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LAS VEGAS — Microsoft’s Windows 8 may be getting a bashing in some corners of the tech media, but to see the crowds jamming the Intel booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, it’s clear that the new operating system is a curiosity, at least.

Ultrabooks, the new generation of slim, lightweight Intel-based Windows 8 laptops, were on display featuring a wide array of both convertible laptops and traditional clamshell models.  Models from Toshiba, Sony, Lenovo, Gigabyte, Dell and Acer showed how far laptops have come in their ability to fulfill the needs of consumers who want Windows-based tablets but don’t want to give up the functionality of a traditional laptop.

Manufacturers found several ways to twist, turn, swivel and pivot screens to satisfy those functions.  The Dell XPS12 (pictured) has a screen that opens like a traditional clamshell, but its screen rotates on a swivel built into the lid, then the whole notebook twists to turn the laptop into a tablet.  Starting at $1,199, the basic unit weighs only 3.3 lbs., has a 12.5-inch screen, a 128gb SSD, and a 1080p touch screen.  At a display of all the Intel Ultrabooks, the Dell unit attracted a good share of the attention but several people questioned the ability of the swivel to stand up under extended use.

Also popular was the Lenovo Yoga 13, which bends on its hinge to become a tablet that lets users use the bottom to create a free-standing laptop.  Starting price: $1,049.  Its base model comes with an i3 processor, 13.3 touchscreen, a pointing device instead of a touchpad, 3.4 pounds, 128gb SSD and a 16:9 touchscreen.

Despite the availability of the Windows 8 OS on the market since last October, a significant number of visitors were equally interested in the way Windows 8 functioned as they were in the form factor of the laptops.  Since the CES show is limited to consumer electronics professionals rather than the general public, the education taking place at the show with this crème-de-la-crème clientele was a fair indication of the job that Microsoft and its partners have ahead of them to establish Windows 8 as the new OS standard.

While in past years, the PC industry appeared to be trying to play catch-up with Apple’s mold-breaking slimline MacBook Air, this year’s laptop crop seemed to pay little if no attention to the company often generally referred to as the missing but omnipresent elephant in the room.

(It may also be worth noting that the press covering CES does not appear to be a PC crowd.  Long hours spent in show newsrooms located across Las Vegas produces the general impression that this is predominately a Mac crowd.)

A puzzling note: one company missing from the Intel lineup appeared to be HP.  In the Intel Ultrabook lineup, Intel demonstrators searched for but could not find an HP machine.  A review of the CES exhibitor list revealed no trace of one of the world’s most prominent producer of PC laptops.

Skip Ferderber is a Seattle-area journalist covering the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. He is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, edited Millimeter Magazine in the motion picture and television technology industry, and contributes to, Seattle Business Magazine, HD Video Pro Magazine and others.

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