On the surface, it's pretty surprising: The industry has cooked up a raft of new PCs, including various laptop-tablet hybrids, supposedly just for Windows 8. That's a lot of engineering to support the new features of a Windows release that has been panned so badly the word "Vista" comes to mind.
Look closer, however, and you'll see that nobody -- with the possible exception of Microsoft -- has dreamed up a truly "new" hardware home for Windows 8. We're looking at completely different Microsoft software being mashed up with hardware that, if you've been paying attention, has a decidedly deja vu feeling to it.
Note in particular that I'm talking about Windows 8 hardware, not Windows RT.
- Last June, Acer announced its new Windows 8 Iconia W510 -- a 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 tablet (thus not able to support Win8's 1,366-pixel width) with a detachable battery-toting keyboard that can be rotated up to 290 degrees. The W510 bears more than a striking resemblance to the older Windows 7 Iconia W500, which is a 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 tablet with a detachable 290-degree keyboard. Acer also announced the Iconia W700, a plain 11.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 tablet with a bulky, cumbersome docking/charging cradle that helps you prop it up in portrait or landscape mode. Want a keyboard? That'll take Bluetooth. The dock almost completely covers the Windows button.
- Also last June, Asus announced the Taichi, which is almost indistinguishable from an Asus Zen Ultrabook, except it has a two-sided screen. Pop open the lid, and you get two screens, Janus style, facing in two different directions. Close the lid, and you see just the slate side of the Taichi personality. The two screens can be operated separately or synchronously, a cute gimmick until you realize that both operators would view the screen at a nearly illegible 90-degree viewing angle. Only the "outside" screen is touch sensitive. Asus is also expected to ship the Transformer All-in-One, a big, boxy design with a detachable, luggable 18.4-inch display. Prototype demos show a button that can be pushed to switch the display between Windows 8 and Android. Take the display off the All-In-One base, and it reverts to Android with an available app that lets you use the Windows 8 base. All we know for sure about the internal workings is that the demo at Computex didn't work.
- Last week, Asus demoed its new Vivo Tab, 11.6 inches at 1,366 x 768, with an available transformer-style detachable keyboard dock/battery. It's not immediately clear to me how the Vivo Tab compares to the previously announced (but not shipped) Asus Tablet 810, but they both look a lot like netbooks, slightly warmed over.
- Then there's Dell and its hinged XPS Duo 12 -- the one with the flip-over 12.5-inch monitor on a swinging chicken-roasting rack, just like the Dell Inspiron Duo. (I call it the "Rube Goldberg design.") Don't remember the Inspiron Duo? Not to worry, you'll see it again, this time running Windows 8. Dell hasn't been very forthcoming with details about the Duo 12, although we're promised Core i7 and "Full HD."
- Fujitsu is on the hook to release two Windows 8 machines -- the Stylus Q702 (11.6 inches, 1,366 x 768, transformer-style detachable keyboard/battery dock) and the 4.1-pound luggable LifeBook T902 (13 inches, 1,600 x 900, tilt and swivel) which is nearly identical to the Windows 7-based T901. Engadget bumped into working prototypes last week at the Hong Kong Computer & Communications Festival.
- Hewlett-Packard weighs in with the Me-2, uh, the Envy X2, an 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 hybrid with a transformer-style detachable keyboard/battery dock. HP also promises a 15.6-inch Ultrabook called the SpectreXT TouchSmart and a 14-inch TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, both of which appear to be nearly identical to their Windows 7 counterparts, although the Win8 versions have multitouch screens.