Windows 8 reshapes the laptop: Touch models on the rise

Laptops are taking on the attributes of tablets with Windows 8.

Acer Aspire V5 is a touch-capable Windows 8 laptop that sells for $699.
Acer Aspire V5 is a touch-capable Windows 8 laptop that sells for $699. Brooke Crothers

Windows 8 is all about touch. And that means a lot more touch laptops and hybrid devices are popping up at PC stores in the U.S.

Microsoft's brick-and-mortar and online stores are among the most aggressive at stocking up on touch-capable Windows 8 portables. Its online store now shows eight traditional (non-hybrid) clamshell laptops with touch screens. Those include the $499 Asus VivoBook X202E, the $899 Sony Vaio T13, and the high-end $1,349 HP Spectre XT TouchSmart.

Throw hybrids, or so-called "convertibles," into the mix and the number jumps to 16. Convertibles -- which include the HP Envy x2 and Dell XPS Duo 12 -- allow the device to switch from a typical laptop configuration to tablet-only mode.

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer shows off an Acer Aspire S7 touch-screen laptop at the company's Build conference this week.
Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer shows off an Acer Aspire S7 touch-screen laptop at the company's Build conference this week. Microsoft

"Our industry is rebuilding itself around new classes of devices," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this week in his keynote for the Build conference in Seattle. "With Windows 8 we built a generation of systems that embraces multiple worlds, the PC and the tablet...keyboard and touch, " he said.

And Microsoft is leading the way on hardware. With its novel keyboard/cover -- particularly the $129 Type Cover -- the Surface tablet can be used much like a laptop.

Best Buy is also rapidly changing the makeup of its laptop lineup. The online store now shows just about a dozen new touch-capable laptops.

The number of convertibles is also in the rise at Best Buy, including products like the Samsung Series 5 "Smart PC Tablet" and Asus VivoTab RT Tablet.

The big question is whether touch on laptops will give Microsoft and its partners an advantage over Apple, as none of Apple's MacBooks or iMacs have touch capability.

If consumers signal that they want touch with their laptops, then Microsoft has the chance to establish a clear lead over Apple.

"Touch is as big an addition as the mouse was more than 20 years ago. For many tasks, it's a better way to interact with the PC. Everything is different from here on out," said Mike Feibus, Principal Analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies in Scottsdale, Ariz.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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