I'm hunkered down in a busy press room in Berlin at IFA 2012, Europe's answer to CES, where the Windows 8 tablets are flowing like beer and schnitzel from some of the biggest hardware makers in tech -- and not merely tablets, but also phablets, stablets, fliplets, and snaplets. All of this, of course, is part of an effort to gin up excitement for the coming of Windows 8 on Oct. 26, an event which has so far failed to raise the pulse of anyone outside of the Microsoft fanboy community.
First up: Samsung, possibly a bit more eager than usual to wave its Microsoft tablet credentials after the Apple patent debacle, unveiled its new line of SmartPC and SmartPC pro Windows 8 tablets, which snap into their own hinged portable keyboards, turning them into snaplets. You can also doodle on the SmartPC screen using the Samsung S Pen and handwriting software it unveiled at last year's IFA show with its Android-based Galaxy Note (one of the first phone-tablet hybrids, now known as "phablets" -- I am not making that one up). Use the stylus and the snaplet becomes a stablet. See how easy this game is?
InfoWorld's Ted Samson observes that hybrids like these are rapidly becoming Microsoft's answer to iPads in the enterprise, so it's no surprise that Lenovo also unveiled Windows 8 snaplets and stablets (though no phablets -- yet). Speaking at IFA, Lenovo executive Gianfranco Lanci said he "welcomes the competition" with Microsoft's Surface tablets. Then again, it's not like he has a whole lot of choice.
Meanwhile, Dell showed its Duo, an ARM-based Windows RT machine with a keyboard whose screen flips 180 degrees and lays flat on the keys, converting it from an Ultrabook to a hefty slate, making it either a fliplet or a slatelet. Like Samsung and Lenovo, Dell also offered up an RT tablet with a keyboard that snaps into the bottom.
As ZDnet's Ed Bott noted, Dell kept its new fliplets and snaplets under plexiglass to guard them from the grubby fingers of curious journalists. Interestingly, Microsoft has adopted a similar look-but-don't-touch approach to the unveiling of its Windows Surface tablets, not allowing journos who've been pre-briefed under talk-and-we'll-have-to-kill-you NDAs from laying a finger on the precious things. And most of the vendors are being extremely shy about many of their devices' specs and details such as pricing; Samsung has been the rare exception on that score.
The fact that Microsoft and its partners are so touchy about letting journos touch their touchscreen products says that a) these RT tablets, snaplets, and fliplets are not quite as fully baked as Microsoft wants the world to think, and b) the Web publishing world desperately needs an irony font.
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