Buying into a new PC form factor? It's the best (and worst) of times

If you're in the market for a PC---laptop, slate, tablet or some other newfangled form factor---it's the best of times. And it's also the worst of times.

If you're in the market for a PC---laptop, slate, tablet or some other newfangled form factor---it's the best of times. And it's also the worst of times.

At CES 2010, we've seen the hybrid tablet/laptops, slates from HPs and a bevy of other snazzy designs. All touch enabled, all light and all worth taking for a spin.

Now it's time for a confessional: I'm just not sure what the heck I'd do with some of these things. Of course, Lenovo's hybrid thing-a-ma-jig looks great. But am I really going to separate the slate portion as if it were the Space Shuttle ditching the fuel tank? Will this form factor be appealing 10 weeks from now?

Also see: CES 2010 gear in pictures Special Report: See full CES coverage

Simply put, if you're pondering some of these new devices you're at a fork in the tech road. Some of us will buy the next iPod touch. Others will buy the equivalent of a tech Dodo bird. Simply put, some of us will chase these form factors and might as well flush a few hundred dollars down the toilet.

You need a crystal ball to figure out which devices will wind up as hits or duds. And frankly, my forecasting ability just isn't that good.

So what's a tech buyer to do? Wait. The flops may reveal themselves quickly. Why worry about what form factors will get panned? No one wants to pay good money for a dud.

For instance, is anyone seriously going to buy this Asus keyboard concoction (right)?  Do I need an HP slate (below) if it's just going to be a glorified Kindle? As noted at Tech Introvert, tablets and netbooks/laptops need different use cases or they just duplicate each other. And I smell a lot of duplication.

The rub: I'm on the fence if I want a single use device or all-in-one. I know I don't want to carry around a bunch of devices. Perhaps Apple's mythical table gets me off the fence. Maybe it doesn't. In either case, it's all a bit fuzzy right now. The best option may be to hang back and let the market show me the way. When in doubt the newfangled designs may be best left as eye candy.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke highly of the barrage of form factors, but honestly all the hubbub makes me want to run back to the friendly confines of my laptop (perhaps a sleek new lighter model though). The big question: Do I really want or even need the designs coming out of CES?

Microsoft highlights new devices at CES 2010 At CES 2010 in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage and highlights some of the key devices and technologies the company will be launching in the coming year. He demos a new slate PC from HP running Windows 7 as well as some new Windows Mobile phones. Robbie Bach, the company's president of Entertainment and Devices, also talks about Microsoft's plan for Natal and announces a ship date of Christmas 2010.