PC makers look to cash in on Windows 7 hype

New PCs take advantage of a snappier user interface, touchscreen support, and better graphics capabilities offered in Windows 7

PC makers will ship new laptops on Thursday to coincide with the release of Microsoft's Windows 7 in an effort to drum up excitement around the new OS.

Many have called Windows 7 the best and fastest operating system from Microsoft since Windows XP. PC makers intend to cash in on the hype surrounding the OS and improvements that include a snappier user interface, touchscreen support, and better graphics capabilities.

[ Watch InfoWorld's 10-minute video guide to the top 20 features of Windows 7. | Get the full scoop on the new Windows 7 with InfoWorld's "Windows 7: The essential guide" compendium and the 21-page "Windows 7 Deep Dive" PDF report. ]

A few PCs that will ship on Thursday include unique features that take advantage of those features, including a 3D laptop from Acer and a touchscreen PC from Hewlett-Packard. Lenovo will ship new laptops for small and medium-sized businesses looking to upgrade from the Vista OS.

There are also some interesting deals being offered by stores in the U.S. Best Buy is offering what it calls a "PC home makeover" package, which bundles a desktop, netbook, laptop, monitor and networking equipment for $1,199.

"For the price of one average Mac, you can outfit your entire family with three great Windows 7 PCs and a home network," said Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc in a blog entry on the Windows Team Blog site. Price notwithstanding, Microsoft's pitch may not move dedicated fans of Apple, which is known for its unique Mac designs and strong customer support.

Nevertheless, some new PCs try to get a leg up on the Macs. Acer's Aspire 5738DG can display movies and games in 3D while allowing everyday applications to appear in their usual 2D format. The laptop has a 15.6-inch screen with a special 3D coating, as well as software and special glasses from a company called TriDef to enable the 3D experience. The laptop, a desktop replacement running on Intel Core 2 Duo processors, delivers images "that literally pop from the screen," according to Acer.

The TriDef system can take standard 2D content and make it appear 3D. The laptop is priced starting at US$799, and is available at a few retail stores, Acer said. The company didn't comment on worldwide availability.

HP will start shipping a new multitouch-enabled all-in-one PC on Thursday. The TouchSmart 600xt multitouch PC is powered by Intel processors and is priced starting at $1,049. It comes with a 23-inch screen on which multiple fingers can be used to manipulate images, scroll through documents or zoom into maps. Touch can also be used for applications like Twitter or to view videos from sites like Hulu. The PC also connects to game consoles like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii for users to play games.

Upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista could be difficult, so HP is also offering some help. The company has a support board where community members can ask experts and company representatives about transitioning to Windows 7. The company is also maintaining a Windows 7 Web site where users can access other resources, including how-to videos.

Lenovo on Wednesday announced it would offer many of its existing ThinkPad and Idea-branded PCs with Windows 7. The company also announced new ThinkPad SL410 and 510 budget laptops, which include troubleshooting tools that ease system maintenance and tasks like data backup and recovery. This can help smaller companies that don't have an IT staff, Lenovo said. Starting at $529, the laptops will be available at retailers like Tiger Direct, Amazon.com and select Best Buy stores.

Lenovo said it has designed the laptops to work with Windows 7, improving speed and performance. The company claims that select Think PCs with Windows 7 boot 56 percent faster compared to running Windows XP or Windows Vista.

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