On the menu at CES: Chips and tablets with everything (Feature)
By Andy Goldberg Jan 5, 2011, 4:45 GMT
San Francisco/Las Vegas - For more than 30 years, the PC in its myriad forms has reigned supreme over the computing world.
But if one trend is apparent as the Consumer Electronics Show gets under way this week in Las Vegas, it's that the undisputed reign of the PC is fast rolling to a close.
The tablet computer revolution, spearheaded by the rapturous welcome given to Apple's iPad over the last seven months, is the clearest indication of that generational shift.
Technology companies of every ilk are using the biggest trade show of the year to bombard the 150,000 attendees with tablet computers of every size and shape. Emblematic of the transition are the plans of Intel and Microsoft, the duopoly that sat atop the PC world for decades.
Because the new platforms run on different kinds of chips than the PCs of old, Intel has completely revamped its architecture to meet the needs of tablet-makers.
According to Intel chief executive Paul Otellini, that initiative is starting to bear fruit. He said Wednesday that consumers will see more than 100 tablets this year that are based on the company's Oak Train architecture, which was only announced last year.
Microsoft is also shifting its perspective from the PC-only paradigm.
In his keynote address opening the trade show Wednesday night, chief executive Steve Ballmer announced a version of Windows that is optimized for the ARM chips that now run the majority of tablets.
'Windows has the breadth and depth and the flexibility to define and deliver this next generation of devices to customers through the innovations of our partners,' he said.
Microsoft needs the new Windows platform to be a success because the vast majority of the tablets now scheduled to hit the market will be powered by Google's Android operating system.
While many of those tablets seek to emulate the parameters and style of the iPad, others hope to put a stamp of their own on the fast-growing sector.
Taiwanese computer maker Asus hopes to bridge the tablet-netbook divide with products like the Eee Pad Slider, which features a slide- out keyboard, or the Transformer with a breakaway keyboard. Samsung showed off a tablet with a sliding keyboard.
Other interesting takes on the tablet idea include a dual-screen device from Acer, in which one screen converts to a keyboard when 10 fingers are placed on it. Motorola made an impact with its Xoom tablet, the first device to run Google's new operating system designed specifically for tablets.
Connected TVs are also on the march - allowing people to use the big screens to watch TV and access the internet - and providing yet another way to bypass the trusty old PC. Web-connected televisions are expected to see continued growth with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) forecasting that 52 percent of TV sets sold in 2014 would allow users to access the Internet.
Just 9 per cent, or 3.2 million, of the TV sets sold last year were Internet-enabled, according to the CEA, a figure expected to jump to 15 per cent, or 5.2 million, in 2011.
'Connected TVs embody computer power and online connectivity. More than half of televisions shipped will be Internet enabled in some way. It's really taking a share of that and moving it forward,' said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Electronics Association.
Smartphones are also offering a PC alternative as screens get bigger and brighter and processors get stronger.
Though Apple's absence from the CES has been widely noted, the sheer plethora of powerful new devices running Google's Android operating system made starkly clear that the iPhone is no longer the undisputed king of the mobile world.
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