PCs will redefine the workspace

The PC market has been in decline since 2012, thanks in part to the popularity of tablets – but, with Windows 10, the PC is set for a comeback

Next generation PCs are not only faster – they can do a lot more things than previous generations.

During the Consumer Electronics Show CES in Las vegas, HP Inc unveiled its latest EliteBook Folio, which it said brings premium consumer design into a commercial-grade device.

HP Inc said its EliteBook Folio is its thinnest business-class notebook to date, at only 12.4mm and weighing under 1kg.

The device’s screen is attached via a 180-degree piano hinge, allowing the folio to open completely flat. Other features include a Windows 10 gesture-enabled clickpad, and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 for fast data transfers and 4K displays. Users can ditch the dongles with the optional HP USB-C Travel Dock.

The optional Ultra HD (UHD) 4K display, provides what HP Inc said is a paper-like display with pixel density of 352 pixels per inch. The UHD panel enables 95% of the Adobe RGB gamut to make images more vivid and life-like, according to HP Inc.

The device includes Windows 10 Pro and is built with 6th generation Intel Core M vPro processor. HP claims battery life of up to 10 hours is attainable. HP Inc said the design and materials of the device also allowed HP engineers to maximise space for an HP Long Life Battery, built to last more than three years.

Rival Lenovo expanded its X1 range. The X1 Tablet uses an Intel Core m7 Processor, providing up to 10 hours’ battery. Lenovo offers a set of modules to extend functionality. The Productivity Module increases battery life by 15 hours according to Lenovo; the Presenter Module includes a pico projector and HDMI port while the 3D Imaging Module provides a rear-facing Intel RealSense camera

The X1 Yoga is a convertible device, which features a Samsung OLED display option and a rechargeable active pen.

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At the top end is the latest version of Lenovo’s X1 Carbon laptop. This can be configured with up to 1TB high-density, low-power Samsung M.2 NVMe SSD storage, which Lenovo claims offers speeds up to five times that of standard SATA SSD. Enterprise class connectivity is available via the Qualcomm Snapdragon X7 LTE modem with 4G LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation support for up to 300 Mbps download speeds. Wireless docking is also available via WiGig and as in previous generations, there us a touch Fingerprint reader and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) security chip.

Dell also introduced a set of Latitude laptops: a 13” ultrabook; and 12.5” and 10.8” hybrid devices.

Among the trends driving new laptops this year is the roll-out of the industry-standard USB Type-C connector allowing one cable for docking, power, video, audio and data. USB Type-C also supports Thunderbolt 3, which offers 8x faster data transfer than USB 3.0 and enables users to run two 4K displays simultaneously.

Along with refreshing its laptop range, Dell also introduced two wireless monitors: the UltraSharp 24 Wireless monitor and Dell 23 Wireless monitor. According to Dell these allow users to wirelessly display and manage content from a Windows-powered laptop and Android smartphone concurrently via Miracast. The Dell 23 Wireless monitor has a built-in speakers and a wireless charging stand for compatible mobile devices.

At CES Acer unveiled a range of Windows 10 machines. Like other manufacturers, Acer’s top-end laptops, the 15” and 17” Aspire V Nitro Black Edition notebooks, offer Intel RealSense Camera. According to Intel, this camera offers a better sensing range of up to 1.5m from the device and more precise gesture tracking, control and object recognition.

PC manufacturers have been working hard to make the next generation of Windows 10-based tablets a viable option on the tablet market dominated by Android devices at the low end and premium Apple and Samsung products.

Industry experts anticipate that enterprises will start deploying Windows 10 by the middle of 2016, much faster than previous Windows releases.

Loren Loverde, IDC vice-president, Worldwide PC Tracker, said: "PC replacements should pick up again in 2016, particularly later in the year. Commercial adoption of Windows 10 is expected to accelerate, and consumer buying should also stabilise by the second half of the year. Most PC users have delayed an upgrade, but can only maintain this for so long before facing security and performance issues. We continue to believe that a majority of these users will purchase another PC, motivated by new products and attractive pricing."

New style desktop

The CES launches show that, while Windows 10 was a free upgrade to consumers, PC makers are using the OS as a platform for a range of innovative devices. What is different to previous OS launches is that the Windows 10 and hardware are not simply about doing the same tasks faster. The RealSense Camera offers a new user experience through gestures, and facial recognition, to compliment the Microsoft Hello biometric authentication feature in Windows 10.

While Windows 8 was optimised for a touch-user interface, touchscreens never real took off on the desktop. With Windows 10, RealSense delivers a touch-like user interface (UI) without the need for a touchscreen. It also works as a 3D scanner, to support the nascent 3D printing market. It could also help PC makers capture a piece of the retail vertical, where tablets devices have powered augmented reality projects.

And USB C and Thunderbolt are not just faster connectors. They have the potential to make a radical change to the way an office work space is organised. A single cable for monitors, keyboards and mouse simplifies desk clutter. Moreover, with Dell’s wireless monitors there are even less wires needed.

New ways of working with PCs are not about a shiny new device. Some like RealSense, need new software such as for augmented reality, collaborative technology or 3D scanning. Others benefit from new office infrastructure, where wireless connectivity and a single connector can simplify the layout of desk space.

Any roll-out of Windows 10 should take into consideration these developments and the implications on productivity and the workplace.

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