Microsoft may be gone, but it's definitely not forgotten.
The software giant announced in late 2011 that it would give up its coveted CES keynote and quit erecting a huge booth starting with this year's event. Instead, Microsoft would focus on select conferences and stage its own events, like this past summer's Surface unveiling in Los Angeles and Windows 8 launch festivities in New York City in October.
Nonetheless, partners like Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Vizio are ensuring that the software giant remains a nearly unavoidable presence during the giant gathering this week in Las Vegas.
Lenovo unleashed an avalanche of Windows 8 devices as CES got under way, including ThinkPads, touch-enabled IdeaPad Ultrabooks, tablets, all-in-ones and a mammoth tabletop PC.
The Chinese PC maker is billing the 27-inch IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC as the its first "interpersonal PC," a device that is meant to lend some multi-touch, multi-user flair to computing experiences, according to Peter Hortensius, president of Lenovo's Product Group. It's a concept that Microsoft tried to pioneer with the original Surface tabletop computer, before the brand came to represent the company's homegrown tablet.
"Horizon makes personal computing interpersonal computing with shared, collaborative experiences among several people. Now many people can enjoy different photos, music and video on the same screen, and they can play games with our special accessories that blend physical and digital interaction," Hortensius said in a company statement.
Horizon is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor and features an Nvidia GeForce graphics subsystem. It goes on sale this summer for $1,699. Lenovo is also demoing a larger, 39-inch model code-named Gamma.
HP unveiled a pair of Ultrabook-like 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixels) Windows 8 notebooks powered by processors from Advanced Micro Devices that the company plans to release in the coming weeks.
The HP Pavilion TouchSmart Sleekbook features an AMD A6 processor, 6GB of memory and a 750GB hard drive plus a multi-touch display that showcases Windows 8's touch-enabled interface. The Pavilion TouchSmart Sleekbook is scheduled to go on sale in early February for $649.
HP is also betting that consumers will flock to slim, low-cost Windows 8 portables. The HP Pavilion Sleekbook, essentially a non-touch version, goes on sale mid-January. Slipping under the $500 mark, the notebook features an AMD A4 chip, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage and, of course, the Windows 8 operating system.
HDTV maker Vizio continues its push beyond the living room by announcing an 11.6-inch Windows 8 tablet. Last June, the electronics maker, best known for its budget, big-screen home theater displays, launched its first Ultrabook and all-in-one PCs.
Today, the company partnered with AMD to show off the Vizio 11.6-inch tablet PC. The device sports an AMD Z-60 accelerated processing unit (APU), Radeon HD graphics, 64GB of storage and a 1080P multi-touch display. Vizio's tablet is 0.4-inch thin and weighs just 1.8 pounds, according to the company.