Microsoft officially quit the yearly Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in 2012. This year, the software giant is back but not to the same degree as in the past.
The company still enjoys a strong presence at CES, thanks to its OEM partners. And it's the efforts of those partners that Microsoft staffers at the event are there to support, according to Nick Parker, corporate vice president of the company's OEM business unit. "Microsoft's marketing and employee presence at the show is supporting our partners in their product announcements on the Windows platform and meeting to plan the many new launches and partnership activities for 2014," he wrote in a Jan. 6 blog post.
For 2014, tablets are a major focal point. Signaling that his company is making progress in addressing the booming market for mini computing slates, OEMs "have launched several small Windows 8.1 Intel-based tablets with great value, power and performance," stated Parker. Compared with rival platforms, these devices provide "the ports users need," he added, and offer "support for the broadest range of peripherals like older printers, pen/stylus support that makes note-taking easy and Microsoft Office for productivity."
Among the several new Windows-powered tablet offerings at CES, Panasonic's new 7-inch Toughpad FZ-M1 stands apart as a ruggedized device that runs Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. Weighing in at 1.2 lbs., it houses a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 vPro Haswell processor and features a "daylight-readable" 7-inch, 1,200 by 800 pixel touch-screen with optional stylus support. In terms of on-board storage, a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) is standard, and a 256GB SSD is available as an option.
"Because the Toughpad FZ-M1 is built on a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 vPro processor, it can run any Windows app you want to throw at it. With a claimed eight hours of battery life, you can take this rugged PC with you anywhere and work with it all day without charging," said Gavin Gear, a program manager at Microsoft in a separate blog post.
Windows also powers the "world's first" 4K laptops, Toshiba's Tecra W50 and touch-screen enabled Satellite P50t. The Tecra W50 features a 15.6-inch 4K Ultra-HD screen (3,840 by 2,160 resolution) that delivers a pixel density of 282 ppi. An Nvidia Quadro K2100M GPU with 2GB of dedicated memory drives the display. Both laptops go on sale in mid-2014.
"Toshiba has made 4K display technology more accessible to mobile professionals and enthusiasts by announcing two exciting new Windows 8.1 laptops that feature integrated 15.6-inch 4K Ultra-HD displays," boasted Gear.
With CES as a backdrop, Microsoft also took the opportunity to provide an update on one of its signature consumer electronics offerings, the Xbox One. Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of marketing, strategy and business for the Xbox division announced that more than "3 million Xbox One consoles were sold to consumers in 13 countries before the end of 2013."
Xbox One, Mehdi said, is also keeping buyers engaged beyond games. "Millions of hours of live TV have been watched and millions of hours of app entertainment have been enjoyed," he added.
Editor's Note: The Tecra W50 features a 15.6-inch 4K Ultra-HD screen, not a 5.6-inch 4K Ultra-HD screen, as originally written.