Computex came and went earlier this month, marking yet another year of electronic gadgets and “booth babes,” who don mini-skirts and high heels and hold presentations at exhibition displays.
Male geeks might have loved it, but for the average Joe and Jane, the world’s second largest computer exhibition was mostly a staid and boring affair, with its endless, mind-numbing displays of circuit boards, cables and obscure electronics components.
What Computex did offer, though, was a glimpse of the near future for consumer electronics, particularly portable and home computers. Here are a few highlights from this year’s event.
Much of the attention this year was on the upcoming generation of “ultrabooks,” chipmaker Intel’s marketing nickname for the latest generation of laptops.
The fuss wasn’t just over how much lighter and thinner notebooks are becoming. Many of the computers on display at Computex were running Windows 8, Microsoft’s new touchscreen-friendly operating system that is set to be released to the public later this fall.
All eyes were on Taiwan’s top PC manufacturers, Acer (宏碁) and Asus (華碩), both of which unveiled new product lines.
Acer’s Aspire S7 laptop was the most impressive of the company’s products previewed at Computex.
The S7s are laptops with touchscreens. Both the 11-inch and 13-inch models tout slim profiles and handsome unibody metal designs, and, refreshingly, they don’t come across as slavish imitations of the Macbook Air.
We were allowed some brief hands-on time with the S7s at Acer’s press conference. The big novelty of these notebooks is the ability to navigate with either the touchpad or the touchscreen.
Even though they’re not the first laptops to be made with touchscreens, the S7s are among the first I’ve seen that have the potential to work well. The touchscreens are as responsive as an iPad, thanks to Windows 8, whose interface shares a similar design to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software.
The demo models, which sported high definition displays, offered a nice first impression (the 11-inch S7 in particular looks like a nice alternative to the Macbook Air), but it’s still too early to tell whether these are going to be worth buying. Acer has yet to reveal prices or technical specifications, and Windows 8 is not quite ready for prime time. The company also unveiled several all-in-one PCs and tablets running on Windows 8, which is set for release sometime this fall.
Meanwhile, Acer’s competitor Asus created a bigger buzz at Computex with the Asus Taichi, a laptop that converts into a tablet. The Taichi has two screens: one facing the keyboard, like a normal laptop. When you close it shut, there’s a screen on top, and the computer becomes a touchscreen tablet.
The Taichi, which Asus says will be as thin as its Zenbook laptops, looks like an impressive bit of engineering. Though the Taichi’s biggest virtue is as a laptop/tablet combo — it’s laptop when you’re sitting at a desk and it’s a tablet when you’re sitting on the couch — Asus oversold its usefulness.
At its press event, the company staged a demonstration in which two female models showed how one could “share” the Taichi. One person played the “busy mother,” sitting at the computer typing, while the other person was the “daughter,” watching a movie on the back of the screen. The idea of sharing a two-sided laptop screen didn’t strike me as very practical, as you’d have to be careful to tilt the screen at the right angle. Imagine someone tapping or watching the back of your laptop screen while you’re working away. For me, this might be amusing, for, oh, a minute or so.