Computex 2012: Microsoft Looks Ahead, and Back, at Windows Hardware

During its keynote address at the Computex trade show this week in Taipei, Taiwan, Microsoft showed off the Windows device innovations that consumers can expect from the software giant’s partners in the months ahead, many of which are aligned with the coming Windows 8 launch. But Microsoft also took a look back and examined the past 3 years of PC hardware innovation, hinting that the best was yet to come.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Steven Guggenheimer demonstrated “the breadth of innovation happening across the Windows ecosystem,” as Microsoft puts it, “highlighting the latest Windows devices across PCs, servers, phones, and specialized devices that enable customers and partners to maximize their investments.”

Before looking at coming Windows 8 devices, Microsoft provided an interesting video, Windows 7 PC Evolution, which highlights how much PCs have changed in just the past 3 years. During this time period, which coincides with the mainstream lifetime of Windows 7, PCs have evolved from predictable tower PCs and notebooks to include highly mobile, thin-and-light Ultrabooks; slate-like tablets; and all-in-one desktops, many with touch screens.

However, the “wave of innovation” that’s coming promises to blow away the past 3 years. At the show, Microsoft highlighted a stunning number of new PC form factors and devices from a wide range of partners. Some of the highlights include the following:

Acer announced a number of Windows 8-based designs at Computex, including two new Windows 8 all-in-one PCs, the Aspire 7600U (27") and the Aspire 5600U (23"), two Windows 8-based tablets, the 10.1" Iconia W510 and the 11.6" Iconia W700, and a “premium touch” Ultrabook, the Aspire S7 series, which will come in both 11.6" and 13.3" variants and offer up to 12 hours of battery life.

ASUS will expand its Transformer series of tablets to include two Windows 8-based designs, the 11.6" ASUS Tablet 810 (running Windows 8) and the 10.1" ASUS Tablet 600 (running the ARM-based Windows RT). Both will provide detachable hardware keyboards for hybrid use.

Dell has redesigned its Inspiron laptop lineup and expanded its Ultrabook offering with a series of portable machines that will debut with Windows 7 throughout June and be eligible for Microsoft’s $15 Windows 8 upgrade program.

Lenovo announced the availability of two new Ultrabook designs, the IdeaPad U310 and U410, which feature third-generation Intel Core processors and start under $800.

Toshiba unveiled a new lineup of business-oriented portable products, all based on third-eneration Intel Core processors, including the Portégé Z930 Ultrabook, the Portégé R930 ultraportable, and new versions of its Tecra line of devices. Toshiba bills the Z930 as the “world’s lightest 13-inch Ultrabook”: It weighs less than 2.5 pounds (compared with about 3 pounds for most machines in this class). Toshiba also updated its consumer-oriented Satellite series, which now includes Ultrabook designs. But the big news is that Toshiba also announced Windows 8 hardware: It will deliver a Windows 8 Ultrabook, a touchscreen Windows RT clamshell PC, and a Windows RT tablet with keyboard dock.

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