CES comes at an awkward time of the year for PC manufacturers. The holiday shopping season has ended by early January, and the industry's next big selling season -- back-to-school time -- is many months away.
But in spite of the bad timing, we saw the tablet PC and netbook form factors launch at CES 2010, and Intel announced its Ultrabook definition at CES 2012 and its new Atom lineup (code-named Bay Trail) at CES 2013. So what might we expect to see on the PC front at CES 2014, which begins next week in Las Vegas?
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The scuttlebutt? Not a lot that's really new. Once again, it's a matter of timing. The first wave of Bay Trail -- powered devices hit the market soon after September's Intel Developer Forum, so we don't expect to see a lot of new tablet PCs launched at this CES. Conversely, the first wave of new PCs powered by Intel's fourth-generation Core processor (codenamed Haswell) arrived some time ago. For its part, AMD isn't expected to ship its Kaveri family of processors until the middle of this month.
Sounds discouraging, right? Well, call me a hopeless optimist, but I still expect to see some exciting new PC products at this year's show, and I can't wait to get there.
Intel headlining CES 2014 keynote
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is making the opening keynote speech this year, so he could surprise us with something totally out of the blue. Just bear in mind that Intel announced its latest Ultrabook definition when it launched its Haswell family of CPUs in June 2013. The company is not about to announce a new definition just six months later.
Lenovo, on the other hand, is the world's number-one PC manufacturer and has shipped only a handful of Haswell-powered models to date. A company in Lenovo's position takes a risk when takes that kind of deliberate approach, but it can also benefit from letting the competition make the first move. It gains an opportunity to see what worked and what flopped.
I would speculate that, at a minimum, Lenovo will announce a Haswell-powered version of its flagship Ultrabook, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch. And we could see a lot more: Lenovo is taking over the Venetian's AquaKnox restaurant for the duration of the show, and has booked the entire top floor of the Renaissance Hotel, adjacent to the convention center. No company spends that kind of dough to show off the same products you can see at Best Buy.