How Windows 8 will shake up the laptop market

Starting 26 October, laptop shoppers will be inundated with a flood of new PCs designed around Microsoft's new operating system. In fact, I've counted about 50 new laptops, tablets, hybrids, convertibles and all-in-ones on my back-of-the-envelope list already.

(Credit: CNET)

A handful of these have already been announced, a healthy chunk will be announced early in October, and the rest will simply go on sale on 26 October, alongside Windows 8.

Having seen a good number of these upcoming systems in person, I can safely outline three big trend-lines that will drive laptop and related device sales through the Windows 8 launch season and into 2013. If you're looking to buy a laptop anytime soon, keep these in mind as you dig through the dozens of upcoming new choices.

Touchscreens on traditional clamshell laptops are going mainstream

Adding a touchscreen to a traditional clamshell laptop has always been an expensive novelty, at best. I can only recall seeing a handful over the past few years, and none of them made particularly good use of the added feature.

With its not-Metro tile interface, there's a lot more you can do in Windows 8 with your fingers, and nearly every PC maker is either adding touchscreens to its existing laptop line-up (usually as an added-cost option), or building entirely new models with it as a default.

After trying a handful out, the most surprising thing is that it's actually pretty useful, especially for flicking up and down long web pages. And some PC makers have been forward-thinking enough to re-design screen hinges, giving the display added resistance once you pass about 120 degrees, or so.

(Credit: Samsung)

Windows RT systems are going to be rare, and way too expensive

With full Windows 8 tablets and hybrid laptops coming in at very similar prices, it's hard to see exactly who Windows RT products (which use a ARM CPUs, instead of ones from Intel or AMD) are aimed at. In fact, every RT laptop/tablet I've seen recently was given essentially the same front-loaded pitch: "It comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed!" From there, your software options are considerably more limited, and the same presumably goes for accessories and peripherals.

With many RT products expected to sell for US$599 as a standalone tablet, with another US$150-$200 added on for a clamshell-style keyboard dock, you're looking at some serious sticker shock, especially when you consider what US$799 will buy in a standard laptop. The big wild card in this scenario is the Microsoft Surface RT tablet, which may undercut everyone else on price (or may not).

(Credit: CNET)

Expect a lot of me-too hybrids and convertibles

Start with a small 11- or 12-inch tablet-style screen connected via a couple of hooks and clasps to a keyboard dock (with an extra battery built into it). When connected, the entire thing folds down like a traditional laptop. To release the screen, press a chunky rectangular button just above the keyboard.

That pretty much describes a product coming from nearly every major PC maker, down to the physical shape and placement of the release button. Sure, there is a handful of unique designs, but the vast majority of what we've seen looks like it came out of a Microsoft focus group on what Windows 8 devices should look like.

Also, look for several similar "slider" laptops, with the screen sliding down over the keyboards, a couple where the screens fold back a full 360 degrees, and lots of similar-looking all-in-ones and ultrabooks.


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Andrew1953 posted a comment   

It will be a complex issue for the lay person to work out. Android,Windows 8,iOS 6,BB 10. Which syste, which device? You'll nead to study the field guide or risk winding up with a devic totally unsuited to your needs.

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