It's a software maker first and foremost, but Microsoft certainly has a vested interest in hardware.
Mooly Eden, head of Intel's PC unit, showed off an ultrabook with a transparent touchscreen last year.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)
Case in point: Digitimes has reported, citing sources, that Microsoft is "actively involved" in ultrabook product designs. The reason why the company is taking such an active role centres on Windows 8's touch-enabled features. When displays are touched in traditional clamshell notebooks, the screens will shake and move a bit, making it difficult to handle tasks. Microsoft has now placed more stringent specifications on vendors, according to Digitimes' sources, to ensure that the touchscreens deliver a more reliable experience.
The combination of ultrabooks and touchscreens is something that many vendors believe could be a key ingredient in the form factor's success. Last November, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, whose company developed the ultrabook specification, said that touch-based options will become increasingly important as the devices try to compete against traditional notebooks and Apple's own iPad.
"To do that, we have to get touch to a lower cost," Otellini said last year. "This is particularly important, as we move to the launch of Windows 8. The iPad and the iPhone have made touch a paradigm."
Although ultrabooks might not be direct competitors to Apple's iPad, they are trying to take on the MacBook Air. And although Apple has popularised touch-based functionality, the company has yet to deliver what Microsoft reportedly desires by bringing touch-enabled displays to its line of MacBooks. While it's possible that this might happen eventually, implementing touch functionality in an upright display is something that Apple doesn't seem all that keen to follow through on.
If Microsoft has its way, however, ultrabooks with touch displays might become far more prevalent in the coming quarters. According to Digitimes' sources, touch-enabled ultrabooks featuring displays of 13 inches or above could account for 30 per cent of all shipped models this year.