Convertible PCs weren't entirely new then, but Dell's XPS 11 was novel enough to stir media attention at the world's second-biggest tech show.
At this week's 2014 show, Dell -- along with hundreds of others -- were displaying the same sort of two-in-one or even three-in-one PCs. None, however, are creating the same sort of buzz.
"To be very honest, there's not much breakthrough this year in terms of innovation," says Avril Wu, an assistant vice president with information-technology market research firm TrendForce in Taipei. "For the PC right now, it's in the very end of the product life cycle."Exhibitors at the computer show -- second-largest behind CeBIT in Germany -- are trying to grab about 38,000 visitors this week by playing up perks as minor as a VGA graphics port on a new tablet that works in other ways like every other one on the market. Some exhibitors say they couldn't compete for mainstream consumers and instead chased wealthy niche markets such as gamers or the medical industry. This year's show lacks IT milestones such as a new Microsoft (MSFT) operating system or a new line of Intel (INTC) processors, which could herald new product lines and reshuffle PC developer market shares. Financial losses dog much of the industry. Acer -- the world's fourth-largest computer maker -- lost money most of last year on a quarterly basis as it tried to shift its longstanding traditional PC business to handhelds. Intel has struggled to make money on mobile device processors.