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Intel shows off multitouch ultrabooks at CES

Chip giant says that 60 ultrabooks will be available this year, including those that combine a keyboard and touch-screen interface.

Mooly Eden, the head of Intel's PC unit, shows off a concept ultrabook that has a transparent touch screen and keyboard at a press conference at CES.
James Martin/CNET

Intel today said that as many as 60 thin and sleek ultrabooks will be available this year based on its latest mobile processors.

During a press conference at CES today, the chip giant today at CES talked up the performance and convenience of ultrabooks. Inspired by the MacBook Air, ultrabooks are thin and light laptops with a full keyboard that promise a quick boot-up and longer battery life.

Last year, tablets dominated CES hardware demos but this year many ultrabooks are on display. Intel estimates there are 15 models are already available and its processor roadmap will bring the third generation of ultrabooks by next year. There are 75 ultrabooks now in design, according to Intel.

The Nikiski concept ultrabook can be accessed from a touch screen on the cover to operate the device. James Martin/CNET

In the second half of this year, Intel said that ultrabooks based on its Ivy Bridge processor will be available, followed by Intel's Hawell processor which is expected to reduce idle power consumption significantly.

Intel also announced an identity protection platform which lets a person to swipe a credit card by tapping the ultrabook and it will authenticate with a service online.

New interface designs
During a demonstration, the company showed off concept ultrabooks running Windows that let people touch the screen to scroll through windows as a person would navigate a tablet.

In another concept called the Nikiski, Intel executives demonstrated an ultrabook with a narrow touch pad in addition to a keyboard and regular display. The device has a cut out in the top of the clamshell so that the touch pad is available to users when the device is closed.

When closed, the touch pad shows the tile-based Metro interface of Windows 8 to let people get quick control of the device.

An ultrabook with a touch pad. James Martin/CNET

In a demo from its labs, Intel showed off the ability to control a PC without a gesture interface. An Intel executive operated a virtual sling shot in a game without a mouse by moving his hand and fingers held a few inches from the ultrabook screen.

The company also announced a deal with Nuance to make voice recognition operate natively on an ultrabook without the need for a headset. The companies said it will support eight languages but didn't indicate when the feature would be available.

To promote ultrabooks, Intel is launching a "new era" partner marketing meant to play up the convenience of ultrabooks and media-creation capabilities. That program will include a kiosk with a gesture interface that will allow people to take a virtual look at an ultrabook by spinning it around using a mouse-free controller, resembling the hands-free controller with Microsoft's Kinect video game.

Marketing executive Kevin Sellers hinted that pop art will participate in Intel CEO Paul Otellini's keynote tomorrow.

For the blow by blow of Intel's press conference and CNET commentary, check out the live blog.