Asus has shown off an innovative dual-panel portable computer that suggests a multi-device future for all laptops might not be far off.
Made up two LCD-sized displays in a thin form factor, one can function as a conventional screen with the other used as a virtual keyboard using touch input. Alternatively, the device can be flipped in an A4 orientation and used as a e-book reader, or just used in conventional fashion as a touchscreen computer in the style of today's Tablet PCs.
For users who care about video, Asus sees the two screens being combined to create a widescreen effect, rounding off the machine multiple identities without necessarily compromising the usability of any one of them.
On show at this week's Cebit Show in Hanover, the unnamed machine is still in the concept phase but gives some clues as to how the company and its competitors might be trying to continue the reinvention of the laptop concept that started with the advent of netbooks two years ago.
"The dual panel offers a flexible working space in which users can adapt to suit their prevailing usage scenarios, for example adjusting the size of the virtual touchpad and keyboard," said the Asus press release. "Through hand gestures, handwriting recognition and multi-touch, users are presented with a control surface that is both flexible and intuitive."
The dual-screen concept has come from the Community Designed PC Project, the company said, some of whose design ideas take this multi-screen ability to extremes. The more sedate dual-screen concept can be seen here.
Separately, Asus said it would phase out its groundbreaking 7-inch Eee PC machines this year, focussing instead on 10-inch models.