Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows Vista operating system promises to make your computer desktop jazzier and easier to navigate, but some of the machines debuting with the new software will feature dramatic makeovers themselves.

Computer makers are experimenting with some interesting new hardware designs for Vista, which makes its consumer debut later this month.

Forget the staid box designs of yesteryear. Sony Corp. on Sunday unveiled a round, white PC to serve as a living-roommedia centre— a computing machine meant more for playing or recording TV and other multimedia than writing e-mail and other productivity tasks.

Designers tried to make sure the VAIO TP1 would fit nicely right next to or directly under many new flat-panel televisions, said Xavier Lauwaert, a product manager of Sony's VAIO unit.

"Like everyone else, we're moving away from the same form factors. It's something to shake the tree with," he said.

The machine is scheduled to be available in March for $1,600 US.

Laptop with swivelling lid

Toshiba Corp. is also taking a design leap of its own, going for the first time with a non-grey colour scheme. Its upcoming Vista-powered Portege R400 is glossy white and will be among the first notebooks to take advantage of Vista features that make some applications accessible even while the computer is on standby.

The Portege R400 features a slim display on its front edge for reading or scrolling through incoming e-mail or calendar alerts while the laptop lid is closed. The convertible tablet notebook can operate like a normal laptop. But users can also open, swivel and flip its lid over on top of the keyboard to read, surf the Web or draw up documents in their own handwriting.

The computer will also be the first laptop to feature a wireless docking station, Toshiba said, and is set to be available at the same time as Vista's launch on Jan. 30. Its price has not yet been finalized.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard Co. is debuting its TouchSmart PC, a new all-in-one computer and touchscreen display designed to be used in a kitchen nook, family room or living room. It lets users scribble notes on the screen, quickly call up a recipe or watch TV or movies.

The TouchSmart features a virtual message board with digital "Post-It"-like notes. There's special calendar software for family members to keep track of theirschedules and a dock for a photo printer nestled behind the 19-inch display.

The TouchSmart PC is scheduled to be available on Jan. 30 at a suggested retail price of $1,899 US.