Talk all you like about the “Apple-fication” of our gadgets, but this week’s massive Computex hardware-fest is evidence that when it comes to Windows and Android, tech design is still the wild west.
You can read our wrapup of the most important Windows devices launched at Computex so far here. In a nutshell, it’s exciting times, with manufacturers trying some odd things to stand out from the crowd. You could argue that Apple created the market for a lot of the things we discuss below. On the other hand, Apple hasn’t dared try these ideas yet:
The Acer Aspire S7
This is bound to annoy people who loathe (and they do loathe), the idea of touching a screen to control Windows. We say take a deep breath. Yes, touching a laptop screen seems just as gimmicky as it does with a desktop PC, but give it time. As with the touchscreen all-in-ones we’ve looked at over the last year or two, you’ll still be able to use the keyboard and touchpad on these laptops - the touchscreen is just there as an extra control option. Who would use it? It makes sense for one of those “hybrid” portables with a screen that rotates, but when you’re sitting in front of a laptop with the keyboard in front of you? Let’s wait and see.
Hedging your bets
The ASUS Aio: runs Windows and Android
You’ve got to admire ASUS’ chutzpah with this one – a computer that’s officially marketed with Windows and Android out of the box. Sure, plenty of PC users dual boot, but we’d wager it’s not usually with Android. The ASUS/ AiO is a PC, with a removable screen you carry around as a massive 18.4in tablet - the idea here is that the PC runs Windows, then you switch to Android in tablet mode. If you are a heavy user of both OSes, this is a cute way of future proofing - you get to run all the apps out there, whichever OS they’re on (except iOS).
The Asus Taichi: Has two screens, one on either side
This is the talk of Computex: a laptop with a dual-sided screen. Convertible laptops that let you flip the laptop screen over when you’re done typing so that you can use them as a tablet, aren’t new. But this one has two screens, so you don’t need to do the flipping part. Or, while you are sitting down typing away on the keyboard, someone else can be watching a second screen on the reverse side of yours. Products like this – part laptop, part tablet – are going to become more common this year. Whether people want to combine their tablet and laptop in one device? We’d argue it depends on how good the device is – if it’s no chunkier than a tablet, no heavier, and runs the same apps just as easily as a regular tablet, maybe. Still, until Apple comes out with something like this, we can’t imagine many people ditching their iPads.
Android on the desktop
Viewsonic's VCD22: a 22in Android desktop
This 22in big boy from Viewsonic is a touchscreen running Android. We’ve always had mixed feelings about all-in-one machines. On the one hand, you get the Android apps. On the other, we're willing to bet most desktop users want a full-blown Windows install. Still, if the price is cheaper, this might make all-in-ones interesting again.
Last year at CES we commented that Microsoft were not giving up on their vision of Windows being a multiplatform OS (phones, tablets and laptops), despite Android and iOS. The big decision was to go ahead with a separate build of Windows for devices not running Intel chips. This week at Computex we saw that campaign come to fruition, with big names unveiling tablets running ARM chips and Windows RT (the new version of Windows for devices running ARM CPUs). Keep in mind this will mean a big split in the type of tablets you can buy – those running fully-fledged Intel CPUs and those running battery-conserving, but in some ways less powerful ARM chips, like Nvidia’s Tegra 3. On the upside, this could mean Windows tablets won’t cost a bomb. On the other hand, Windows RT computers better run smoothly, or Microsoft will blow its chances of Windows being taken seriously as a tablet OS.