For over 30 years now, Microsoft has been at the center of Information Age activity, so when you want a sense of the current “state of the PC,” that’s where to look. On Thursday, August 23rd, the company debuted its new logo (“25 years in the making”) in preparation for the October 26th launch of Windows 8. Every Microsoft product and service – from Office and Windows 8 on your desktop PC rental, to Windows Phone 8 on your cell, to every single Xbox game – will share this common look and feel. A Microsoft blog post sounded positively Apple-like in touting the “familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs” that is expected to result from the new OS.
We’ve blogged about the trends in hardware for 2012, so you likely know that the “next big thing” is actually the “next small thing” – the ultrabook. To achieve a svelte form factor, manufacturers are largely dispensing with optical drives, which are themselves starting to fade away as flash memory gets cheaper and broadband more widespread. Along with its near-monopoly as the pre-installed OS in PCs, Microsoft is positioning itself as the middleman between users and every type, size, and style of digital device, from phones to tablet PCs.
A white-hot niche
In mid-May we blogged about how the Asus Zenbook was heads and shoulders above most ultrabooks. In just the last few months, however, other manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon with gusto. Ergonomics seem to be fairly well established – size, thickness, weight, etc. – but there is no uniformity whatsoever on what ports are supplied, whether they’re standard size or mini, how well the keyboard works, or the accuracy of the multi-gesture trackpads. Still, whether you want to buy or rent laptops, you can now give consideration to light, nimble and powerful units from Dell (XPS 13), Lenovo (IdeaPad U300S), Samsung (Series 9) and others, including the one that started it all in the non-PC world - the MacBook Air.
Remember, too, that graphics performance has been boosted on many of the higher-end models, giving these small form-factor devices enough oomph to output to plasma display rentals (and a few even have full-size VGA out, meaning no adapters to lose). In fact, it’s the visual dimension that Windows 8, with its “Metro” style and colorful icons, is using to communicate its new, improved wonderfulness to (hopefully) new throngs of Microsoft fans. The new ultrabooks are going to show off Microsoft’s new logo and now OS to great effect, even as the firm tries to hypnotize the world into forgetting the word “Metro.” Well, we’ll see soon enough if the public “gets it.”