Tablets, chips share early limelight at CES

Tablets are taking center stage at CES, at least so far, but big announcements from Microsoft and buzz around chips are also in the limelight.

About 100 new tablets are expected to be on display at the show this year. Asustek kicked off the tablet announcements, unveiling four on Tuesday, including the Eee Pad Slider that uses the Honeycomb version of Android, the first designed for tablets. Another from Asustek, the Eee Slate E121, runs Microsoft’s Windows 7.

Lenovo is showing off its first tablet, the LePad, and said it has plans to launch more tablets later this year. The LePad runs Android 2.2 and will initially be offered in China. The company hasn’t yet decided if it will sell it elsewhere.

Toshiba demonstrated a tablet that doesn’t yet have a name. The demo device runs Android 2.2 but Toshiba hopes to update it to Honeycomb for the launch, expected around the second quarter.

The second largest tablet vendor, Samsung, announced a Wi-Fi- only Galaxy Tab, which includes a 7-inch screen, and runs on Android 2.2. The company already offers a Galaxy Tab which includes Wi-Fi and 3G. It will be available for purchase in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011, but further details were not provided.

Samsung also announced the sleek 9 Series ultraportable laptop, which has been termed a Macbook Air killer. The laptop includes a 13.3-inch screen, weighs less than 3 pounds, and is only 0.64 inches thick. And like the Macbook Air, it is also expensive, priced at $1,599. It will be available in Spring.

A new tablet player, Motorola, showed the Xoom, which has a 10.1-inch touchscreen and runs on the Google’s Android 3.0, formerly called Honeycomb. The tablet will launch as a 3G/Wi-Fi device by the end of March, and upgrade to 4G LTE in the upcoming quarter. The device will perhaps be the first Android 3.0 tablet on the market. Pricing information was not provided.

In chip news, Intel unveiled Sandy Bridge. The family of chips will include dual-core, quad-core, 6-core and 8-core chips primarily for desktops and laptops.

Taiwanese electronics maker Micro-Star International on Tuesday was one of the first at CES to unveil laptops and motherboards with the new Intel processors. HP and Lenovo have already announced PCs based on the Sandy Bridge chips.

Intel also said that more than 100 tablets using its Oak Trail chips are being designed with some due to ship in the first half of this year. The chips were designed specifically for tablets, a market in which Intel trails Arm.

But in a blow to Intel, Microsoft announced at CES that its next version of the Windows operating system will run on Arm processors. Microsoft’s desktop OS has run only on X86-type processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. But those chips tend to use more power than Arm processors that power tablets and mobile phones.

A Windows OS based on Arm could better position Microsoft to pursue the tablet market, where it lags behind trendsetter Apple and Android, which continues to grow in market share.

One CPU that will support Arm-based Windows will be Nvidia’s new CPUs for PCs and servers, which were announced on Wednesday and are code-named Denver. The CPUs aim to break the Wintel hegemony, and place the Arm architecture at the top of the PC ladder.

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