I don't know if you've looked around lately, but Windows-based tablet PCs are firmly tucked away inside a small niche, and most folks tend to buy either regular laptops or newfangled, smart-phone-derived tablets. Well, apparently, Intel wants to bring the tablet PC back with a future generation of ultrabooks. Company CFO Stacy Smith made the startling revelation at an event in New York City yesterday, as CNet News reports.
Smith reportedly said we'll see traits from the ill-fated tablet PC category permeate into ultrabooks in the next 18 months. "You'll have the ability to have flip screen, it'll be touch mode in certain situations [then] you flip it back around and it's a real productivity device," he explained. "Now that's not going to happen in 2011, but in time that's how we're going to evolve this [Ultrabook] platform."
The Intel executive went on to address ARM, saying Intel doesn't feel threatened in the PC market and expects to be able to compete in "tablets and devices." Game on.
I think two main factors have contributed to the marginalization of tablet PCs: relatively high prices and the lack of a comfortable touch interface. Early tablet PCs were somewhat pricey systems that emphasized stylus input, and even to this day, Windows' user interface isn't very touch-friendly (although Microsoft has sprinkled touch capabilities onto the chiefly mouse-optimized UI).
Next-gen ultrabooks could take care of both of those problems. Windows 8 will have a proper touch interface right out of the box, and Intel seems to be pushing for low price tags on ultrabooks. Heck, Asus expects to have $600 ultrabooks out next year. Convertible ultrabooks might not kill the iPad or cheap Android tablets, but they could represent a tantalizing alternative for users who need both a tablet and a real PC and don't wish to carry around (or buy) two separate devices.