- Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2 (10.1 inches, 1366 x 768, Atom, optional keyboard) doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the table. Pre-production models that were on display at IFA looked like run-of-the-mill Win8 tablets with a trough-docked optional keyboard. Few details, including pricing, are available at this point.
- Samsung has updated its Slate 5 (11.6 inches, 1,366 x 768, Atom, optional keyboard) and Slate 7 (11.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080, Core i5, detachable keyboard) tablets for Windows 8, with branding likely to be switched to "ATIV Smart PC" and "ATIV Smart PC Pro," respectively. Announced at IFA last week, both have Asus transformer-style hinges that use a mechanical lock -- and no other identifiable innovative improvements. Samsung originally announced that its new Slates, er, ATIVs would ship with a Samsung-built replacement for the Windows 8 desktop Start menu. That announcement has since been scuttled and roundly denied by Samsung reps. It would've been interesting to be a fly on Steve Sinofsky's wall when news about the Start menu replacement broke in Redmond. I'd guess it took all of about 10 seconds to get Sinofsky patched through to Lee Kun-hee in Seoul.
- Details about Sony's Vaio Duo 11 have just started to emerge. The Duo 11 (11.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080, Core i3-5-7, stylus) reprises the old slide-out keyboard shtick with a design that looks like it came straight from last year's Asus Eee Pad Slider. When you slide out the keyboard, the screen's stuck in one fixed location; you can't adjust the viewing angle. With a wide array of extras -- including 2 x USB 3.0, NFC, TPM chip, HDMI, and VGA (!) out -- of all the new Win8 boxes, this one appears to be the most likely competitor for Microsoft's Surface. This week. No pricing has been announced.
- The Toshiba Satellite U925t (12.5 inches, "HD", Core i5, stylus) and its European look-alike the U920t, sports a sliding keyboard that doesn't work anything at all like the Vaio/Eee Pad Slider. Revealing the keyboard on the U925t involves sliding the screen way back on a pair of rails, then tilting the screen up, in a method quite similar to last year's Samsung Slider 7. The railed approach accommodates a significantly larger keyboard than the Vaio's, but the action isn't as smooth or the feel as stable as the Eee Pad Slider.
That list isn't exhaustive -- there are Ultrabooks and laptops from Acer, a couple of IdeaPads from Lenovo, several All-In-Ones from Dell, Samsung, and Sony -- but it covers the high points of the new technology on offer. We're being offered touch-sensitive laptops and Ultrabooks, Transformer-style docked keyboards, a couple of sliders and loads of All-In-Ones -- in short, an entire litany of old Windows hardware designs that have never sold. Yes, there are some new twists -- the Janus headed Taichi, the 18-inch detachable Android tablet on an AiO -- but most of what's on offer has been around (and around and around) before.
It's hard to fault the manufacturers for dredging up their old designs, putting some new lipstick on the pig, and shipping. Perhaps Windows 8 will provide the new pixie dust that'll make the old hardware sell. But in a market dominated by slick, sleek, minimalist, and sizzling hardware, I think it's highly unlikely.
Assuming Microsoft knew about these designs six months ago, it's easy to see why the company has staked so much on the Surface. Windows 8 is screaming for simple, elegant, and capable hardware that can go head to head with the MacBook Air and iPad. Perhaps Microsoft can bring us a compelling new hardware design. The specs on the Surface certainly look inviting, with a modern tablet look and an unobtrusive keyboard. The demos held up. Perhaps Surface can carry the day and make Windows 8 a compelling choice in a side-by-side comparison with Apple products.
Perhaps. Unfortunately, we won't even see a Windows 8 Surface Pro on the shelves until next year.
It's going to be a long, cold Christmas.
This story, "'New' Windows 8 PCs: We've seen 'em before," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.