Windows 8 spawns a host of new devices
Laptops, convertibles and tablets will be some of the new devices that will use Windows 8, says Matt Warman
The release of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system is set to give rise to a whole host of weird and wonderful new kinds of device - chief among those is Microsoft's own Surface tablet, with its keyboard that's so thin it reveals what a compromise even ultrabooks are.
But other devices, too, are also likely to take advantage of users' growing enthusiasm for tablets, while also seeking to offer additional functions that are offered by a keyboard. Some of these offer keyboards that flip all the way round to the back of the unit, while others offer a tablet that slides up to reveal a keyboard.
Models from brands such as Sony and Lenovo are all impressive, but the challenge they face is usually that, next to the Surface, they offer few improvements.
What they do offer, however, is the ability to run the full-blown version of Windows 8 that will be unavailable on a Surface model until next year and - a small but vital detail - a hinge that supports the screen when it's on your lap. That makes them all much more rounded devices than the Surface, however lovely it is.
Unfortunately, it also makes them significantly thicker, heavier and very often more expensive. My favourites, however, are Sony's Vaio Duo 11 and Lenovo's Yoga. The former offers a flip-up screen that reveals a keyboard that is almost as good as a standard laptop model, albeit cramped into a space close to the front of the device and lacking a proper trackpad. Where it wins, however, is in the option to add an additional battery that takes its life well up beyond ten hours without making it painfully thick. It's heavier, of course, but the second battery can always be removed if it’s unnecessary.
Lenovo's Yoga takes a different approach, with a screen that swivels round in a housing that allows it to become a fully-fledged laptop with a conventional keyboard. The idea is excellent and the execution is adequate; it doesn't feel quite as sturdy as you might like, but it doesn't feel too fragile either. Ultimately, the Sony model's placing of the keyboard so close to the screen makes using the touchscreen capabilities much more likely, and is in that sense a truer Windows 8 feel.
In another sense, however, the existence of such different devices underlines how versatile Windows 8 is, and how demanding users have become. It even supports Microsoft's argument that by making the Surface themselves, they have stimulated the whole ecosystem. Similarly, Dell’s excellent XPS 13 offers a screen within a frame that swivels to become either a tablet, a self-supporting media player or a straightforward laptop. It’s a device that achieves the ambitions of generations of its predecessors. Without Windows 8 and Surface, arguably, it wouldn’t exist. So competition has never been fiercer; Microsoft has a better claim to be taking on Apple, and the ecosystem of its partners, too, is all the stronger for Windows 8.
Matt Warman, Telegraph.co.uk