Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
4/26/2012
02:41 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable

Apple's chief executive says he won't consider an iPad that transforms into a laptop. Here's why he may not have any choice in the matter.

8 Tablets That Will Run Windows 8 Now
8 Tablets That Will Run Windows 8 Now
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Apple CEO Tim Cook this week sniffed at hybrid tablet-laptops, like those made by Microsoft and its partners, likening them to an ungainly cross between a refrigerator and a toaster. Cook's remarks weren't surprising. After all, why tout a product you don't offer. But the missing word here is "currently."

There's a number of reasons why it's likely Apple will eventually offer an iPad tablet that converts to a laptop. Here's a look at some of the most compelling.

1. MacBook Losing Air
The iPad is taking a big bite out of PC sales, and it's not just a problem for Microsoft and its OEMs. The iPad is also cannibalizing Apple's laptop lineup, including the MacBook Air. iPad sales were up 132% in the second quarter. By contrast, sales of Mac OS-based portables fell 1%.

Apple won't kill the MacBook Air anytime soon--at a minimum price of $999, it drives big profits. But it's becoming a niche, luxury product. Apple will eventually need to launch an iOS-based laptop for the iPad-addicted masses.

[ Find out why Apple's Cook Won't Find Peace From Competitors. ]

2. Differential Equations
When a product becomes dominant like the iPad, the market tends to get saturated. New versions can drive further sales, but there are only so many bells and whistles that can be added. At some point, Apple will need to introduce iPads in differentiated form factors to maintain momentum. It's already said to be planning an iPad mini. An iPad hybrid could spark demand at the other end of the spectrum.

3. Apple Hybrids Might Not Stink
Cook wasn't far off when he said that most of today's hybrid tablet-laptops are like the ungainly offspring of two kitchen appliances (so that's what they're up to at night). But they don't have to be. If any company has the aesthetic sense to produce a hybrid that is sleek and appealing, it's Apple. But if Cook is true to Steve Jobs' legacy, it won't happen until Cupertino can get it just right.

4. Platform Unification
Microsoft is pursuing a strategy that will eventually see Windows stretch across desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 reportedly already share much of the same codebase.

That's a big selling point for consumers and business users who want to access the same apps and services regardless of whether they're at home, in the office, or on the road. Apple could match that proposition by ultimately merging iOS and the Mac OS. If that happens, hybrids would surely be part of the product mix.

5. Windows Hybrids Will Get Better
With some exceptions, most Windows hybrids on the market today are either too bulky to function as a true tablet or too underpowered to be a true laptop. But that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. Microsoft is working with some partners that really know how to innovate around hardware, including Nokia, and it's only a matter of time before those partnerships yield a winner.

A Windows 8 hybrid that is light and fast, yet fully functional as a desktop and reasonably priced, could put a big dent in iPad sales. Apple would need to respond.

6. The Enterprise
Captain Kirk wants an iPad hybrid, and dammit Jim, he's going to get one. Kidding aside, Apple needs to crack the enterprise, aka, business, market if it's to continue putting up the big growth numbers investors have gotten used to. Many younger workers are bringing their iPads to the office, but the device is still a bit kludgy when one needs to type a long document or manipulate a spreadsheet. An iPad hybrid that transforms into a laptop at work? Redmond shudders.

It's not likely we'll see an iPad hybrid anytime soon. But soon in the tech business is relative. If Microsoft and its partners get it right with Windows 8 hybrids, soon could be a lot sooner than Tim Cook might want to admit.

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Rexcel
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Rexcel,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/18/2013 | 12:22:26 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
To download interactive storybooks for hybrid tablets, MacOSX and Microsoft Surface Pro, visit http://www.zelvaga.com
ANON1237925156805
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ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2012 | 5:44:54 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
If it feels the need then Apple can surely design a true hybrid with enough polish and elegance to bear its logo. I'm not sure how urgent this is; Apple is a thought leader and doesn't need to respond to every fad that comes out. They did OK ignoring netbooks, no?

In any case I agree with a prior post: The so called hybrid solution is out there today by adding a keyboard to the iPad. The resulting solution won't be powerful enough today to replace everyone's PCs. But it's inevitable that ARM chips will get faster and/or x86 or equivalent chips will get cooler and less greedy. In fact I can imagine a convergence of chips similar to the OS convergence being implemented by Microsoft and Apple.

All of this misses the biggest factor for me though. I just bought a MacBook Air not because my iPad is underpowered but because it doesn't have a file folder system that I can access. To the extent that Apple wants to leverage its enterprise dominance in the tablet space into greater sales in the PC space, THAT'S what it needs to address yesterday.

The cloud is all very well but it can have security and performance issues. Also business users need to be able to work offline. I want to open an Excel file attachment to an email, work on it, save it to a place I specify then open it in numbers the next time I come in. This is trivial on a PC and it must be trivial on my iPad sooner than later. Once that kind of stuff works I can happily add a keyboard and wait for the hardware to evolve. So iOS 6, what's up your sleeve???
jgeiss4p
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jgeiss4p,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2012 | 4:55:21 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
No, an iPad does not have a keyboard. But, it does have bluetooth! If you find that you need to do a lot of text entry, then simply buy a wireless keyboard and sync it up! I've even seen cases which convert your iPad into a laptop... put the iPad in the case at the top, and there's a rechargeable bluetooth keyboard in the bottom. Flip it open, prop up the top with it's built-in stand, and you've essentially got a laptop. If I had to take an iPad into a meeting and take notes, it would be a great solution!

Of course, this same solution can be applied to ANY tablet, and likely could be used for most laptops as well (ie, if you can't stand the 'chiclet' keyboard that shipped with your cheap windows netbook). Heck, I've considered doing so with my Blackberry phone, as my fingers are MUCH to big for the keys on it!!
Bob Forsberg
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Bob Forsberg,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/29/2012 | 4:11:22 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
It exists. MacBook Air touch screen with opposing half covers, one is the keyboard the other a fold over stand.

But why? All the noise about these devices are to prop up failing product lines the iPad has destroyed...buy a netbook lately?
kpbpsw
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kpbpsw,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/29/2012 | 5:14:48 AM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
Having owned may PC's and Mac's it is simply not fair to say that generic x86 hardware ether from a mainstream company (HP/Dell) or build it your self gaming style machine provide the same quality or performance as Mac's. They don't they can be cheaper especially as bare bones systems, but they are never nearly as good. It is especially true of laptops.
And all the hardware is besides the point. Apple software and system integration is light years ahead of anything else. MSFt knows this and that is why they are making serious strides with Windows Phone and W8. They are out of the game right now and need a home run soon to get them back - Windows 8 might just be that.
But to think that the you go out and buy something that works like a Mac or an iPad is simply not true, all you have to do is go to Best Buy (while they are still there) and play with the current crop non-apple PC's and Tablets.
You can less or more but you will not find a windows system that even has a good track pad! It's pretty sorry state, I know I just spent a few hours trying to buy a laptop for work, and after using an Mac Book Air for six months nothing else even seemed worth buying.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2012 | 1:32:05 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
Forgot one point: hybrids have a real keyboards. The biggest flaw of tablets is that they rely exclusively on touch using relatively small screens.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2012 | 1:30:39 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
That assumes that the growth rate stays the same for the next three years. I'm not sure that it will.
WW Thinker
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WW Thinker,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2012 | 8:34:51 AM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
An "exercise in absurdity"? It all depends on the approach to the implementation. Never say never. In fact, if a MacAir like Windows-compatible PC were available for US$600 or lower, the sales volume of iPad would be different.

Imagine a hybrid notebook PC (0.65" thick, 10-hr battery time, cold-boot within 8s, warm-boot within 3/4s, < 3lbs, 64GB or larger SSD, 13" display at 1600x900 or 2560x1600, $700) with Win8 supporting both downloadable apps and full-blown desktop applications like Photoshop / OrCAD etc. Even at $800 or $900, I and many people would pay for it.

Lastly, how true is "ARM processors are energy efficient"? In principle, this statement is very context dependent. If you need a mobile computing device which can run business applications (I am an engineer for customer support, and I need to run OrCAD at times, iPad is useless), multimedia applications (high-def streaming, forward, etc.) and run personal apps at different times or simultaneously, even the A15 may have difficulty to do all these, while the slightly less efficient and more powerful IvyBridge or 22nm-Atom can be up to the task. As is, the applications which run smoothly on iPad and other Android-based tablets do not require such beefy processor. But, as time evolved, apps will demand more resources and the 1GB (or mostly 512MB) on-board memory and the skimpy A9/A15 cores will have problem to meet the demands. Don't you know that ARM is now trying to beef up the architecture of the Cortex core such that it is as powerful as whatever Intel's x86-architecture is capable of? Once there, an beefed-up ARM processor will consumer only slightly less power, at the same manufacturing process geometry, as the x86. This is simply physics! Anybody trying to argue against is simply "dreaming". In addition, Intel is consensed to have the best manufacturing process in the world and is at least one year or more ahead of everybody else. Consequently, even the slightly lower efficiency won't show. In fact, we may see Qualcomm, Nvidia, and TI engineers struggling to show better efficiency a year from now.

Lastly, what you are seeing today is not what will be need tomorrow. Keep you mind open. No architecture and solution can live forever and do everything without limit!
WW Thinker
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WW Thinker,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2012 | 8:04:01 AM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
The computers which Apple offers, when compared to those from x86 PC OEMs, are strictly speaking: icing on the cake. This is why I refused to pay for them because I would rather spend a little more time to get things done. Most people who are buying Apple computers and Apple products possess the following characters: 1) has a lot of dispoable income; 2) don't spend the time to study the difference but simply trust that Apple' products can do what they want (in fact, Apple's products can achieve what people want either in a slightly more usable way but not necessarily better overall); 3) addicted to the Apple brand (such people are more abundant in Asia than in US & Europe) regardless.

There is one universal truth: everybody improves, especially under competition. Apple made the best smartphone at the time when iPhone3 was launched does NOT mean that Apple's smartphone is still the best today. Across the globe, consumers have the tendency to stick to the obselete situation and go with the past history of the perception rather than to keep the mind open.
FalKirk
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FalKirk,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 7:31:36 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
"When a product becomes dominant like the iPad, the market tends to get saturated."

Hmm. Let's see. There were 400 million traditional PCs sold last year and 50 million tablets. By the end of this year there will be 100 million tablets sold and by sometime in 2014 or 2015 tablet sales will outnumber those of traditional PCs. And the iPad is growing at 150% a year, over twice the pace of the iPhone.

Doesn't sound like the market is "saturated" to me.

"iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable"

I don't think the word "inevitable" means what you think it means.
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