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Windows 8, ultrabooks to get top billing at giant trade show by efwegbe erergeer

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Windows 8, ultrabooks to get top billing at giant trade show by
Article Posted: 09/20/2013
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Windows 8, ultrabooks to get top billing at giant trade show

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Windows 8 and ultrabooks are expected to take center stage at the Computex trade show in Taipei next week, as industry giants Microsoft and Intel try todevelop products that can compete better against Apple's iPad. Microsoft, Intel and local PC vendors such as Acer and Asus all areexpected to show off tablets with the upcoming Windows 8 OS, aswell as thinner and lighter ultrabooks running Intel's latestprocessor, code-named Ivy Bridge, said Thomas Huang, the manager incharge of organizing Computex. The Windows 8 products should be especially interesting to watch.This will be the first release of Windows developed for both x86 and ARM-based processors. ARM chips are used in most of theworld's smartphones and tablets and could help Microsoft competebetter against Google's Android software and Apple's iOS, whichdominate those categories. Ultrabooks, meanwhile, are a type of thin and light laptop backed by Intel and introduced at Computex last year.

They're seen as the PC industry's responseto the iPad, which is eating into sales of more traditionalpersonal computers. Both Windows 8 and ultrabooks incorporate design elements intendedto make them more mobile. Windows 8 has been optimized for touch and includes a new "Metro" interfacethat looks more like the current Windows Phone software than atraditional Microsoft desktop OS. Computex officially opens its doors next Tuesday, but many of thebig components and systems vendors are holding press conferencesthe day before the show.

As well as being a launch pad for PCs andtablets it's also a place to see the latest in digital TVs,displays, gaming systems, in-car computers and many other types ofelectronics. Consumer cloud services like Apple's iCloud may also be a themethis year. Acer announced an online storage service at last year's Computex, and other vendors seem likely to followsuit. But all eyes will be on Microsoft to see how the version of Windowsfor ARM devices, known as Windows RT , is progressing.

A few ARM-based Windows tablets were shown at theConsumer Electronics Show earlier this year, but for the most partthey were behind glass . Windows 8 faces an uphill battle in tablets, according to Bryan Ma,an analyst with research firm IDC. Microsoft may enjoy some pull-through from business people who wanta tablet that runs Windows, he said. But Windows 8 tablets areexpected to be priced higher than the competition. "We estimatethat Windows 8 tablets will be around US$600," Ma said.

Incomparison, Apple's newest iPad starts at $499, while Amazon'sKindle Fire Android tablet goes for $199. A bigger problem is that Apple is so well-established in the tabletmarket. Microsoft has yet to announce an official release date forWindows 8, but Ma expects it to launch near the end of the year. "Even after Windows 8 is launched, I think you're still going tohave people think about the Apple iPad rather than Windows 8," Masaid. "How do you make Windows 8 'cool,' and how long will thattake?" Windows RT will run on processors from ARM licensees Qualcomm,Nvidia and Texas Instruments.

However, Qualcomm has said it maystruggle to meet the demand for its latest Snapdragon S4 processorsdue to manufacturing issues. At least one analyst has said thatcould delay the launch of Windows 8 devices based on the S4 chips. While Windows 8 could face a long road in the tablet market, the OScould be a selling point for ultrabooks. The laptops are intendedto be thinner and lighter than existing x86-based products, and thenovelty of a touch interface could appeal to some users. Ultrabooks have gotten off to a slow start because few models havebeen released, and because prices have been higher than consumershave been willing to pay, said Gartner analyst Tracy Tsai.

They'vesold for $800 to $1,000, and prices need to be at $500 to $700 toimprove sales, she said. Intel is aware of the challenges and has said ultrabooks will getdown to $699 in time for the back-to-school shopping season. Seventy-five ultrabook models are in development from variousvendors, according to Intel. PC vendors will show a variety of these systems at Computex, somethat look like traditional laptops and others with folding, swivelscreens that try to be both laptop and tablet, Tsai said. Atouchscreen will add at least $100 to the price of an ultrabook,she noted.

(Agam Shah in New York contributed to this report.).

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