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9/11/2012
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Windows 8 Ultrabooks Get Siri-Like Voice

Intel and partners hope innovative features will help PCs stay competitive with tablets and smartphones.

10 Windows Ultrabooks: Not Just For SMBs
10 Windows Ultrabooks: Not Just For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Intel plans to integrate voice-based search technology into its ultrabook platform starting later this year, after the arrival of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, a company executive said.

Intel Architecture Group general manager David Perlmutter said the company has partnered with speech-recognition specialist Nuance to add Nuance's Dragon Assistant technology to ultrabooks. Paired with Windows 8 touch capabilities, the technology could lead to systems that rival the sort of interactivity normally found on tablets and smartphones.

The systems will put to rest the notion that "touch is the end of innovation--this is just the beginning," said Perlmutter, during a keynote presentation at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

During a demonstration, an Intel employee asked a Dell XPS ultrabook that had been equipped with the technology to perform a Web search, find sunglasses on Amazon, and play music. The system was also asked to tweet the results of the Amazon search. "What would you like to say about this link?" it asked in a softly mechanical, feminine voice.

[ They're here, but does anyone care? See Nokia Windows Phone 8 Devices Arrive With Thud. ]

Contrasting the technology with services such as Apple's Siri and Google Voice, Perlmutter noted that voice-recognition software "is running native on the platform. This is not a cloud service; this requires the high-performing CPU and the applications inside."

Intel released the ultrabook specification with an eye toward giving laptop makers a reference design for systems that could compete with rivals such as the MacBook Air. Ultrabooks with screens larger than 14 inches must be no more than 21 mm thick, while those under 14 inches must be no more than 18 mm thick.

They also must run late-generation Intel chips such as the Ivy Bridge Core i3, i5, or i7.

Perlmutter also showed off Intel's forthcoming Haswell architecture, which is due out sometime next year. The platform will use 20 times less power in connected standby--a Windows 8 feature that allows systems to remain connected to services such as Wi-Fi while asleep--than current Intel chips.

Haswell also will double graphics performance at comparable power levels. It "is designed with mobility in mind," said Perlmutter.

The demonstrations showed Intel's recognition that the PC industry needs to find new ways to innovate if it's to keep up with mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones. Last week, Intel lowered its revenue forecast for the third quarter, from the previous estimate of between $13.8 and $14.8 billion, to between $12.7 billion and $13.5 billion.

The company blamed "weaker than expected demand."

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