Asus’s chairman showed off its dual-booting Transformer Book Trio
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A laptop running both Windows 8 and Android; a 6in (15.2cm) smartphone; and a hybrid mouse-touchpad are some of the devices to have been unveiled ahead of the start of Computex.
The tech show in Taipei, Taiwan runs from Tuesday to Saturday.
Other launches included the first PCs to feature Intel’s new processor, codenamed Haswell.
The event comes a week after researchers suggested PC sales were declining faster than had been thought.
IDC predicted that shipments of personal computers – including both desktops and laptops – would fall by 7.8% over the course of 2013. The firm had previously forecast a 1.3% decline.
It added that it believed tablet shipments would grow by 58.7% over the same period, putting them on course to overtake PCs by 2015.
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Foxconn and Firefox
Taiwanese firm Hon Hai revealed it is to develop five devices powered by Mozilla’s new Firefox mobile operating system.
Hon Hai is perhaps best know for making Apple devices at its Foxconn factories in China. However, analysts have suggested the firm could be responsible for assembling as much as 40% of the world’s consumer electronics.
Hon Hai said its Firefox line-up would include smartphones and televisions. It added that they would be released under others’ brands, rather than its own.
The news offers a boost to Mozilla’s HTML5-based OS which it is pitching as an “open alternative” to Android for low-end handsets.
The move also allows Hon Hai to diversify its operations. That may reassure investors following a Wall Street Journal report last week which said Apple was increasingly sending orders to another Taiwanese firm, Pegatron.
That trend poses a potential problem for manufacturers since margins on tablets are often thinner than they have been accustomed to with PCs.
Acer kicked off the announcements with news of an 8.1in tablet capable of running the full Windows 8 operating system.
The firm described the Iconia W3 as being the first device that lets Microsoft’s desktop OS be used comfortably with “a single hand”.
The Taiwanese company also announced a 5.7in Android handset which it called its “first phablet” – signifying a cross between a phone and a tablet.
The Liquid S1 offers slots for two Sim cards – allowing consumers to use it with both their business and personal accounts. However, its 720p resolution screen and a lack of 4G support may limit its appeal to buyers wanting a high-end device.
Asus – which is also based in Taipei – announced the Transformer Book Trio as the centrepiece of its news conference.
The device is marketed as a three-in-one device which can be used as a desktop, laptop or 11.6in tablet. Its key feature is that it can run both the Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android OS and Windows 8.
The firm said users would be able to synchronise data between the platforms in order to enjoy a “smooth transition” between each mode.
Acer’s new line-up included what the firm said was the industry’s first 8.1in Windows 8 tablet
Other news from the firm included the Fonepad Note – a 6in phablet featuring a stylus and 1080p resolution display – and the Zenbook Infinity Ultrabook, a laptop which has toughened glass covering the back of its display. At 15.5m (0.61in) thick, it is thinner than Hewlett-Packard’s Envy Spectre 14 which pioneered the idea of a glass-clad laptop in 2012.
Perhaps more unusual was the company’s VivoMouse. The wireless device combines a circular touchpad and mouse into a single device which can be dragged across a surface or operated while being held in the air.
Asus said the controller was particularly suited for Windows 8 users whose PCs lacked touchscreen displays.
Other announcements included:
Dell’s 11.6in-screened XPS 11 laptop. The device’s screen is attached to its body with a hinge which allows it to be twisted round and folded back over the keyboard in a similar manner to Lenovo’s Yoga range.
Two new Android tablets from Samsung. The 8in and 10.1in Galaxy Tab 3 computers offer an alternative to the firm’s existing 7in model. The larger model is unusual in that it is powered by an Intel-made chip rather than one of Samsung’s own ARM-based processors.
Gigbayte’s Slate S10A – a 10in tablet which is one of the first Windows 8 devices to be powered by AMD’s new A4-1200 processor.
Asus said its VivoMouse touchpad-mouse hybrid was an “entirely new kind of pointing device”
Several of the new laptops used Intel’s latest generation of Haswell chips.
The US firm said last month that the processors would be 50% more power efficient than the previous generation, Ivy Bridge. However, full details about their capabilities are being held back until a press conference at Computex on Tuesday.
One analyst said the variety of computers on show was evidence of innovation, but warned that the amount of choice might end up leaving shoppers perplexed.
“Many users have already moved away from wanting a fully functional PC to an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone,” said Ranjit Atwal, an analyst at tech consultants Gartner.
“As a result that leaves a smaller audience and now the challenge for PC-makers is how to target this group, which is also – by its nature – likely to be more demanding.
“The problem is that by throwing so many different designs at the wall in an effort to meet the challenge of wooing them, they risk confusing shoppers rather than winning them over.”
The first HarmonyOS-powered phone from Huawei to arrive in 2021
Huawei’s HarmonyOS was unveiled last year during the Huawei Developer Conference and there’s a report claiming that this year’s conference on September 10 will bring the HarmonyOS 2.0. Interestingly, the rumor cites Richard Yu himself, the company’s CEO. And the first phone with the in-house operating system will launch as early as next year.
A smartphone running the said OS already exists and will likely hit the market next year along with a number of new devices including PCs, tablets, smart wearables and other IoT products. In fact, the first smartwatch running HarmonyOS is expected to make a debut until the end of this year.
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Samsung, LG experiment with virtual demo rooms of the future amid IFA conference
Tech events so far this year have made something clear — it’s not tough for giants like Apple and Samsung to go all-virtual with their launches. But one aspect of a typical tech event doesn’t translate to a computer or phones screen: the demo room. Samsung thinks it’s found a possible solution.
The company on Wednesday hosted a virtual Life Unstoppable event that coincided with the IFA electronics show in Berlin. It wasn’t a typical press conference like the company’s two Unpacked events held over the past month. Instead, Samsung used Epic’s Unreal Engine for games to build a virtual, 3D tour experience — a sort of choose-your-own adventure digital demo — for the media and its partners.
“Would we have done it if COVID wasn’t around? I’m not sure,” Benjamin Braun, Samsung’s head of marketing for Europe, said in an interview. “That is a different way of presenting new products that no one’s done before.”
The novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 25 million people around the globe, has caused companies to rethink their product launches. GSMA canceled Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest mobile show, a week before journalists arrived in Barcelona in late February. Instead of phone launches over the past several months, Apple, Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus all held digital events or introduced devices via press release.
IFA, taking place in Berlin from Sept. 3 to 5, is the only big tech conference with an in-person component this year. But only 5,000 people can attend, far below last year’s level of 200,000. While Samsung isn’t attending IFA, it’s still hosting events, like Life Unstoppable, that coincide with the shortened convention.
Samsung’s virtual house
Participants of Life Unstoppable will navigate around a digital house that contains about two dozen different Samsung devices, ranging from its $3,500 waterproof, outdoor Terrace TV to its updated Galaxy Z Fold 2 foldable phone. The visit revolves around a 45-minute guided tour, but participants are able to branch off on their own to look at the back ports of a TV or circle back to the kitchen to check out the appliances.
Samsung noted that “every detail,” from the home’s artwork to the furniture’s fabric, “was carefully selected following meticulous research into the type of guests that would be visiting Samsung House, resulting in a truly immersive home environment.”
There’s also an augmented reality component that lets people see what the new products, like TVs, will look like in their own homes. And Samsung noted that immersive 8D audio makes visitors feel like they’re really in the home
During Life Unstoppable, Samsung unveiled a host of new products, ranging from a smart video projector called The Premiere to its Wireless Charging Trio pad that can charge a phone, watch and earbuds at the same time. Samsung also introduced a new fitness band, the Galaxy Fit 2; a low-priced 5G smartphone, the Galaxy A42 5G; and the budget Galaxy Tab A7 tablet.
While Samsung determined Life Unstoppable was the best format for IFA, Braun said, it may go a different route with CES and other trade shows.
“We constantly need to force evolution, force innovation, not only in our products but also in the way we present ourselves,” Braun said. “At some point, once COVID is under control and we’re back to potentially physical [events], then we need to rethink them as well. How do we merge the two?”
LG’s ‘virtual exhibition’ and IFA’s ‘Xtended Space’
Samsung isn’t the only company trying to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation by creating a virtual experience for regular show attendees to enjoy in lieu of IFA this year.
On Tuesday, LG launched its IFA “virtual exhibition,” demonstrating its latest product lineups within a realistic rendering of its usual IFA home — the Berlin Messe’s Hall 18.
First impressions show this to be an improvement to the usual in-person experience. No longer must you spend upwards of 30 minutes attempting to navigate the labyrinthine convention center with its many entrances and exits to reach the LG booth, and gone are the hordes of people that usually delay your journey even further.
But as you click through the virtual exhibition, you start to remember why attending these shows in person was important in the first place.
The cinema screening room in which you are supposed to be able to enjoy the deep blacks of LG’s latest screen technology doesn’t have quite the same impact when you’re viewing it through your own laptop or phone screen. The same is true when testing the sound quality of LG’s speakers and headphones in its virtual audio booth.
It’s hard to say how cool and effective LG’s rollable TV is without being able to examine it from all angles. Maybe it would help if you could navigate the exhibition in VR, which would allow for a more immersive, less static experience. Samsung said its Life Unstoppable home could be viewed in VR, but it was mostly designed for PCs, phones or tablets.
While LG and Samsung are offering their own takes on the virtual trade show, the wider event is also going online this year via a digital platform it’s calling IFA Xtended Space.
All the new phones, laptops, smart home gadgets and more from IFA 2019
Through an online hub, virtual attendees will be able to join live streams of keynotes, press conferences, panel sessions, presentations and virtual exhibitor presentations and match-making opportunities that will allow them to establish new business contacts. New products will even be presented in 3D, although it remains to be seen how easy it is to form a proper first impression of new tech without being able to touch it or hold it in your hands.
IFA’s organizers acknowledge that this year’s show won’t replicate the experience most regular attendees are accustomed to, but they believe its digital platform will offer something novel to people — whether they’re using it to supplement their in-person visit to the show, or to attend remotely.
“A digital platform can hardly compensate for a true on-site experience,” IFA Executive Director Jens Heithecker said Tuesday in a press release. “However, the IFA Xtended Space enables all those who are interested to know even more and those who cannot join the IFA 2020 Special Edition physically in Berlin to have a truly unique virtual experience.”
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