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Digital Life

PC makers place their bets on 2-in-1 devices

VINCENT CHANG finds out what is trending at Computex Taipei

Published on Jun 13, 2014 5:00 AM
Asus Transformer T300 Chi

Two-in-one devices were all the rage at Computex Taipei last week.

Almost all the major PC makers were at Asia's largest IT trade show, and except for Acer, all had some form of two-in-one device to announce. Such hybrids, which usually have detachable keyboards, can work as both tablet and laptop.

Of the key products announced, only an Asus notebook with a 4K display fits the bill of a conventional clamshell laptop. Tablets and hybrids formed the majority of the new devices revealed by Asus chairman Jonney Shih at its press conference.

Chief among Asus' offerings was the Asus Transformer T300 Chi, a two-in-one device that it expects to launch by the end of the year. The Chi is an ultra-slim 12.5-inch tablet that rivals the Apple iPad Air in thinness. Its keyboard can be detached to turn the device into a tablet.

Making this slim design possible was a new Intel Core M processor that was revealed by Intel president Renee James at her Computex keynote address.

Codenamed Broadwell, the Intel Core M is built using its most advanced 14-nanometre (nm) manufacturing process. It runs so cool that no fan is required. This allows PC makers to build devices as thin as the Chi.

Intel, which supplies most of the processors used in PCs, reiterated its belief that Moore's Law - that computing power doubles roughly every two years - is still relevant.

Ms James revealed that Intel is working towards a 10nm process that would lead to even more power-efficient chips.

Gartner research director Tracy Tsai said that the new low-power Core M chip, together with the touch-based Windows 8.1 platform, could help drive the transformation of tablets into full-fledged PCs. With the advent of smaller two-in-one hybrids, consumers now have a device that is equally adept at productivity and entertainment.

The flurry of new hybrids comes just weeks after Microsoft unveiled its Surface Pro 3 laptop-tablet hybrid. Given the lukewarm success of ultrabooks and Windows tablets, it remains to be seen if the hybrids will revive the flagging PC market.

Competition from smartphones and tablets has depressed PC shipments. In January, market research firm IDC estimated that global PC shipments will decline by 6 per cent this year.

Sony has already exited the PC business while Samsung is focusing on inexpensive Chromebooks and premium ultrabooks.

Lenovo, the world's largest PC vendor, was not at Computex, though the company already has a number of hybrid devices in the market, including the 11-inch Miix 2 that it launched recently.

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on June 11, 2014.