In case you were wondering what Intel was going to talk about at CES this year, its press conference was unambiguous, having been renamed the "Intel Ultrabook Press Conference." Okay then. And while most of their 2012 offerings look to be unsurprising, we did find a few potentially exciting gems.
Cellphones have touchscreens. Tablets have touchscreens. Those media PCs have touchscreens. People seem to really like touchscreens. So why don't we find them on laptops? Intel built themselves a few prototypes of touchscreen ultrabooks and handed them out to European focus groups, and found that people ended up using the touchscreen over the keyboard 75% of the time. They couldn't believe it (and neither do we), so they ran the experiment over again with totally different groups (in Asia) and got the same result. It's hard to argue with numbers like that, so expect to see touchscreen ultrabooks making an appearance this year.
Another feature that cellphone and tablets both have (that's been notably absent from laptops) is motion sensing. You now, like tilt sensors that allow you to easily flip through pics and play games. Maybe the reason for this is that laptops have been too heavy and bulky to manhandle like that, but Intel's betting that their super thin and light ultrabooks will lend themselves to being tilted.
Do you want a table, or do you want a laptop? No matter which one you pick, half the time you'll probably regret it, so why not just get yourself both at the same time. Intel showed off a prototype laptop that could fold in over on itself to turn into a tablet. Or was it a tablet that could fold out to turn into a keyboard? Nobody knows, not even Intel.
Kinect was a revolution for user interfaces, and it looks like the same type of technology is finally making it into the mobile space. From what we could tell, this is an actual 3D depth camera system like Kinect as opposed to just some fancy software tricks from a regular camera. This means that while it might not be quite as capable as Kinect, you ought to be able to make a lot of handy gestures (so to speak) like controlling your media by waving you arms instead of having to hoist yourself up off the couch.
My computer is clever enough to store my credit card information for me, but I'm too paranoid to let it, 'cause if my computer gets stolen, my credit card gets stolen too. Intel feels my pain, and they've come up with a way to physically link your credit card with your laptop. When you want to buy something online, just pull out your card and tap the palmrest of your laptop. Some sort of NFC or RFID info swap takes place, and you're done. This only works between a paired card and computer, so it makes your life easier but no less secure.
Thinner and ThinnerIf there's been one overall trend in the laptop/netbook/ultrabook niche it's been weight loss (and girth loss). Intel has been busy cutting things out and slimming things down. For example, more efficient chips that run cooler can work with smaller heatsinks. And by removing the CPU socket and mounting the chip directly on the motherboard, it's been able to shave off even more millimeters. Look for thin to get even thinner in 2012.
Posted on location at CES 2012 in Las Vegas. All photos by Evan Ackerman for DVICE.