2012 CES Trends: Windows 8 Hardware Innovation

Over the last two weeks we’ve seen massive promotions and much fanfare around the Windows 8 launch. Here are just a few of the circulars and email promotions I’ve caught over this time.

One  thing somewhat unique about this Windows launch compared to previous Windows launches is hardware innovation.  Of course there is always some hardware innovation when new software launches.  This is particularly true with OS launches, but the hardware innovation we are seeing around this Windows launch is especially pronounced and I expect even more to come.

I would argue past Windows launches have largely been a software story.  Intuitively this makes sense. Windows is software.  I don’t know the official breakdown, but I would imagine packaged Windows software outsold new computers shipping with the new Windows software by a two-to-one margin (if not more).  Historically, consumers would largely buy the packaged software and upgrade their existing hardware.  For those who did buy new hardware, in many ways these new computers looked like the standard/traditional hardware they were already using. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of hardware innovation when it comes to form factor changes.

With Windows 8 we need look no further than Microsoft itself who with this Windows released entered into the hardware business with the release  of the Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows 8.  Beyond Microsoft Surface, we are seeing form factor hardware innovation from a variety of hardware partners.

gdgt recently reviewed Dell’s new XPS 12. The XPS 12 is a hybrid laptop/tablet wherein the screen rotates in order to behave more like a traditional tablet.  On the day Windows 8 launched in the U.S., I had the chance to demo Windows 8 running on a Samsung Slate. While the Samsung Slate was docked I was able to use a bluetooth keyboard and mouth in a desktop-like environment but I could also undock the device and use it in a completely tablet-like use environment.  I’m excited for computers like the XPS 12 and what they represent for hardware innovation.  Windows 8 has spurred a tremendous amount of experimentation.  While not everything will “stick,” some of it will.

We’ve already seen the important role touch capabilities are having on mobile/portable computing. I believe the future of what I refer to as static computing (ie using a computing device like a laptop or desktop in a static location) is also touch.  Put simply, touch provides another way for users to interact with devices. Voice and gesture are of course other ways in which one can interact and I believe both of these input technologies will eventually become standard on all computing devices.

While touch might not be the primary way in which consumers will interact with computer devices, it does represent an option that individuals can utilize on occasion.  In some instances it will be more efficient to interact with a computer by touching the screen than defaulting to the keyboard or mouse. These moves will become intuitive. I believe this is especially true with the generation of rising computer users who are first experiencing computing through touch interfaces.  As  I write this on a traditional laptop, my older two kids are in the same room using touch devices.  They’ve used keyboarded computing devices on occasion, but the vast majority of their computing experience has been with touch-enabled devices.

At the 2013 CES I expect to see hardware form factor experimentation continue and I believe from the 2013 CES we will see some winning designs to change the way we think about computing.