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.
"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.