Software developers should take advantage of forthcoming laptops that combine touch and keyboard capabilities by tapping into the touchscreens, an Intel official said at a developer relations event.

Such touchscreen laptops are expected later this year from PC vendors hoping to ride on Windows 8's touch-based Metro UI. The underlying Windows 7 OS in Windows 8 supports touch as well, as it has from the beginning, although users avoided the touchscreen PCs and monitors first released in 2009.

Intel has positioned its second-generation Core processors as processing engines for Ultrabooks - thin and light laptops similar to Apple's MacBook Air. Intel expects many Ultrabooks to include touchscreens, though the Ultrabook spec doesn't require it. Intel hopes the touch capabilities will spur sales of Windows PCs, which have been flagging in the last year.

"The opportunity for touchscreen Ultrabooks essentially is to create new experiences," said Scott Apeland, director of developer programs for the Intel Consumer Services division, at the Evans Data Developer Relations Conference in Redwood City, California. Developers, he said, can build applications taking advantage of both touch and keyboard inputs.

Ultrabooks of all sorts present a "huge volume opportunity," Apeland said. Intel has cited industry figures stating Ultrabooks will account for 40% of the notebook market by 2015. Although demand for the first generation has been tepid, Dell, HP, and other PC makers are continuing to roll out Ultrabook laptops and say they are working on tablets, tablet/laptop hybrids, and all-in-one PCs that would run Windows 8 and use Intel's low-power Core processors.

Intel is offering resources at its website to help developers craft touch-oriented applications for Ultrabooks.