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Intel to turn Ultrabooks, all-in-one desktops into giant tablets

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IDF 2012 Intel wants to turn laptops and even desktops into tablets in order to reverse the decline in the personal computer market. To that end, it unwrapped two form-factors it will be promoting to get tablet-hungry consumers back buying PCs.

Well, if you can't beat 'em...

Ultrabooks will remain Intel's "hero product", according to Intel's Chief Product Officer, Dadi Perlmutter, but the category will gain new varieties: the Ultrabook Convertible and a sub-genre, the Detachable. The pitch for both is the same: slide or fold the screen to turn clamshell laptop into a tablet. With Detachables, the screen/tablet comes off the keyboard section just as Asus' Transformer tablets do.

Desktops too will enjoy a new level of 'tabletisation' with the arrival of what Intel calls the Adaptive All-in-One: a machine that lifts off its tilt, swivel and even lay flat stand so it can be easily shifted from room to room.

And to continue running while this is taking place. Intel wants vendors to build batteries in to allow the machine to keep running and to still be used if there's no convenient power socket at its destination.

"We view this very much as a big tablet," said Intel's PC Client Group chief, Kirk Skaugen, of just such a machine Sony will have out shortly. It's called the Vaio Tap 20.

Ultrabooks will evolve internally too with the arrival next year of Intel's fourth-generation Core chips, formerly known by their codename, Haswell, and specifically a version with a power draw of just 10W, though Intel remains unsure about how to brand this "game changing" processor, as Skaugen called it.

This Haswell offshoot integrates commonly used IO chippery into the CPU - whether on the die or in a multi-die package, Intel wouldn't say - to deliver a platform-level power conservation good enough to double the typical Ultrabook battery life.

The 10W Haswell will be specifically targeted at Ultrabook Convertibles, said Sakugen, the better to allow the x86 machines to come close to ARM-based tablets' battery life, but with the ability to "burst beyond what Atom or ARM can do" from a performance perspective.

Other innovations include the gesture and voice recognition tech that Intel has made a theme of this year's IDF, plus the kind of location and orientation sensors seen on existing phones and tablets, NFC technology for payment smartcards, and wireless charging for peripherals.

Expect the Adaptive and other AIO desktops to get wireless charging for mice and keyboards, and the gesture and voice control too.

Demand for all this kit is, of course, predicated on the popularity of Windows 8, specifically the touchscreen tech it supports. "We think Windows 8 is going to be huge," said Skaugen optimistically. If his company is correct, mass migration to Windows 8 machines could generate more than $200bn in revenue for a PC industry hit hard by economic downturn and the rise of the tablet. ®

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