LAS VEGAS--Computers and related hardware are rarely the top category at the annual CES, with last year being a possible exception, thanks to ultrabook hype. In 2013, we found laptops, desktops, and tablets in shorter supply than usual, with the main culprit being the October 2012 release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and the flood of new systems that went along with it.
The following are some of the big-picture trends and ideas we took away from the show, while a breakdown of our Best of CES nominees in this category is here.
Ultrabook DNA is everywhere
Even after criticism from some corners about the Intel's limited success in making the Ultrabook (a trademarked Intel marketing term) a household name, the program's fingerprints are practically everywhere. Thinner, lighter laptops at nearly every price were the norm at CES, even if they don't carry the official Ultrabook name and sticker (we're looking at you, HP Sleekbook).
Touch is practically a requirement
Woe be to the laptop that showed up at CES 2013 without a touch screen. One of the only notable examples of this feature faux pas was Dell's otherwise excellent XPS 13, which added a higher-res display, but no touch screen. We've tried navigating small Windows 8 laptops with only a touch pad or mouse -- it's no picnic. Other PC makers, including Samsung and Toshiba, were smartly revamping existing product lines with touch screens, while keeping prices steady.
Intel wants to lead laptop development
A fourth generation of Intel Core i-series CPUs, code-named Haswell, is part of Intel's road map for computers into 2014. Besides big claims about better battery life, notable are the new requirements Haswell systems will have for future laptops (such as this sharp-looking design concept) that want to use the ultrabook name -- these include touch screens and Wireless Display, a useful Intel remote screen tool we'd be happy to see get wider adoption.
Tablets-as-PCs are everywhere
Between the Razer Edge and Surface Pro on the small end and full-sized all-in-one desktop/tablet devices at the large end, PCs with the flexibility of tablets are on the rise. While it might seem like a gimmick at first, it turns out that a lot of these devices have myriad use cases and could lead to PCs becoming extremely modular soon enough. It might even lead to a true breaking down of boundaries across desktops, laptops and tablets.
Android tablets wait for Mobile World Congress
To say that traditional Android tablets had an underwhelming showing at CES 2013 would be an understatement. While there were plenty of great value tablets, there was nothing worth getting excited about. Luckily, the Nvidia Shield was there to at least get some really interesting conversations started. On to Mobile World Congress.