It is almost seven years since Windows 8 debuted for the first time, marking the start of an era of strange and beautiful laptop designs. We witnessed the birth of Lenovo & # 39; s Yoga laptop, a few crazy hinged gymnastics from Acer and even the early beginnings of the Surface line from Microsoft. Although most of the more crazy designs have come and disappeared, we are now entering a new phase of wild experimentation: two-screen laptops.
Computex is one of the largest computer and technology trade shows in the world and it is an annual event where PC makers like to show off their latest laptops and crazy concepts. In recent years, laptops have largely focused on better displays, track pads and battery life, but this year we started to see laptops with multiple screens appearing.
HP led the way for Computex by announcing a dual-screen gaming laptop for gamers that lets you watch Twitch and play games at the same time. The secondary 6-inch screen is located above the keyboard and works just like a normal two-screen setup on a desktop PC. Asus also introduced its new ZenBook Pro Duo laptop with two 4K screens this week. Asus thinks it has solved the productivity problems of the laptop, thanks to a 14-inch screen above the keyboard and a normal 15-inch screen where you would normally find a laptop screen.
Asus has developed a number of window management software to extend the main screen to the 14-inch panel above the keyboard, or even to use multiple windows across the wide screen. Asus also changed its traditional laptop trackpad to a 5.5-inch display last year, showing that it is willing to experiment and push the boundaries of what you would normally expect on a laptop.
Perhaps the most wanted of them all is Intel's idea for two-screen laptops. "Honeycomb Glacier" is Intel & # 39; s concept of the future of gaming PC & # 39; s and it tries to combine a 15.6-inch main screen and a 12.3-inch secondary display in a single laptop with a unique double hinge. The result is a laptop where the screens can be stacked in different ways thanks to a mechanical one-way roller clutch. Intel is unusually optimistic about this design and claims that PC makers have shown interest in applying it to future laptops.
Intel is also pushing to build dual-screen laptops from dust, and only dual-screen devices in general. We have seen that Microsoft uses Alcantara dust on his Surface laptop, and HP uses leather and even wood on some of his laptops. Intel's concepts are particularly relevant as we truly enter a new era of dual or even flexible-screen laptops. Lenovo has been developing a "foldable PC" for more than three years, complete with the foldable screen technology that we have seen on phones. It's just a concept for now, but it is reminiscent of where PC makers think this technology is on its way.
However, all these crazy designs and hardware are nothing without software. We saw that playing with the dual screen yoga book from Lenovo last year and Microsoft could not become popular before Windows SideShow, a way for developers to extend apps and notifications to small screens on laptops while they were disabled. Apple & # 39; s Touch Bar also didn't get much grip, despite the fact that it offers a touchscreen above the keyboard.
How PC makers can experiment with hardware, they must be able to trust that Microsoft adapts to these new form factors. Microsoft has been dreaming of a pocketable dual-screen Surface device for years, but that project, codenamed Andromeda, has come to a halt within the company.
Microsoft is now preparing for this new hardware with a new lightweight version of Windows for dual-screen devices and Chromebook competitors. With the code name Windows Lite, Microsoft has not yet officially acknowledged that it exists. Windows Lite is a more stripped-down version of Windows that is initially prioritized for two-screen devices.
Microsoft has seen how OEM & # 39; s and Intel work on two-screen devices and wants to be ready to support it in the right way. The Windows Lite interface will be similar to Windows as it is today, but it will be more a mix of what Microsoft uses with its Surface Hub shell and the simplicity of the Windows Phone Continuum user interface.
Microsoft has gradually developed a new Composable Shell (C-Shell) and Windows Core OS, a more modular version of the existing Windows Shell that nowadays controls many components of Windows 10. Microsoft is expected to talk about part of this work at the company's Build conference earlier this month, but the only thing it does now is an indication of a & # 39; modern OS & # 39; future for Windows.
The software will be crucial to the question of whether these new dual-screen laptops really get going. Some make sense for gaming laptops, but smaller devices that compete against phones have a doubtful advantage. Google also plans to natively support foldables in Android and already has the advantage of the mobile platform to better bridge the gap between phones and tablets.
However, that will not stop PC makers. We have seen years of wild 2-in-1 PCs, and with foldable screens, new hinges and this push for dual displays we witness the fact that laptops are becoming really weird and great again.