The Consumer Electronics Show is upon us again, that annual orgy of clever tech mingling with digi-tat that will remain untouched on distribution centre shelves, with landfills as their ultimate delivery address.
Oh, and Ivanka Trump doing the CES keynote, heated razors and someone at LG thinking that it was a good idea to name flexible screen tech pOLED (the p stands for plastic and not pholdable).
Those pOLED screens will arrive this year in phones, tablets and laptops, like Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 which runs Windows with yet to be done software tweaks so that it won't do a blue screen of death on folding devices.
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Microsofties of the Steve Ballmer era are probably looking at the X1, reminiscing about the Courier dual-screen clamshell Windows tablet that could've been a contender but which was pulled in 2011.
CES might be a madhouse but it used to be a relevant bellwether for senior IT executives like Microsoft's former head of Windows Stephen Sinofsky.
It seems an eternity ago, but Sinofsky was brought in to clean up after the Windows Vista fiasco, and he did: Windows 7 that he led the development of was a resounding sales success.
That was 2010. Two years later Windows 8 popped up and Sinofsky left Microsoft soon after.
Following Sinofsky on social media and reading his takes on what happened at Microsoft is very entertaining from a geek business perspective.
One of the highlights is a recent Medium post that talks about coming down from the Windows 7 success high at CES as "the show floor was anaemic for PCs and the PCs that were there were using Windows 7 touch to try to turn the PC into a bad tablet".
Google released Android, which undermined Microsoft's dominant position with IT equipment manufacturers, and as Sinofsky writes "we had seen iPhone". It was a BlackBerry moment for Microsoft which wanted to play with the cool kids and not be seen as a legacy company like IBM with its mainframe business.
A decade later and declining PC sales notwithstanding, Windows is still with us and powers devices like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 Convertible I tried out for a few weeks over the holidays.
Neither laptop's particularly cheap: the mid-range Dell machine costs $2209 and HP's representative said the premium Spectre x360 goes for $3200; both prices include GST.
One good reason to go with Windows PCs is that you usually get the latest hardware from Intel and other makers soon after it becomes available. Dell's system comes with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, 256GB storage, 8GB of memory and a non-touch 13-inch 1920 by 1080 screen.
The Spectre x360 gets 16GB for the additional grand and an OLED touch display (also 1920 by 1080) that can be folded all the way round to turn the laptop into a tablet. And HP bundles a pen with the Spectre too. Windows 10 switches into tablet mode automatically, which feels odd especially with the keyboard at the back.
Still, it's nice having a touch screen if you're used to big Apple trackpads on MacBook Pros that kind of mimic poke the display functionality. The trackpads on the XPS 13 and Spectre x360 are much smaller and not as good.
There's also a snappy 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor in the Spectre x360 which keeps up with a 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro on Geekbench 5.1. Dell's XPS 13 isn't as quick in benchmarks, but performance is still pretty good and it never feels slow.
Both have USB-C ports that transfer data fast, provide power for charging and drive high-res monitors. There's fast WiFi 6 connectivity too which I sadly couldn't try as my router needs upgrading first. A slight grizzle are imprecise fingerprint readers on both machines, and only the Spectre x360 supports Windows Hello facial recognition for quick logins.
The best hardware feature for me is the long battery life. Up to 19 hours for the XPS 13 and 22 for the Spectre x360 are very optimistic figures; nevertheless, you'll easily go more than a whole day between charges with moderate use.
Design-wise, both laptops are slim and light and very mobile with the good battery life.
Dell went with simple and clean and HP added rose-gold bling to the machined case. The latter looks a bit ick and why is it that PC makers can't stop putting stickers on their gear?
Yes I get that the stickers tell people what's inside the machines. If you have to differentiate products with stickers, you're doing design wrong.
Also, don't get me started on HP's website which is impossible to navigate for mere mortals.
It doesn't take much use of either machine before you wish Microsoft had cleared out legacy cruft and fully nixed device makers from installing their own software to manage Windows 10 features. It's confusing to say the least and who at Microsoft okayed the stupid Windows 10 lock-screen messages and ads?
Microsoft has been on the warpath against vendors' "crapware" for a while but only been partially successful, ditto with their own Ye Olde Windows-ware like Control Panel that should have been rewritten years ago but which still lives on in Win10.
Great hardware from Dell and HP in other words, but please Microsoft: do a Marie Kondo and tidy up Windows. Wasn't that supposed to be the lesson from 10 years ago?