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Intel-powered Android laptop-tablet hybrids reportedly on the way

Asus Transformer Infinity

Move over Windows 8 convertible laptops; Intel and its manufacturer partners are reportedly working on Android hybrids … if a new rumor is to be believed, that is. If the rumors are true, we’re most likely looking at new Haswell-powered Android tablets that come with their own keyboard docks, similar to the devices in the Asus Transformer series. An 11-inch Lenovo Yoga device will allegedly be the first Intel Android convertible to be launched sometime in May, followed by a handful of major manufacturers, including Asus, Toshiba, HP, and Acer. 

According to DigiTimes, Intel is putting its faith on Android since Windows 8 has failed to reignite interest in PCs, or, more particularly, notebooks. PC sales have  been disappointingly low since last year, and analysts say things won’t be looking up for the industry in 2013. While there are many factors that can take the blame for the slump (sure we now have more powerful hardware, but most people aren’t going to replace their still-functional four-year-old PC if new models don’t have anything revolutionary to offer), some believe that Windows 8 is partly to blame.

Windows 8’s massive changes in user interface, in addition to some of the laptop-tablet hybrids’ ridiculously expensive prices, have presumably discouraged consumers from getting new devices. On the other hand, Android is doing well, and the manufacturers supposedly believe Android will continue to do well in the hybrid space since most consumers are familiar with the operating system. 

Note that while DigiTimes has a questionable rep when it comes to the accuracy of its unverified reports, rumors about the possibility of Android convertibles and notebooks have been going around since ex-Chrome OS and browser head Sundar Pichai took over Android development from Andy Rubin. That PC sales have been slow and that Windows 8 hasn’t been received as well as the industry would’ve liked sounds like valid reasons why Intel is pushing for the release of new Android hybrids. The question is, if it’s true, will you buy Intel-powered Android tablet-laptop convertibles as your main computing devices, or will you stick to more traditional desktop operating systems?

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Mariella Moon
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mariella loves working on both helpful and awe-inspiring science and technology stories. When she's not at her desk writing…
Intel’s Haswell ‘North Cape’ prototype can switch screen size in tablet mode

Back at CES in January, we only caught a glimpse of Intel's Haswell-running tablet-laptop hybrid prototype. There weren't very many details on how this so-called "North Cape" device works, but at Intel's Innovation Future Showcase in London this week, Engadget got a closer look, helping us fill in the blanks on this prototype and hint at what we can expect in future devices.
One of North Cape's most interesting features is "Smart Frame," which, depending on how you use your device, basically resizes its 13.3-inch display's viewable area on the fly but without changing its physical dimensions. After all, a wider bezel around the display makes it more grip-friendly in tablet mode, but you'd want as big of a screen as possible when you're trying to navigate Windows 8's side-scrolling home screen in laptop mode.
When you detach North Cape from its keyboard dock, Smart Frame is able to shrink the 13.3-inch screen's bezel and decrease its viewable area down to 11.6 inches (disabling touch controls around the screen). When you dock the screen to the keyboard, the bezel almost disappears to give you as much screen real estate as possible on a 13.3-inch display. According to, Intel is able to do this by adding a virtual bezel around the screen that can morph between tablet and laptop modes.
In addition, North Cape makes it easier to undock the screen from its keyboard dock by putting an unlock button along the top of the display. Current tablet-laptop hybrid designs typically place the unlock button in the middle of the dock, so you need to use two-hands to both unlock and catch the screen in case it falls. From what Engadget could see, North Cape has one button on top of the screen, which activates an electric latch when pressed to make it possible to unlock the two parts with one-hand. 
The Haswell processor is supposed to offer better battery life than the current generation of Intel Core chips, with the company touting a high of 13 hours at its CES press conference back in January. Based on what Engadget was shown in London, it looks like a Haswell-powered tablet should be good for 10 hours between charges  – and that's without taking into account the extra battery life offered by the keyboard dock.
We expect features like the Smart Frame, new unlock button, and 10-plus-hour battery life to be a part of the new line of Haswell hybrids due to launch in a couple of months. Which feature are you most looking forward to in Haswell-powered devices?

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$200 Android laptops with ‘Bay Trail’ Atom chip coming our way, says Intel exec

Last week, we heard talk about impending Android laptops powered by Intel's upcoming "Bay Trail" Atom processor. With a $200 price tag, they'd go head-to-head with Android tablets. According to Dadi Perlmutter, Intel's executive vice president and chief product officer, it looks like those rumors are true. 
During Intel's first quarter earnings call, CEO Paul Otellini first touched on the possibility that laptops with the next-gen Atom processor could be as budget-friendly as $200, though he made no mention what operating system those devices would run. We assumed the cheaper laptops would use Windows 8, but it turns out Intel has something else in mind.
It looks like these $200 Atom-based laptops will be running Android instead of Windows, Perlmutter told CNET yesterday. While Intel would like to see some lower-end laptops with Windows on the market, he said it "depends on how Microsoft prices Windows 8. It may be a slightly higher price point."
Although Perlmutter didn't talk about what these Android laptops will look like, according to DigiTimes' laptop vendor sources, Intel has apparently been working on Android-based convertible laptops that can transform into a tablet.
While Bay Trail processors are designed for tablets, they also make a lot of sense inside a laptop as they have the same x86 architecture as Intel's higher-end Core processors, which means you can use most of the software you already own with a dedicated keyboard (rather than with a third-party keyboard as with the case with most tablets). Atom-based devices should be much thinner (as thin as 0.3 inches) and have all-day battery life and weeks of standby.
Clearly, Android has laptop ambitions now that Sundar Pichai, an ex-Chrome OS and browser head, is in charge of Android development.
It's no question that Android smartphone and tablet users will be excited at the thought of using the same apps they're already familiar with on an Android laptop with decent computing power – Window 8's comparatively weak app store has been a difficult sell to consumers. But beyond the convenience of playing the same Angry Birds across devices, the Android operating system will have to be optimized for the keyboard and mouse environment of a laptop, even a convertible one with a touchscreen.
After all, DT's own Matt Smith thinks that the entire interface would have to be revised. "Multi-tasking would have to work well with a mouse, the homescreen would have to work better in landscape view, and a competent dock or taskbar would have to be introduced," Smith said in his piece on why an Android laptop wouldn't be worth buying. "Android doesn’t even have windows, so that too would have be introduced along with snap and resize functionality."
As we've seen with Microsoft's Windows 8 attempt to unify the interface for various devices, this won't be an easy transition even for an OS as popular as Android. 
Does an Android laptop stand a chance against a similarly priced Android tablet? How would you spend your $200?

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Lenovo ThinkPad Helix starts shipping, Seton Hall University gets first batch

Check out our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix convertible.
After showing off the convertible ThinkPad Helix at CES back in January, Lenovo had originally promised a February ship date for this machine, which then got pushed back to March or April. With less than two weeks left in April, Lenovo is finally ready to send the Helix out to ... the staff and students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
So why is Seton the first to get these convertibles? According to Seton's Chief Information Officer Dr. Stephen Landry, the school has ordered 2,000 units of the Helix for "for all incoming students, freshmen and transfer and all juniors, except those in the Mac program." After all, according to Landry, this Lenovo convertible PC was chosen as the official computer by the school to make it easier to troubleshoot technical problems, as well as to ensure that no one had to pay more than the other for a computer.
The model that SHU students and staffers will be toting around campus has an 11.6-inch, 1920-by-1080 pixel multi-touch display that you can detach to use as a tablet or snap into a keyboard dock to use as a laptop. The screen can be docked facing out so you can use it to give a presentation to a small group without requiring a fancy hinge design.
Under its screen is a low-voltage Intel i5-3317U processor that you'd find in Ultrabooks, as well as 4GB RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. It also comes with a digitizer pen, as well as a keyboard dock with the iconic red trackpointer and an extra battery pack that gives the convertible PC 10 hours of battery life over all (there is another battery inside the tablet/screen). It comes preloaded with Windows 8.
Although the Helix will retail for $1,500, Seton Hall probably negotiated a handsome discount for its massive order from Lenovo. That said, it seems rather extravagant to require such a top-of-the-line device for students in every discipline, when there are many more budget-friendly standard laptops that are acceptable for most students. Plus, most students probably already have working laptops they can continue using for school.
Lenovo has not announced any formal ship dates for this convertible PC for consumers, so non-SHU students who are eager to get their hands on the Helix will have to keep waiting.

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