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Microsoft's Presence Lives On at CES with Windows 8.1 Devices

After two decades of kicking off the annual Consumer Electronics Show with the opening keynote, Microsoft last year bid the largest tech confab in the U.S. adieu. Even with the first CES without Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer on stage, and no Microsoft booth in the exhibit hall, the company's presence still loomed large in Las Vegas this week.

A number of key Microsoft partner PC makers rolled out a surprisingly plentiful number of new tablets, convertible PCs, laptops and even some desktops running the recently released Windows 8.1 (and plenty of Android-based tablets). All the new Windows devices in the pipeline should substantially bolster Microsoft's client platform.

Asus, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba are among those that released new Windows 8.1 devices at CES. Dell was relatively quiet, having rolled out an extensive Windows 8.1 lineup in October. However it did introduce a gaming system from its Alienware division.

Though CES emphasizes consumer wares, many of the new Windows 8.1 devices are targeted at business and commercial users, especially now in the BYOD age.

One introduction that raised eyebrows at CES (as reported Wednesday) was the first Intel-based dual-boot convertible laptop/tablet that can run both Android 4.2.2 and Windows 8.1, though not simultaneously, from Asus. Asus' new Transformer Book Duet TD 300 got a substantial amount of buzz and now many are wondering whether other such devices will become a trend.

With so many new Windows 8.1 tablets and PCs at CES, it suggests Microsoft's Surface tablets haven't caused vendors and partners to abandon Microsoft's Windows for Android devices. That could still happen over time. But, so far, it apparently hasn't. Here are some products showcased at CES:

Panasonic Toughpad Is the FZ-M1
Always a favorite of those who require a device that can withstand rugged use is Panasonic's Toughbook line. The new Toughpad FZ-M1 is a 7-inch tablet that Panasonic says is designed to work in any condition.

The 1.2-pound Toughpad FZ-M1 is powered by an Intel Core i5 vPro processor and runs the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. It comes with 8 GB of RAM, a 128/256 GB solid-state drive and a 1280 x 800 10-point multi-touch display.Panasonic claims a durability rating of MIL-STD-810G at a five-foot drop.

It also supports an optional dedicated GPS, barcode reader, NFC reader, SmartCard reader, 10-foot range RFID transmitters, magnetic stripe reader and multicarrier-embedded 4G LTE wireless connectivity. Due out this spring, the starting price will be $2,099.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Edition
Lenovo continues to modernize the ThinkPad, which is now available in numerous sizes. The new ThinkPad 8 brings the form factor down to an 8.3-inch device with a 1920 x 1200 display. It is made of aluminum and can function in three modes: desktop, tent and tablet mode.

The ThinkPad 8 is powered by an Intel Atom processor and is available with up to 128 GB of storage, a micro USB 3.0 port and LTE connectivity. Pricing will start at $399. It will compete with the Dell Venue Pro 8. Asus also showcased a similar form-factor tablet, the VivoTab Note 8. It will top out at 64 GB of storage. Asus didn't disclose pricing and availability.

HP's Second-Generation Workstation
Hewlett-Packard launched the second version of its 27-inch HP Z1 desktop workstation. Due to ship in late January, the Z1 G2 starts at $2,000 and is targeted at CAD specialists, graphic designers and those who require compute-intensive performance.

The Z1 G2 is available with Intel Core and Xeon processors, ECC memory and RAID storage configurations. For those with more mainstream requirements, HP also launched the HP 205 and ProOne 400, the latter available with either a 19- or 21.5-inch display. The HP 205 comes in somewhat smaller at 18.5 inches and is powered by an AMD E-Series dual-core processor. It will start at a reasonable $400.

Sony Flips Again
Following up its fall launch of Flip PCs, Sony added the VAIO Fit 11A, an 11-inch iteration of its lineup. It is a convertible PC/tablet hybrid and compliments a line of systems in that family that include 13-, 14- and 15-inch systems. The 2.82-pound Vaio Flip PC will start at $799 and is slated to ship in late February.

Toshiba's Satellite and Tecra
If you're looking for a workstation-class Windows 8.1 mobile system, the Tecra W50 is designed for graphics-intensive applications. It's among the first to have a 15.6-inch Ultra-HD display with a 3840 x 2160 resolution. Ultra-HD digital displays have typically only been found in high-end televisions to this point.

The Tecra W50 is powered with an Intel Core i5 fourth-generation processor enhanced with an NVIDIA Quadro K2100M GPU and 2 GB of dedicated memory. One thing it will lack is a touch display. If that's a deal breaker, Toshiba also launched at CES a 4K display in its new Satellite P50t. Both will be available later in the year. Pricing wasn't disclosed.

That's just a handful of Windows 8.1 systems and devices to show up at CES. My colleague Scott Bekker at sister publication Redmond Channel Partner has showcased some others.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/10/2014 at 1:12 PM


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