We're here in Las Vegas for the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show and let me tell you, the vendors the press and the attendees have returned, it is much busier here than last year and some of the biggest buzz has been around tablets.
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that 80 tablets will debut here at the show. We'll start our tablet tour with Asus that launched 4 tablet PCs this week and we'll give you a look at a few of them.
The Eee Pad Slider has a 10-inch screen and looks like a conventional tablet, but hides a slide-out keyboard. It runs Honeycomb, an upcoming version of Google's Android tailored to tablet PCs and has an Nvidia Tegra processor.
Another changing computer is the Eee Pad Transformer, which looks like a laptop until the screen is pulled off.
The company's smaller tablet, the Eee Pad MeMO, has a 7-inch multitouch screen and uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip and Android. Despite its small size, it can handle high-def video.
From Lenovo we saw the LePad, a tablet with a 10.1" screen 2 gigs of ram and a 32 gig hard drive. It also has two user interfaces.
Kevin Gao of Lenovo said: "The good thing is that for this version we will have, you know, the Windows 7 is not optimized with the touch and we will have our own UI for the touch optimized and we will have a new touch model for the finger and also one of the pen."
Toshiba will join the tablet race later this year with this Android-powered computer. The tablet includes Toshiba's Resolution Plus, which enhances standard-definition video to give it the appearance of high-def. Until now the system has run on a custom chip, Toshiba's SpursEngine processor, but in the tablet it makes use of the NVidia Tegra processor. It should be available in the coming months.
NEC also got in on the action with this dual screen tablet about the same size as a paperback book called the LifeTouch LTW. The LT-W runs a version of Android 2.1 that has been modified to support two screens and allow different software programs to run in each window. Despite it being at CES, NEC won't sell it directly to consumers, but to service providers that will package it with their own content and resell it.
Microsoft made news this week at its show keynote Wednesday night where CEO Steve Ballmer told the several thousand person audience that the next version of Windows will support Arm processors. Up until this point Windows has only run on x86 systems from Intel and AMD and making the OS available to Arm chips means tablets, phones and some other low power devices could take advantage of it.
Gaming played a big part in the keynote as well and with the launch of Kinect a few months ago, Microsoft followed it up with Avatar Kinect, an add on to the system that tracks facial movements. A virtual Steve Ballmer showed it off.
Intel introduced its newest microprocessor here at the show, the 2nd generation Intel Core processor line, previously codenamed Sandy Bridge.
Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO said: "One of the things that is very visible in this new product is that we've shifted to processor based graphics. That is that we've integrated onto the microprocessor die for the first time ever in mainstream computing the graphics and media engines that are so important to modern computing."
The company said it will be able to outperform 40-50% of discrete graphics cards on the market. Intel was eager to show it off and pitted it against its predecessors in a 3D rendering task.
The next generation of Intel chips, called Ivy Bridge, will be manufactured with Intel's 22nm technology.
Staying with chips LG showed a cell phone Wednesday packing an Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, the same type of chip used in many tablet computers.
The 1GHz Tegra 2 processor is matched with a 4-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and full high-definition video playback.
The LG Optimus 2X will be available in Korea next month with countries in Europe and Asia to follow. Towards the end of the Nvidia presser the CEO unveiled Project Denver, announcing that Nvidia has obtained the rights to build their own CPU based on ARM's future processor architecture.
Capitalizing on the success of the iPad and iPhone projector company Optoma introduced this picoprojector sounddock that can display movies, tv shows and photos. It's a 50 lumen projector that's capable of displaying a 100" image while playing audio from a 16 watt speaker system. In addition to the Apple dock it also has VGA and HDMI in and we were surprised at how vivid the image was. The Neoi will cost 449 dollars and go on sale in the US at the end of January. International availability will follow.
Sony is working on a futuristic head-mounted display that immerses the viewer in 3D video.
The device, which is still only a prototype, was unveiled at a Sony news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening.
Hiroshi Yoshioka, Executive Deputy President, Sony said: "You can enjoy a theater-like experience on the couch or in flight, with a virtual large screen and powerful sounds."
Sony has no launch date for the display, which is still being developed.