By Claire Reilly

While the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw a great number of high-tech gadgets and space-aged innovations, many retailers were no doubt wondering which products would make their way into Australian stores and which were just far-fetched prototypes.

One industry representative who offered his predictions for the best products to come out of CES was Ben McIntosh, the head of Harvey Norman’s computer division, who was putting his money on the ultrabook phenomenon.

“Ultrabooks are going to be – and they’re already are starting to be – the new benchmark for laptops,” said McIntosh.

“Finally the Windows and Intel PC industry is looking at design, battery life and benefits for consumers rather than the boring tech and spec. And I think consumers are really going to respond to that. It’s going to give them a reason to upgrade their laptop.

“The industry used to say, ‘You’ve had it for a couple of years, come get a new one’. Now we’re saying, ‘You’ve had yours for a couple of years, but here’s a reason to upgrade’. And when customers see value, or we give them a reason, they come and buy. And as retailers, that’s our job.”

Also big on McIntosh’s hardware list was the “second generation of nice slimline, lightweight tablets”, which he said would starting launching from March 2012 onwards.

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Aside from the physical products that would be lining Australian shelves, McIntosh was excited about developments in software, particularly the newest offering from Windows.

“Windows 8 is going to be monumental, and I think the entire industry is going to be gearing up for that for the next six months,” he said. “There’s an excitement in the air because Microsoft have got it right, the hardware vendors, phone company vendors and tablet makers have got it right, and it’s really exciting.

“I’m very excited about what it’s going to do for the entire industry.”

One supplier that will be boosted by the launch of Windows 8 is Nokia – which is set to roll out the Microsoft operating system into new handsets –and McIntosh said he was “very excited about the resurgence” of this well-known mobile phone brand.

“Nokia phones have been historically the leader in mobile phones for many many years. And I think what came out very clearly at CES was that Nokia’s new partnership with Microsoft and Windows Phone is going to be massive.”