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Apple envy? Microsoft exec cites MacBook Air design

Software giant singles outs the MacBook Air as a design benchmark for one of the best Windows 8 tablets.

HP's Envy x2 tablet in its keyboard dock.  In the same league as the MacBook Air?
HP's Envy x2 tablet in its keyboard dock. In the same league as the MacBook Air?

At least one Microsoft executive believes that Apple designs are good enough to cite as a yardstick.

After revealing that Windows Blue would officially be called 8.1 at the JP Morgan Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference on Tuesday, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Tami Reller moved on to the topic of tablets, convertibles, and detachables.

"The HP envy x2 is a classic example of a beautiful detachable. When the tablet and base are together it looks like a MacBook Air competitor," she said.

How good is the Envy x2's design? "This 11-inch ultraportable laptop is cute, well-constructed in largely brushed aluminum, and, yes, pretty sexy," said CNET Reviews.

And it definitely trumps the Air in one respect: it's a true hybrid. As Reller said, it can be both a standalone tablet (it weighs in at 1.5 pounds as a tablet) and laptop.

But not all the comparisons are favorable. The Envy uses a relatively slow Intel Atom processor (the Air packs a faster Ivy Bridge chip) and in laptop mode it weighs 3.1 pounds versus the comparable 11.6-inch Air, which weighs 2.4 pounds.

Some might also dispute a comparison to the MacBook Air on aesthetic grounds.

That said, HP is on to something. The Envy x2 with Intel's upcoming quad-core Bay Trail Atom chip -- a complete redesign of the Atom micro-architecture -- might be worth a closer look.

MacBook Air.
MacBook Air. Apple