Touch is coming in a big way to Windows 8 laptops. And if Intel has its druthers, pretty much everything coming down the pike will be touch-capable.
Brooke CrothersFormer CNET contributor
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.
The important thing to remember here is that the Intel processor and related electronics are still under the keyboard, so these systems will tend to be higher performance because the design affords more opportunity to keep the processor cool.
Detachable: These are essentially tablets with well-integrated keyboard docks. They would include the new Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, HP's Envy x2, and Samsung ATIV Smart PC.
Detachables put the processor electronics behind the screen. And that usually forces PC makers to use a lower-performance, more power efficient chip like Intel's "Clover Trail" Atom.
One of the few exceptions to that rule is the ThinkPad Helix, which manages to cram a mainstream Intel Ivy Bridge chip into a tablet.
And, by the way, Intel is now trying to get more PC makers to do this. It has just begun shipping a new Y series Ivy Bridge processor that is more power efficient than the one in the Helix.
Still, battery life won't be terrific, and Ivy Bridge chips -- even the most power-efficient ones -- still require fans to keep them cool.
Intel casts wide net in CES 2013 presser (pictures)
Touch-screen laptop: This is a traditional clamshell laptop with a touch screen. There are already lots of these out there, including the Sony Vaio T13 Series, the Acer Aspire S7, the Asus VivoBook X202E, and the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart.
And expect a lot more. Maybe by this time next year, the preponderance of laptops on display at your local Best Buy will have touch screens.
Tablet: And then there are devices that are marketed as standalone Windows 8 tablets. These would include HP's ElitePad 900 and Dell's Latitude 10 tablet.
Tablets that can run the full version of Windows 8 (based on Intel chips) and Windows RT tablets (based on ARM chips) will offer good battery life and a lightweight, slim design but won't be very fast. That is, don't expect them to multitask Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and other demanding applications without bringing the device to its knees.
Not every laptop will go touch, of course. High-end gaming lappies and business portables will be available with non-touch screens for the foreseeable future. But I suspect that, eventually, even these will go touch.