At the Computex show in Taipei earlier this summer, leading manufacturers previewed the next generation of tablets, ultrabooks, hybrids and touch-screen technology designed to take advantage of Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system. Here are a few of the cool gadgets you can expect to see near the end of the year.
ASUS Taichi Dual-Screen Ultrabook. This could be the offspring of a tablet and an ultrabook, that super-thin and lightweight notebook. It has dual displays: The touch screen integrated into the top lets it function as a tablet when the cover is closed; the second, opposite the keyboard when it's opened like a clamshell, reveals a more traditional notebook. When open, the outside screen can be used either to project the inside display via a mirror function or to show different content on each LCD. No price or release date has been announced.
MSI Slider S20 Ultrabook. At its core, this is a fully functioning touch-screen ultrabook, with the ethernet, HDMI and USB ports to prove it. But the MSI Slider S20 converts to a tablet with a slide of the screen. When open, there's a slightly smaller-than-normal keyboard where you'd expect to find it. To convert it to a tablet, push the screen back until it lies flat and then slide it over the keyboard. The resulting lightweight tablet has a larger-than-average screen and the conveniences of a notebook. No price or release date has been announced.
Samsung Series 7 27-inch Touch Screen All-In-One. You read right: 27 inches. It's a computer built into a massive high-resolution touch-screen display, meaning there's no tower. The multi-touch display houses an all-in-one quad-HD desktop PC that responds to voice commands and hand gestures. It carries a $1,700 price tag and includes a Core i7 processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 1-terabyte hard drive. Expect it to hit shelves at the end of October.
ASUS Transformer AiO (All-In-One). This 18-inch multi-touch display monitor can be detached from a PC to function as a huge tablet. The display has an ARM processor running an Android operating system, while the base has an Intel processor running Windows. To work away from your PC, simply remove the monitor from its base station and it becomes a wireless display for the PC; users can continue to work as long as the tablet and PC remain on the same local network. The AiO is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter, but no price has been announced.
ASUS Vivo Tab RT. With one click, this ultra-thin, ultra-light tablet docks with a keyboard. It runs Windows RT, a mobile version of Windows 8 designed primarily for phones and tablets. Tiles are "live" and updated in real time, similar to Windows phones. An NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3 processor makes transitioning between applications snappy and fluid. The tablet's unique split-screen capability allows for true multitasking when you operate two applications simultaneously. For example, watch a movie while simultaneously typing a Word document. No price or release date has been announced.
Acer Aspire S7 Touch-Screen Ultrabook. Can't wait to get your hands on an ultrabook with a touch screen? The Aspire S7 is a fully functioning ultrabook equipped with either an 11.6- or 13.3-inch touch screen. It's expected to hit shelves at the end of September. Because Windows 8 isn't available until Oct. 26, it'll come equipped with Windows 7, with a Windows 8 "reboot" later. Expect to pay around $1,500, though lots of customization is available to increase performance and price.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair to homeowners and small businesses. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea.