By Alexandra Burlacu | Nov 05, 2012 08:57 AM EST
Windows 8's most innovative feature is touch capability, which automatically leads to notably more touch laptops and hybrids flooding U.S. and worldwide PC stores.
As one would expect, Microsoft's physical and online stores are among the most avid venues stocking up on touch-enabled Windows 8 portable devices. The software giant's online store currently lists eight traditional, i.e. non-hybrid, clamshell laptops with touch screens.
Meanwhile, the number of hybrid devices, i.e. the so-called "convertibles," in Microsoft's stores climbs to 16. Such convertibles, including the HP Envyx2 and the Dell XPS Duo 12, allow the device to serve a dual function, switching from a traditional laptop configuration to a tablet-only mode.
"Our industry is rebuilding itself around new classes of devices," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer recently said during his keynote for the Build conference in Seattle. "With Windows 8 we built a generation of systems that embraces multiple worlds, the PC and tablet...keyboard and touch."
Microsoft itself is leading the way, stepping out of its software comfort zone and leaping into the hardware business. Sporting a novel keyboard/cover such as the $129 Type Cover, Microsoft's own-brand Surface tablet can be used as a laptop as well.
Best Buy is also capitalizing on the touch models momentum, and is rapidly adjusting its laptop lineup to keep up with the trend. Best Buy's online store now lists roughly a dozen new touch-enabled laptops. Convertibles are also on the rise at the retailer, including hybrid devices such as the Samsung Series 5 "Smart PC Tablet" and the Asus VivoTab RT Tablet.
It remains to be seen, however, whether enabling touch capabilities on laptops will give Microsoft and its partners an edge over rival Apple. None of Apple's MacBooks or iMacs are touch-enabled. If the touch trend catches on to consumers, Microsoft could have the perfect shot at gaining a clear advantage over the Cupertino giant.
"Touch is as big an addition as the mouse was more than 20 years ago," said Mike Feibus, Principal Analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies in Scottsdale, Arizona, as cited by CNET. "For many tasks, it's a better way to interact with the PC. Everything is different from here on out."
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