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The future of the desktop is a tabletop

Mark Hachman | Feb. 11, 2014
One day, the future of Intel's desktop business will lie within something that looks like the Microsoft Surface. No, not the tablet--the older, tabletop version. Remember that?

Graff said that the future AIOs will be able to flip on their edge, turning them into "tabletops" for gaming with up to four people. In this scenario, the touchscreen will have to become far more sensitive, able to support the fingers of all four players, not just a single user. A single microphone won't be enough either, Graff said: The hardware designer will have to embed at least four along the tablet's bezel to pick up the sounds of all the players. And the Kinect-like RealSense cameras that hardware makers will build into laptops will also have to be modified: They'd normally point straight ahead, so in tabletop mode they'd end up pointing at the ceiling.

And then there's the apps. At CES, Intel showed off an "interactive storybook," co-developed with Scholastic, mixing animated, virtual illustrations with the real world. Graff said Intel had invested heavily in multi-user, multitouch games and apps in 2013, and over 160 titles supporting that particular technology were in development. 

Of course, this all sounds very similar to Microsoft's Surface, the tabletop PC that Microsoft launched with great fanfare in 2007, only to be renamed PixelSense when Microsoft added the Surface tablet in 2011. PixelSense, which was transferred to Samsung, flopped, and was finally discontinued in 2013, according to Wikipedia. Intel will have to spend some convincing customers that it won't happen again.

"You have to get used to the form factor," Graff said. "It's a paradigm shift to carry around from room to room a second TV. It's very different to think that you can lay it flat on a table and play games on it — all the games in your closet, without the missing pieces."

Intel: NUC is knocking at the door
Last week, Asus launched the latest iteration of its Chromebox, a Core i7-based box that will be used as part of Google's Chromebox for business initiative. (Hewlett-Packard later announced one, too.) 

Earlier Chromeboxes by Samsung, as well as the Intel NUC, helped usher in a new generation of ultra-compact computing that traded low power, low cost, and a compact footprint for more powerful graphics options. But with the addition of Intel's Iris Pro graphics to the "Haswell" generation of Core processors, Intel has begun to claim that the boxes can play at least some of the modern era of games. All that augurs well for Intel's NUC and competitors like the Gigabyte Brix mini PC

According to Intel's Graff, compact computers like the NUC will continue to be built on the Core chips, as well the "Bay Trail" low-power Atom chips that Intel launched last year. 


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