Clamshell notebook to be upstaged by 40 new form factors at CES

When Shawn DuBravac purchased his first notebook in 1994 he paid US $2,400 for a screen attached to a keyboard in a clamshell design. Almost 20 years later, DuBravac is at the forefront of technology as the chief economist for the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), and while his mobile phone, desktop PC and television have experienced design revolutions, his notebook has barely changed at all.

At the 2013 International CES, the biggest event on CEA’s calendar, DuBravac is expecting this to change.

“I think one of the areas that could be really interesting is in the notebook space,” DuBravac told Digital Retailer in a telephone interview from his office in Washington DC.

“The notebook I bought nearly 20 years ago is exactly like the notebook that I use today: It has a clamshell form factor, it has a little eraser mouse in the middle of the keyboard; and, really, the only difference from a form factor perspective is the touchpad.

“Beyond that, and upgrades to the components, the form factors are very similar.”

Due to what he calls “a lot of pieces coming together to enable experimentation”, such as much more reliable touchscreens, users adapting to data input sans a keyboard and flexible operating systems such as the nascent Windows 8 varieties, DuBravac is predicting exciting changes to the notebook.

“We are seeing a push towards convertibles and hybrids, which is a really interesting trend to watch, and I think at CES we’ll see as many as 40 different form factors launched.”

Part of this experimentation will be built on reduced hardware requirements, such as getting rid of the optical drive and having fewer inputs as USB and HDMI complete more tasks previously requiring dedicated inputs.

One of the first of these new form factors is the Lenovo Twist, a Windows 8 notepad with a touchscreen that can reverse and lay flat to create a tablet PC, albeit a comparatively thick one. While he is happy to purchase one to try it out, DuBravac knows that not everyone will be enamoured with all the new form factors.

“I just purchased the Lenovo Twist to experiment with the form factor,” he said. “Maybe it doesn’t stick and it’s all experimentation, but I think that’s one of the beauties of CES: 20,000 new products will launch at the conference, many of them won’t stick and won’t find market success, but some will and some will have a pronounced impact on how we interact.”

The 2013 International CES begins Monday 7 January 2013. Digital Retailer will be reporting live from Las Vegas throughout the week of the conference.

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