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6/13/2012
01:26 PM
Larry Seltzer
Larry Seltzer
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Why Today's Notebook Soon Will Be Obsolete

Windows 8 could force a major shift in the industry. Notebooks as we know them could disappear, replaced by Windows 8 hybrid notebook-tablets.

We've been writing a lot lately about Windows 8 and new hardware being developed for it. I think it's fair to say that Windows 8 will be the most revolutionary and disruptive version of Windows since the very early ones.

Those early versions of Windows drove new hardware markets, from bigger color monitors to mice to graphics cards, but every desktop version since has been evolutionary. Nothing in there to truly change the computing experience. Hybrid tablet/notebooks, on the other hand, are always on, and that is radically different from what we're used to.

How so? As George Ou noted in a recent story, Intel claims 20 design wins for its new Clover Trail chipset, many of them hybrid tablet/notebook designs. These systems work like notebooks and like tablets. In some cases the screen might be detachable for use as a standalone tablet.

These 20 aren't the only such designs; the Lenovo Yoga (below right, with Dell Inspiron Duo), for instance, is not on the list. It's probably using an older chip set. Lenovo had better catch up because, as George Ou says in another story, nothing on the market will compete with Clover Trail.

The focus of George's stories has been the tablet market because that's what people want to talk about these days, but the notebook market is still immense. Even Apple keeps improving its notebooks. But why buy a notebook when you can have a notebook that is also a tablet?

If manufacturers can get the price point of hybrid tablet/notebooks down close enough to that of plain notebooks, the game will be over. There won't be any point to buying a plain notebook. This might not happen quickly, but it will happen. The whole history of the PC industry says that it will happen--if people like the designs.

"Radically different" doesn't necessarily mean "good" or "successful," but Microsoft is clearly betting Windows' future on the Metro interface and tablets as a major form factor. People are dismissive these days about Microsoft and its declining influence, but there are still probably a billion or two people running it and just about every corporation of any size in the world is heavily invested in Windows.

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