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Intel and partners show off Windows 8 tablets at San Francisco event

Would you pay $650 (£400) for a Wintel tablet? That's the price Samsung will charge for its upcoming Windows 8-based Series 5 Slate powered by Intel's newly unveiled Atom Z2760 chip.

Samsung and several other Intel and Microsoft partners were on hand at an Intel-hosted event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Thursday to showcase upcoming Windows 8 tablets and hybrid laptops that use Intel's dual-core, 1.8GHz System-on-a-Chip (SoC) formerly code named Clover Trail. The Atom Z2760 will be released on 26 October alongside Microsoft's next-generation, touch-optimised operating system, with hardware manufacturers like Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others coming out with tablets and hybrid tablet-laptops built around the x86 SoC and running Windows 8.

Before getting started, Intel Mobile and Communications Group executive Erik Reid tried to clear up a bit of a PR mess over alleged comments made by CEO Paul Otellini in Taiwan earlier in the week.

"We could not be more excited about Windows 8 and what it brings to the market ... and that's the message Paul delivered to the employees this week," Reid said, referring to and dismissing reports that Otellini described Windows 8 as not being ready for release.

Samsung was the only Wintel partner at the SFMOMA showcase to name a price for its upcoming product. The Series 5 Slate will sell for $649 (£400) as a tablet and for $749 (£460) with its dockable keyboard attached, the South Korean tech giant said.

Other products on display included hybrid laptops with detachable tablets like the Acer Iconia W510, Asus Vivo Tab, Dell Latitude 10, and HP Envy x2, all due out in the Windows 8 release timeframe, as well as a standalone tablet Lenovo called the ThinkPad 2 that could also be ready by 26 October and another standalone from ZTE called the V98 that won't be available until January.

One notable party missing from the event was Microsoft itself, which has its own Intel-based version of its self-produced, Windows 8-based Surface tablet on tap as well. Fujitsu and LG Electronics are also readying Windows 8 tablets and hybrids running on Atom chips, according to Intel.

Other than Samsung's, Lenovo's, and ZTE's offerings, these Clover Trail laptop-tablet hybrids are all being sold as a package deal, so the $749 (£460) Samsung will charge for both its tablet and keyboard set-up might be the benchmark for prices we can expect for the other manufacturer's devices.

For consumers, the new Wintel hybrids from Acer, Asus, HP, and Samsung are probably the best bets for a holiday purchase. Dell's Latitude 10 and Lenovo's ThinkPad 2 are being targeted at the enterprise, according to those companies.

All of the tablets and detachable tablets showcased at SFMOMA were in the 10in to 11in range, weighed in at as little as 680g, and were in the 9mm range for thinness. Some thicker Windows 8 tablets sporting more powerful and more power hungry Intel Core chips were on display at the event but ultimately this was a day for Clover Trail.

The Atom Z2760 is a 32-nanometre chip with hyperthreading that affords four-way processing on its two CPU cores, plus a built-in graphics engine that Intel pitched as delivering better graphics and video performance than ever before. You'll get more than 10 hours of battery life on a system packing the Clover Trail SoC, according to Intel, plus better than three weeks of connected standby.

Because it's built on the x86 architecture, the Atom Z2760 is basically tailor-made for Windows, Reid said. He and a colleague demonstrated a Clover Trail slate running such core Microsoft productivity apps as Word and Excel without a hitch, as well as showing a brief snippet of a shoot-em-up video game and a DJ application.

"Intel has made a lot of progress on their tablet SoC. If you look back just a year ago, Windows-based Intel tablets were high performance, but also were thick, heavy, had a fan, and got around four hours of battery life," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategies.

"With the Atom Z2760, Intel now has tablets as thin as 9mm, light, fanless, and with all day battery life. That's a huge change and was driven as much by hardware design as it was software integration."

Intel spent a lot of time talking up voice recognition and gesture-based interfaces for future-generation ultrabooks, tablets, and hybrids at the recent Intel Developer Forum. None of that technology will be in the first wave of Wintel tablets and hybrids, it appears, but what you will be getting in systems like the HP Envy x2 and the Samsung Series 5 is a device that functions like both a standard Windows laptop PC and a pretty nifty tablet to boot.

Will that make a dent in the holiday market with popular products already out there like the Android-based Nexus 7 from Google and Asus, the new Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble, and the rumoured iPad Mini from Apple - not to mention Microsoft's own Surface and tablets running the ARM-optimised Windows RT version of Windows 8?

Moorhead said it looks like Intel's play in the consumer tablet space may take a bit longer to gain steam than the traction it stands to get in the enterprise with the release of Windows 8.

"Tablets from HP and Dell will initially play very well in the enterprise space, a market which Apple is trying hard to penetrate. Intel-based tablets provide a much stronger value proposition than an iPad to enterprise IT, in that to the enterprise, they 'look' like a Windows PC. They're deployed, managed, and have the security that IT is already familiar with," the analyst said.

"As for the consumer space, while nothing keeps Intel from attacking that now, it looks like Microsoft and its ARM partners Nvidia and Qualcomm are more focused there right now."