CES: 6 Windows Hardware Stunners

Microsoft had few announcements at CES but OEM partners brought out new Windows-based laptops and phones.

One of the publicly stated reasons Microsoft is bowing out of the Consumer Electronics Show after 14 years of regular pre-show keynotes is that the early January conference doesn't really fit Microsoft's product release cycle.

While Microsoft had little to announce directly other than Kinect for Windows, OEM partners had plenty to show off.

Windows 8 and its tablet potential is the buzz of the industry, but with the product only entering beta in late February, OEMs' focus on near-term deliverables for CES meant that the hottest Windows-based devices were laptops, especially of the ultrabook variety, and smartphones.

In her portion of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote presentation, Tami Reller said, "We also have a lot of very cool things going on today, and nowhere is this more illustrated than through the range of stunning PCs that are available right now." Reller, CFO and chief marketing officer of the Windows and Windows Live Division, specifically called out three PCs: the Samsung Series 9, the Hewlett-Packard Co. Envy 14 Spectre and the Dell XPS 13.

Samsung Series 9

Samsung Series 9
The Samsung Series 9 is a half-inch thick, weighs less than 2.5 pounds with its aluminum unibody and is available with a 15-inch screen.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

HP Envy 14 Spectre
HP went with a glass design for the Envy 14 Spectre, and fits a 14-inch screen in a unit that is rated for up to nine hours of battery life.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13
The Dell XPS 13 is less than a quarter-inch thick, weighs 2.99 pounds, has a 13.3-inch display and includes a rapid response SSD drive.

Vizio All-in-One Prototype

The main PC surprise of the show was that Irvine, Calif.-based electronics company Vizio is planning to enter the PC market. The company used the Las Vegas event to preview an all-in-one PC, a notebook and a premium notebook, along with a 10-inch tablet. Most of the Vizio devices are scheduled to arrive in the spring.

Ballmer characterized those and other PCs highlighted in a keynote video as "thin and light." Other observers noted how similar many of the new PCs are in appearance to Apple MacBook Air laptops, which trail Windows in market share but seem to be exerting a heavy influence on device design. Other PCs that Microsoft spotlighted during CES included the Acer Aspire S5, ASUS UX Zenbook UX21, Sony Z Series, Lenovo A720 and the Toshiba Z830.

Microsoft generated more buzz with Windows Phone, with a surprisingly quick product refresh from HTC and a largely unexpected new Nokia smartphone for the U.S. market. Both devices will be coming from AT&T and are the first Windows Phones to run on a 4G LTE network.

HTC Titan II

HTC Titan II
The new HTC smartphone is the Titan II, unveiled a mere two months after the first Titan became available on AT&T's network. Like the original, the Titan II sports a massive 4.7-inch display. Differentiating the big phone is a 16 megapixel rear-facing camera with high-end photography features.

Nokia Lumia 900

Lumia 900
Nokia's new phone is the Lumia 900, which is also distinguished from the earlier Lumias by the presence of a front-facing camera -- a key feature for Windows Phones given Microsoft's emphasis on Lync and recent purchase of Skype. The Lumia 900 also has a 4.3-inch screen and comes in both black and cyan. Also during the week of CES, the Lumia 710, Nokia's first phone in the United States, became available in the U.S. through T-Mobile.

More from CES 2012:

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.