Eden also showed ultrabooks with designs halfway between phone and tablet. The screen of one design, which he described as a “slider,” could be moved over the keyboard to become a tablet. A prototype called a Nikiski has a large, transparent touch pad that stretches the full width of the device. When a Nikiski laptop is closed, some of its screen is visible through that touchpad, providing easy access to notifications like calendar events or e-mails. When open, the panel can detect when a person places his hands down to type on the keyboard.
The Nikiski prototype was shown running the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system. It includes a special interface, known as Metro, which presents notifications and access to programs using a grid of tiles intended to be swiped and tapped. It was originally designed for touch devices. “We’ll be able to get an even better [touch] experience with the tile experience,” said Eden.
Peter Mahoney, chief marketing offer for Nuance, which develops voice recognition technology, joined Eden to announce that future ultrabooks will be able to recognize voice commands in a manner similar to Apple’s Siri assistant, which is built into the iPhone 4S.
Nuance’s technology is licensed by Apple for use in Siri, but Mahoney said that voice control could be more powerful in an ultrabook because the devices have more computing power than phones do. Unlike Google or Apple’s voice recognition, there will be no need for speech data to be sent to cloud servers for analysis, he said, leading to quicker performance. The software can also adapt to a person’s voice and even relatively thick accents, he said. The feature will initially support nine languages: English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, and Mandarin.
Eden said that the voice feature could be used to compose social-media messages and updates, and to ask a closed laptop in a person’s bag for information with questions such as “when is my next meeting?”
There are more than 75 ultrabook devices “in the design pipeline” for 2012, said Eden, and a handful will launch with touch screens before the year is out. Analysts at the Consumer Electronics Association, which organizes CES, estimate that Intel’s various partners will launch more than 50 regular ultrabooks this week.
Although Intel says ultrabooks will be the company’s main focus in 2012, the company is also working to gain a foothold in phones and tablets, and recently showed prototypes expected to be seen again at CES later this week.