by Steve Kovach
We’re less than two months away from Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch.
Love it or hate it, it’s going to be huge, likely the biggest operating system launch since XP.
So as the clock ticks down, Microsoft’s hardware partners like Toshiba, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Dell, and pretty much everyone else are announcing their Windows 8 hardware this week. (That’s because there’s a big conference called IFA going on in Berlin.)
In fact, there are so many product announcements this week, that I don’t even have time to write about them all individually.
But they are important! Seriously. Windows is still the most popular PC operating system on the planet. Chances are you’ll be using it at work or at home within the next year or so.
I’ve been checking out a bunch of Windows 8 devices from various manufacturers in press briefings over the last few weeks. Because of the nature of Windows 8 – its default user interface is designed for touchscreen tablets instead of traditional laptops and desktops – you’re going to see a lot of funky hybrid devices hit the market this fall.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty clear PC manufacturers are still trying to figure out what to do with Windows 8.
There are a lot of cool ideas. But it does seem like most companies are sticking to a handful of common themes. Here’s what you can expect:
Samsung, HP, and a few others will release Windows 8 tablets that come with a keyboard dock. They’re similar in form and function to the Asus Transformer Prime Android tablet. These devices act as a “normal” laptop when you dock the tablet to the keyboard, meaning you can easily get around Windows 8’s classic “Desktop” mode.
I’ve also see a bunch of Ultrabooks that have touchscreens instead of normal displays. At first glance, these Ultrabooks look nearly identical to the Windows 7 machines that have launched throughout the last year or so. But the touchscreens make it easier to get around Windows 8’s new tile-based Start menu. The downside: I find it a bit awkward to reach out and touch a screen that’s sitting at a ~90 degree angle from my desk. However, it’s still a lot better than using your keyboard and mouse to navigate around.
All-In-One PCs With Touchscreens
All-in-one (AIO) PCs are nothing new. The concept was popularized by the Apple’s iMac, but now most PCs are available in that form. This year you’ll see more of the same, but with the added benefit of touchscreens for navigating the Windows 8 Start menu.
Regular Laptops And Ultrabooks
For the budget-conscious, most PC manufacturers will still continue to offer traditional laptops and Ultrabooks running Windows 8. That means no touchscreens. Of course, that’s going to be a bummer for users since Windows 8 can be pretty frustrating to use without a touchscreen until you learn all of Microsoft’s keyboard shortcuts.
Then There Are Some Really Strange Devices
So above you have all the “normal” types of Windows 8 hardware coming this fall. But it doesn’t stop there. Some companies are getting creative – perhaps even a little too creative – with their designs.
Toshiba has a tablet that converts to an Ultrabook by sliding the screen up and over. Dell has this interesting Ultrabook/tablet combo where the screen flips over. Lenovo has a device that lets you fold the screen over backwards, but you still feel the keyboard on the back. (It’s awkward!)
The list goes on and on…
So What Does This All Mean?
It’s pretty clear PC makers haven’t quite figured out what to do with Windows 8 yet. It’ll take some time. Meanwhile, we’re going to see a lot of experimentation with hardware designs.
So far, I think the tablet/keyboard dock combination is the best solution. It gives you the best of both worlds: a thin, light tablet you can take on the go, and a full-fledged Ultrabook PC.
And yes, I’m excited.
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