If the Windows PC market is in big trouble, someone forgot to tell Lenovo and Samsung. Late last week, within 24 hours of each other, the two Asian tech giants unveiled broad, new product lines. Following recent announcements from other major players, a critical mass of next-generation Windows 8 machines is now coming down the pike.
But it's not the quantity that's most impressive—it's the diversity: The arrivals cover every shape and form of portable PC, with touchscreens galore, and even some daring dual-boot systems. If the PC market is dying, vendors are responding not with resignation, but with innovation. And there are some good reasons this is happening, which you'll see as we take a peek at some of these beauties.
New chips, new operating system, new hope
Crawford del Prete, chief research officer at IDC, says the Lenovo and Samsung announcements show how fundamentals are coming together for the PC market. "Haswell should significantly improve battery performance," del Prete says.
Haswell is the code name for Intel's fourth-generation Core processor, and it's finally starting to show up in new systems after months of hype and buildup. Early tests of the Haswell-powered Macbook Air indicate that the chips do, indeed, deliver on their promise of maintaining great CPU performance along with much longer battery life. Haswell also brings with it a new Ultrabook spec for PCs that calls for thinner, touchscreen-equipped machines that will play better with Windows 8.
Speaking of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is just around the corner. "Windows 8.1 will be a more familiar interface for customers that have objected to Windows 8," del Prete says. Hopes are high that the operating system's impending makeover will finally convince users to upgrade—and maybe buy a new PC at the same time.
Touchscreens will arrive in a wider price range
One innovation that could have helped Windows 8 last year is the touchscreen, which is now finally cropping up in more systems (and is required for all Haswell-based Ultrabooks). "Consumers are looking for touch and alternative form factors like convertibles and detachables," says Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights.
The just-announced Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has no pricing or ship date yet, but it's an Ultrabook and then some. Weighing a mere 3.06 pounds, its 13-inch touchscreen display sports an outrageously high resolution of 3200 by 1800 pixels, and its aluminum chassis is just over a half-inch thick. Oh, and Samsung says its battery could last up to 12 hours. Notebooks like this could make you fall in lust with a Windows PC as easily as you could with the Macbook Air or a Chromebook Pixel. Or that's the industry hope, at least.
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