Intel & Samsung are making way for ‘slidable’ PCs

It’s not clear yet how Intel will make slidable PCs a reality. Foldable is out; slidable is in.

Intel has been experimenting with new PC form factors for years and was initially preparing for a dual-screen and foldable future before Microsoft dropped its plans for Windows 10X on foldable.

These types of new form factors desperately need the software and apps to make them shine.

“We’re revealing the world’s first 17-inch slidable display for PCs,” said Choi. “This device will satisfy various requirements for a larger screen and portability.” Samsung Display has chosen to implement a sliding (rather than foldable) technology for its flexible PC displays, and Choi appeared to indicate that “foldable is gone” on PCs for now.

Samsung Display and Intel are working on “slidable” PCs. During Intel’s Innovation keynote today, Samsung Display CEO JS Choi appeared onstage to show off a prototype PC sliding from a 13-inch tablet to a 17-inch display. However, the slidable PC is just a concept for now, and there’s no word from Intel or Samsung Display on when it will become a reality.

The prototype device that Samsung Display and Intel have shown off today essentially turns a 13-inch tablet into a 17-inch monitor with an adjustable display and a sliding mechanism. Intel was quick to demonstrate its new Unison software on this display, which aims to connect Intel-powered computers to smartphones — including iPhones.

Lacking a keyboard, the slidable PC looked more like a tablet. But with a diagonal screen ranging from 13 to 17 inches, it was more like a laptop. Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger and J.S. Choi, leader of Samsung’s display division, showed the device Tuesday at Intel Innovation. The company debuted Intel’s new 13th Generation Core processors at this conference.

A slidable PC device will satisfy needs for both a large screen and portability, Gelsinger said. In addition, it’s a demonstration of what’s possible with OLED display technology built onto a flexible plastic substrate.

Moving parts and flexible components heighten the challenges of complexity and reliability. Costs also increase, a concern during a shrinking PC market. But novel designs can find a niche, and premium PCs are faring better than budget PCs, Michelle Johnston Holthaus, head of Intel’s PC chip group, said at the conference.

Earlier this year, Samsung demonstrated a slidable phone screen and other novel designs. Although the slidable PC prototype didn’t have a keyboard, one could be added as the design matures, for example, by folding out from underneath, Holthaus said.

It isn’t apparent when the slidable PC idea will mature into a product. But the design shows how the PC industry continues to try out new hardware to extend beyond traditional clamshell laptops with a keyboard and screen connected by a hinge. Other examples include laptops whose screens hinge backward to convert the device into a tablet and the ThinkPad X1 Fold, with a folding screen.