What will the new desktop PCs built for Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system look like? Several new Samsung models are helping to point the way.
The South Korean computer maker has unveiled two new Series 7 models, and a Series 5 all-in-one. Each has a third-generation Core processor, 1080p HD, 1920x1080-pixel, 10-point multi-touch screens, and all-in-one designs so that there's only a screen, keyboard and mouse.
Formerly Called Metro
The Series 5 model has a Core i3 processor, a 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB of memory, 21.5 inch screen, wireless keyboard and mouse. It's intended as an entry-level model and has a list price of $749.
One of the two Series 7 models offers a 23.6-inch screen, a Core i5, a 1-terabyte hard drive, 6 GB of memory, and a wireless keyboard, and will go for $1099. The other model, priced at $1699, has an i7 processor, 8 GB of memory, a 1 terabyte drive, and a 27-inch screen.
A key innovation is the high-resolution touchscreens, meant to take advantage of the Windows 8 touch-focused, tile-based interface, formerly called Metro and now called the Modern UI Style. The 64-bit version of Windows 8 comes standard, installed.
How hardware makers will take advantage of the interface-formerly-known-as-Metro is a key question hovering over the rollout. Initially, many observers assumed Metro was specifically directed at the tablet market, but the technology giant has emphasized that it is intending the touch-oriented interface for PCs as well.
The Windows RT version of the new OS is designed specifically for ARM-based devices, such as tablets. But it would be incorrect to think of even RT as a tablet OS. There will be ARM-based PCs, many of which are expected to be laptops or tablet/laptop convertibles, although some could be desktops with touchscreens -- not unlike Samsung's new i3 models for Windows 8.
'A Rough Road'
Vizio is emphasizing a touchpad for finger-based interaction in its new PCs, rather than a touchscreen. It remains to be seen whether either touchscreens or touchpads, or both, are popular with business and consumer users who buy Windows 8 machines.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said that it's "been a tough road" in the past for the few computer makers who have chosen to put a touchscreen on a desktop model.
The biggest difficulty, he noted, has been that "the operating system they were using wasn't designed" for touch interaction. As Windows 8 is the first OS intended for desktop touchscreen interaction, Gartenberg said, a touchscreen now has a greater possibility of "making sense."
But that's in the abstract. Gartenberg pointed out that there are still a variety of user interaction issues that need answering, such as whether user fatigue -- continually lifting your hand to gesture on the screen in front of you -- will outweigh any advantages.
"The best implementation may be touchpads," he said.
And, of course, Windows 8 will also include the traditional desktop interface for traditional keyboard/mouse interaction.
The new Samsung computers go on sale Oct. 26, the day that Windows 8 launches.