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Windows 8 tweeners take on Apple

Next Apple-Microsoft battle royale: tablets and tweeners.

Acer Aspire touchscreen ultrabook.
Acer Aspire touchscreen ultrabook. CNET Asia

Tablet or tweener? Does the Microsoft camp's convergence argument win the day?

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been clear about tablet-laptop convergence: not interested.

But Microsoft, Intel, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and a long list of PC makers are. Very.

That would be due to Windows 8 and its touch-centric Metro interface, of course. This is driving PC makers to come up with novel hybrid (i.e., tweener) designs that function as both a tablet and laptop, as was amply demonstrated at Computex this week.

There will basically be two choices offered.

--Products like the Acer Aspire S7 that are ultrabooks with touchscreens.
--And more extreme designs, i.e., true convertibles like the Asus dual-screen Taichi.

I like the idea of an ultrabook with a touchscreen. I mean, why not offer a product with that option? It's silly not to.

That said, I do see hurdles for the products that take convergence a step further. It's really hard to completely smash two opposing usage modes together. In that sense, Tim Cook may be right: PC makers will be hard pressed to come up with anything as elegant as the iPad, or as popular.

But getting back to what I like about Windows 8. I've had a few chances to use the Samsung Series 7 Slate running early versions of Windows 8.

It's the fastest, smoothest experience I've had on a tablet yet. Bar none (that includes my third-generation iPad that I use every day).

The video below offers a brief demonstration of the browsing experience.

And I also like the fact that I can jump from Metro to the more traditional Windows desktop. (Note: Some reviewers may gripe about this, but it's really very easy to get to the traditional Windows desktop or navigate around Metro in general.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Samsung slate uses an Intel 1.6GHz Core i5 "Sandy Bridge" processor and is pricey at about $1,300. But I expect that Ivy Bridge-based ultrabooks with touchscreens will be even faster -- and cheaper.

And Windows 8 tablets will certainly be less expensive.

All in all, I'm looking forward to Windows 8 touchscreen-equipped ultrabooks, tweeners, and whatever other design innovation the new operating system engenders.