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4/26/2012
02:41 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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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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FalKirk
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FalKirk,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 7:25:32 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
"If one day, Apple fans wake up and realize how much money they have spent for the priviledge of using Apple products compare with what else is out there, they may just rethink their decision."-EVVJSK

Apple fans were never asleep to begin with. They didn't just "dream up" the fact that Apple's products, customer service and support were the highest rated in the industry. They knew then and know now that value, not price is what matters.

Apple has always provided me (and, apparently, as many as a third of all Americans) with products that that were of exceptional value. Comparing Apple products with what else is out there doesn't shake my faith in Apple - it reaffirms it.
DB6114
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DB6114,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 6:45:58 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
"Apple will eventually need to launch an iOS-based laptop for the iPad-addicted masses."

This is quite possibly the goofiest thing I've ever heard. If you can offer a fully fledged OS that is as thin as a pencil (a Macbook Air), why on Earth would you create a tablet hybrid with anything less?

"At some point, Apple will need to introduce iPads in differentiated form factors to maintain momentum."

Apple only needs to offer the most compelling tablet to maintain momentum. iPad sales are jaw-droppingly huge. Unfortunately for Android, the Samsung and Asus tablets haven't put much of a dent in Apple's tablet dominance. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. They are making way too much money on iPads right now to seriously consider changing the form factor too much.

"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."

While this is definitely the goal of all operating system manufacturers, I don't think this guarantees a hybrid at all. Why do you feel merged OS's guarantees a hybrid form factor? Windows 8 will be functional without a keyboard, why wouldn't a merged iOS/Mac OS be?

"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."

As stated above, Apple is already succeeding, including in the enterprise. Businesses are buying iPads before they even know what they are going to do with them. A hybrid is not necessary to "enter" the business market - they're already there.

I don't argue that the world needs hybrids - I myself am waiting to replace my laptop with Microsoft's version of the ASUS Transformer Prime that runs a complete Windows experience. I just argue with this flimsy "analysis". Until Apple is feeling heat from the competition, there is absolutely no reason to throw money at a new form factor that may not prove to be successful, when they have one that is clearly dominating the market.
LBLACKMON000
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LBLACKMON000,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 6:25:34 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
Paul, that is the crazy bunch of bull if I have ever heard one, There is no need for a iPad hybrid laptop or thingamajig or what ever name you want to give. Besides, that has never been apple vision nor Steve Job vision or the apple fan base vision...only yours. Why do you think they have 97% of the corporate tablet market to this day. I can assure it is not because of some dream of a hybrid iPad/laptop or thingamajig that you so desire. Want happen, not needed, no can do.
hlubinv8l
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hlubinv8l,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 4:22:54 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
Combining a laptop with a multi-touch tablet is an exercise in absurdity. You only end up with a product that is the worst of both worlds.

This is why the "Tablet PC" has been such a sales dud for more than 10 years. Only a small group bought these monstrosities.

If you want an ultra-light, portable multi-touch tablet... get one. But if you need a 64-bit personal computer with keyboard and trackpad... get a MacBook Air or one of the many "Ultrabook" clones.

Applications designed for desktop and notebook computers are totally different than those designed for tablets. They NEED a keyboard and trackpad, but they are NOT designed for multi-touch.

Remember that the MacBook Air's trackpad IS a multi-touch device, so you can do your multi-touch gestures without having to move your hands and arms to the screen and then back to the keyboard again.

Any notebook computer (convertible or not) running desktop apps MUST use x86 processors. Those processors are not as energy efficient as ARM processors. Also, any notebook computer (convertible or not) has a keyboard that adds to the weight, thickness, and energy usage that are not acceptable for tablet portability.

And desktop operating systems and applications require a screen larger than the 7" to 10" range of tablets. The average notebook PC has a 13" to 15" display... this is MUCH too large and heavy (and battery draining) for a tablet.

EVVJSK
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EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 1:43:30 PM
re: 6 Reasons iPad Hybrid Tablets Are Inevitable
Oh the difficulty of having some success. For many years Apple did just well enough to stay on the Fringe of computing success. They did O.K. made a good computer that did what some wanted and worked the way that some people wanted to work. Now they get successful with the iPhone and iPad and they have to deal with that success. Start making decisions that may impact that success (face it, it is hard to stay at the top for very long just ask IBM and Microsoft). If one day, Apple fans wake up and realize how much money they have spent for the priviledge of using Apple products compare with what else is out there, they may just rethink their decision. I don't wish Apple any particular ill, just think that they may have hit a bit of a wall. Will have to see if it a plateau or if it is the beginning of a bit of a downhill trend.
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