Windows 8 tablets unwrapped in Berlin: Dell goes keyless for ARM
Do these tanks have the grunt to park on Apple's lawn?
Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony have hitched their skirts to reveal PCs running Windows 8, which will be on sale in October.
All three announced ultra-thin machines that can be twisted and turned into tablets running the latest version of Microsoft's operating system. Dell, though, was the only one to unveil a pure-play slab: a 10-inch device running Windows RT – the ARM-compatible port of Windows 8.
Windows RT is a big departure for Microsoft. While we've played with preview and release-to-manufacturers builds of Windows 8 for x86-compatible computers, there's been nothing from Microsoft or any of its partners on the machines that will ship with Windows RT installed nor any sign of a build to toy with. Unlike Win 8, Windows RT will only come pre-installed on machines.
The three companies gave a glimpse of their Windows 8 slabs to punters at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) conference, in Berlin, Germany, this week.
Staff at all three firms were cagy and wouldn't disclose complete technical specifications nor pricing. They would only promise more details would emerge at the official launch of Windows 8 by Microsoft on 26 October. Sony provided the best technical brief here .
Dell’s XPS 10 is the Windows RT tablet: a 10in touchscreen-fitted device the PC maker said would feature long-battery life and a mobile keyboard dock. Technical specifications and pricing were not provided.
Otherwise, it was the kind of architectures we've seen before: Dell’s XPS Duo 12 is an Intel x86-powered Ultrabook that features a flip hinge for its touchscreen, giving the whole device a tablet look and feel.
HP and Sony are also flipping out or converting: the HP Envy X2 is a 3.1lb (1.4kg) Ultrabook whose screen detaches into a 1.5lb (680g) touchscreen tablet with a 11.6in screen. The Envy will feature a flash drive wrapped in an aluminium finish. Sony’s Vaio Duo 11 is a thick 2.86lb (1.3kg) device with a 11.6in touchy display that converts into the flat form-factor of a tablet and that also comes with a stylus.
HP and Dell defended their convertible design and said it straddled the two worlds of juggling documents in the office and kicking back at home.
James Mouton, HP senior vice-president and general manager of the personal computer global business unit, said consumers want the flexibility to move between "creating rich documents and losing themselves in a great movie". Dell's PC product group vice-president Sam Burd echoed this: "Our vision for our XPS line of computers is not just about the device or technology, it’s about achieving the perfect balance of amazing design, end-user productivity and IT enablement.”
Reg regular Tim Anderson put it far more succinctly  thus: "Hello customer, would you like this clever-twisty-touch-keyboard-trackpad-Windows thing, or this easy to use iPad?"
HP and Sony used the Berlin conference to also announce Ultrabooks and PCs. These included the HP SpectreXT TouchSmart Ultrabook and HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, and the Sony Vaio T Series 13. HP said additional notebooks, desktops and tablets running Windows 8 will be announced later this year.
The manufacturers hope their machines hit the spot as PC sales slump. Analysts at IDC see no end in sight to the depressing market. The bean counters have revised downwards the number of PCs expected to be sold this year and over the next four years. While the analysts say Windows 8 should revive PC makers' sales, they also point out there is considerable uncertainty over how well people respond to the new touchy Windows interface. ®