dice to play the included EA Monopoly game and other titles. It even has an extra-simple Aura user interface to let the family enjoy it without the need for Windows 8 lectures. Having just warned on pricing, this puppy starts at $1,699.
NVIDIA Goes Small and Fast
On the other side of the size equation is NVIDIA's Tegra 4 processor core, claimed to be the fastest mobile thing ever with 72 GeForce graphics cores and quad Cortex A15 cores, offering more than six times the power of Tegra 3. To demonstrate this beast, which realistically will only use that power in gaming, the company is showing off Project Shield.
This is a games controller with built-in speakers that plays Android titles, or can stream your PC games via Wi-Fi off your PC to HDTV or to an attachable 5" LCD for portable gaming. That makes it look like the deconstructed ugly sister to Sony's PlayStation Vita, but is an interesting concept as mobile gaming tries to grow up beyond those Angry Birds.
There's no price or release date yet, but there's a herd of Kickstarter-funded Android gaming devices that might suddenly feel rather threatened, and any games-plans Apple and Samsung have, especially as Nvidia is backing this with its Grid cloud gaming service. That could also hint at how Sony and Microsoft will evolve their gaming offerings in the future.
And For The Rest Of Us
Those who just need a regular PC for regular PC stuff will already have read about Samsung's new notebooks, At the show, Lenovo has added 10-point multitouch screens to the U-Series Ultrabooks, The base-level U310 model will be available in March from around $780.
A pair of new Z-series models aren't official Ultrabooks, but bring the price down to sub-$700, while the long-running ThinkPad series also gets touchscreens, but not the 10-point full-far experience of the Ultrabooks.
We'll have more from CES as the announcements are made and whatever wacky new gadgets emerge. From self-driving cars to home gadgets and our staple diet of core technologies, the show has everything, just be glad you're not there as most attendees seem to be writing more about how they hate being there, than the goods on show.
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