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Acer Iconia notebook to feature two touchscreens, no keyboard

Computer maker Acer is jumping into the Android and Windows tablet market with both feet, but at a press event in New York the company also took the wraps off the Acer Iconia, a futuristic new notebook computer design that opens like a traditional notebook to feature two 14-inch multi-touch displays…and no keyboard. The design enables users to spread their content across two displays and bring up a virtual keyboard when needed, in theory offering mainstream productivity with a ton of screen real estate for enjoying photos, video, and other media.

The Iconia will features two 1,366 by 768-pixel displays protected by ultra-durable Gorilla Glass—and both screens are “all-point” multitouch surfaces, enabling ten points of contact per display. The system is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, and users can choose to either split tasks across screens—with, say, one application on one and another application on the other—or spread a window across both screens. The Iconic features HDMI output for connecting to an HDTV, and Acer says the Iconia will also be available with 3G mobile broadband options.

Acer is also developing software to support touch-based interactions with applications: a five-finger grab summons the Acer Ring, which enables users to launch applications by quickly flipping through App cards, as well as a virtual keyboard (enabling iPad-like typing), a Gesture Editor, a Window Manager, and a Device Control Console. Users can also summon the keyboard by placing both palms on the lower display, offering a full-size QWERTY layout with international keyboards. numeric keypad, a touchpad, and predictive text input. Acer also offers touch-based access to photos, music, and video, as well as a new SocialJogger (for checking Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr in the same place), MyJournal (for collecting clippings from Web sites), and a Scrapbook for screenshots, notes, photo collections, and more.

Acer hasn’t announced release dates or pricing for the Iconia, and so far response to the design seems mixed: although some applaud Acer for taking a bold direction with traditional notebook design—rather like the smaller Toshiba Libretto—others question how productive the virtual keyboard and touch interface can really be with mainstream applications.