Dell waited a bit before bringing out its ultrabook and I've been using a manufacturing prototype for several weeks now. This is one of those unusual no-compromise products in that it appears to have been built with both the consumer and the business in mind. XPS is a Dell brand targeted at Apple levels of lust, but increasingly it has mid-market business specifications. Dell reports that sales have increased on this line of products 207 percent year over year, so something must be working.
With nearly 9 hours of battery life and a sub-3-pound carry weight coupled with the distinctive XPS brushed metal design language, this is a product that actually does a nice job of being attractive and practical. It is also a technology showcase for Dell in that it has location awareness (Skyhook), Smart Connect (wakes up to check email) and facial recognition security software built in. It also has a 300 nit screen, which is far brighter than most notebooks, making it more useful outside.
I expect this product showcases an early indication of how aggressive Dell is expecting to be in 2012.
This was the coming-out party for Windows 8 and the last opening keynote by Microsoft at CES. This is big and the company is pulling out all of the stops. This is the first operating system from Microsoft since the 1990s that is designed to work on something other than x86 and the first one that has favored touch over mouse, making it as big a gamble as Windows 95 when it shifted focus to the mouse and away from the old command line interface.
There is a lot of interesting technology on the CES show floor, suggesting that we may be using our eyes (I saw Tobii eye-tracking control demonstrated - it is pretty cool) or hands instead of a mouse on Windows 8 to avoid the cost and problems of touchscreens in some use cases. The beta schedule for Windows 8 has leaked and we are a little over a month from the start of that cycle (if this is accurate). A refresh of the top five Windows 8 features can be found here and they do include the Gaze interface.
At CES, NVIDIA and TI were showcasing Windows 8 on ARM and word is that it is on track for release with the x86 version. All in all, that means many more changes are due this year in both hardware and software than we have had in a long time.
We are at the start of CES and there will be more coming out of CES that you'll likely have to consider. I still think the most interesting will be the hybrids and the possibility of a new "gaze" interface.
Fortunately, technology continues to drop in price and you have to admit that the idea of a having a laptop that could embrace both notebook and tablet use cases would sure be nice. Of course, I'm still waiting until they must build the technology into my glasses and let my body generate the power. I'm guessing I'll be waiting for that until 2013.
Of course, the thing the folks at CES were raving about at the show was the new personal HD drone from Parrot. I think every IT shop should have one, if only to buzz bomb the folks in engineering. Is this a geek show or what?