There was an elephant in the room at Hewlett-Packard's Global Influencers Summit in Shanghai.
It was called Windows 8.
HP talked up a new line of thin and light notebook computers called Ultrabooks and Sleekbooks, all running strategic partner Microsoft's three-year-old Windows 7 operating system, completely ignoring the imminent release of Windows 8.
The new flavour of the world's most popular operating system introduces a new, touch-sensitive user interface called Metro, based on the Windows Phone 7 platform's user interface, and it is the biggest rebuild of the Windows operating system in nearly 20 years.
The exact release date of Windows 8 is a closely held secret, and nobody at HP was telling in Shanghai.
"Ask Microsoft," they said. But an October release would not be a surprise, particularly because Microsoft has moved its annual Tech Ed software developer's conference in Auckland from August to September this year.
HP's personal systems group president Todd Bradley had flown to China to talk about the company's new range, which was mainly in the slim and light form factor and All in One (AiO)-style touchsmart Windows 7 machines. He didn't want to talk about the upcoming Windows 8 just yet, other than to say HP was building touch-sensitive tablet computers for the new operating system for business users.
Hardly a surprise. I have heard many businesspeople say they'd hold off buying an iPad until they have seen what Windows 8 will offer on a slate computer.
So what does this all mean for consumers? Well, if I was in the market for a new machine I'd definitely set my sights on one of the thin and light Ultrabook models with one of Intel's new superfast third-general Ivy Bridge central processor units and solid-state hard disk drives. Those I have already tested have out-performed my two-year-old HP Pavilion DV6 laptop with start-up times of just seconds.
And they are super sleek and sexy.
Which leaves consumers who want to upgrade with a choice. Go with the tried and true Windows 7 environment – it really is the best version of Windows so far and I've been using it since Windows 3.1 in 1992 – or wait until the last quarter and give Windows 8 a spin. There's a free consumer preview available for download, but it's incomplete, so we'll have to wait and see if the full version eclipses Windows 7.
It's likely, from what HP said at its summit, that it will hold back from releasing touch-sensitive slim and light machines until well after Windows 8 hits the shelves. Which means anyone buying a thin and light Windows 7 machine from its new range could be just as well off, from a technological point of view, buying Windows 8 when it hits the shelves, if not from a financial perspective.
Another option is to wait until Microsoft starts offering its inevitable free Windows 8 upgrade to anyone who buys a Windows 7 device in the months leading up to the new operating system's release. I'm still waiting to hear back from Microsoft as to when that will be.One unconfirmed report suggests Microsoft will charge Windows 7 users $15 to upgrade to Windows 8.
In the meantime, if you want a touch sensitive machine, one of HP's new All In One devices might fit the bill.
- © Fairfax NZ News