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Microsoft OEMs Unveil Potential Surface Rivals at Computex

Microsoft's original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) used this week's Computex trade show in Taipei to roll out a variety of enterprise-grade Windows 8.1 devices, some of them direct challengers to Microsoft's new Surface Pro 3.

Launched just last month, the Surface Pro 3 is being touted by Microsoft as a device that combines the functions of a commercial-grade laptop and a tablet. If any of the new hybrid PC models unveiled at Computex emerge as serious challengers to the Surface Pro 3, that would be a good thing for the advancement of Windows for Microsoft, according to David Willis, research chief for mobility and communications at analyst firm Gartner.

"Surface is a reference design for Microsoft's OEM partners," Willis said Tuesday at the Good Technology Xchange user conference in New York City.

For example, the new HP Pro x2 612, launched Wednesday, has a 12.5-inch full high-definition (FHD) display that's just slightly larger than the Surface Pro 3's. HP's detachable tablet is available with either an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor with vPro hardware-based security, solid-state drives and two USB 3.0 ports. It is also available with HP's UltraSlim dock. While the Surface Pro 3 is also available with a Core i7 processor, the other two CPUs should serve the needs of most mainstream business users. It's also possible that HP will later offer an i7-equipped model.

HP Pro x2 612

The HP Pro x2 612 will get 8.25 hours of battery life, though an optional power keyboard extends that to 14 hours, the company said. While the Surface Pro 2 is also available with a power keyboard, Microsoft didn't announce one yet for the new Surface Pro 3. In addition to offering hardware-based security with vPro, HP also added other features to offer improved security for the new device, including HP BIOS, HP Client Security, Smart Card Reader, HP TPM and an optional fingerprint scanner for authentication.

HP also announced a smaller version, the HP Pro x2 410, with an 11.6-inch display and a starting price of $849 for a unit with an i3 processor, 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. HP didn't announce pricing for the larger HP Pro x2 612, which ships in September.

HP Pro x2 410

Meanwhile, Asus rolled out several new Windows devices, including the new Zenbook NX500, available with an i7 quad-core processor. It supports optional NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M graphics adaptors with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. The new system also includes a Broadcom 3-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi, SATA 3 RAID 0 or PCIe x4 SSD storage.

Asus said the new NX500 is the first laptop offered by the company with a 4K/UHD display and VisualMaster technology. Its 15.6-inch device offers 3840x2160 resolution and an IPS display. The company did not disclose pricing or availability.

Asus Zenbook NX500

And complementing its Venue Pro 8 tablets, Dell also launched several Inspiron models, including the 7000 Series 2-in-1. Due to ship in September, it also is powered by Intel's latest Core processors and comes with a 13.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display. A lower-end 11.6-inch model, the 3000 Series, is also available with a starting price of $449.

Dell Inspiron 7000 Series 2-in-1

In all, Microsoft showcased 40 new Windows PCs, tablets and phones at Computex, according to OEM Corporate Vice President Nick Parker, who gave a keynote address on Wednesday.

"We're delivering on our vision today with rapid delivery of enhancements in Windows, new licensing and programs for an expanded set of partners," Parker said in a blog post.

In addition, Intel said more than a dozen Android and Windows tablets debuted at the conference, with 130 slated for this year overall. Dell also revealed it will offer an Ubuntu 14.04 LTS version of Linux as an option on its new Inspiron 2-in-1 laptop-tablets.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.