Windows 8 is the fairest
Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system is set to take pride of place as tens of thousands of people head to Asia's leading IT fair opening in Taiwan tomorrow.
The five-day Computex, an annual tech extravaganza in Taipei now in its 32nd year, will provide one of the most comprehensive glimpses yet of the next version of the world's dominant software.
"It's only a few months before the official release of Microsoft's Windows 8 software," said Chang Li, deputy secretary-general of the Taipei Computer Association, which co-sponsors Computex.
"So this year's Computex will offer a great occasion to have a look at some of the hardware applications from Taiwanese companies."
Windows 8 is touted as Microsoft's long-awaited riposte to the rise of Apple and mobile devices powered by Google's Android operating system. There is no official release date, but reports have predicted an October launch.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Windows 8 will support a wider range of devices including touch- and stylus-based smartphones and tablet PCs, as well as desktops and laptops.
Computex will reflect this, with dozens of exhibitors displaying notebooks and tablets running Windows 8, organisers said.
South Korea's Samsung and Taiwanese computer makers Acer and Asus will reportedly launch new tablets and notebooks running on the new Microsoft platform.
"The theme of this year's Computex is clear. Visitors can expect a broad range of products related to Windows 8," said Joanne Chien, a senior analyst at a research centre attached to Taipei-based trade publication DigiTimes.
The latest bout of global economic jitters have not affected the trade show with more than 1800 exhibitors registering 5400 booths, up 2% from a year ago. The organisers estimate that the IT fair will draw 36000 foreign buyers, who may place bulk orders worth as much as $28-billion.
Computer makers hope that fresh momentum will come from the so-called "ultrabook", a higher-end product that aims to be smaller and lighter than traditional notebooks without reducing performance or battery life.
Ultrabooks made their debut at Computex 2011, but the relatively high price - about $1000 apiece - has hampered the sector's growth.
Analysts predict ultrabook sales will pick up during the Christmas season, aided by the release of Windows 8 and the advent of "cloud computing", which requires smaller hard drives as users store more of their data online.
In line with China's new economic might, IT companies from the mainland, such as telecommmunications equipment maker Huawei, will play a bigger role than ever at Computex.
A total of 312 Chinese exhibitors will use 617 booths to showcase their products, compared with 252 firms taking 527 booths a year ago, according to the organisers.
"It's not clear how many orders they may get from the show, but at least they can use the platform to boost their exposure to possible clients," Chien said.