An iOS Laptop is a Compelling Idea

Ben Bajarin / January 23rd, 2012

Our friend Harry McCracken wrote in his CNET column yesterday about why he believes the world needs an iOS laptop. James Kendrick of ZNET shared his thoughts on Harry’s article pointing out that it is a good idea but that he doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.

Both Harry and James have formed opinions on this matter largely because of the latest Zagg Folio case for iPad 2. As a part of our own research, we have been using this case as well for sometime and have been bringing this solution up in our conversations with industry executives.

Our opinion is that the limitations of touch computing in terms of text entry, formatting, etc are largely offset with the combination of a keyboard. That being said there are still significant challenges with this approach which need to be addressed.

Firstly, an iOS laptop, or any tablet/ laptop combo will be storage limited. Due to the nature of the tablet form factor and use cases there will simply not be hundreds of gigs of storage in these devices for some time. The case can and should be made that consumers who purchase a iOS laptop or tablet/hybrid may not be buying these devices to fully replace a notebook but for many it will suffice none-the-less. Therefore cloud services could be a requirement for devices like an iOS laptop or tablet/PC hybrid to be fully embraced.

The biggest failing I have found in using the iPad 2 with the Zagg Folio case is text formatting and document editing. Going back through and fixing words, deleting sentences or paragraph’s is still a cumbersome experience using touch only. It is not impossible, but this is one area where I prefer a mouse and pointer.

In reality an iOS laptop or tablet/PC hybrid could very well find its niche in what was formerly the Netbook category, a category that at one time was selling 30 million units a year.

Tim points out in his column today, that we could see a resurgence of the Netbook like category with new ultra-thin PC(which are not UltraBooks) that are specifically targeting the low end, basic PC user category.

We remain convinced that there is still a large opportunity in the sub $500 range for a class of computing product. It may very well be that we see a range of form factors target this market and the tablet/PC hybrid being one of the centerpieces. Tim wrote in depth about this new hybrid category in his PC Mag column titled “Make Way for Hybrids” a few weeks ago.

This could be one of the most exciting categories to watch as we see vendors experiment with the combination of touch and mouse and keyboard computing. I agree with James, in that if Apple did do something in this area it probably would not be soon, meaning this year.

Obviously, I would love to see what Apple could do in this area of a iOS/Laptop combo. However, they are also smart enough to be aware of some of the challenges that remain in order to make a device in this category that does not feel cheap, or present a sub-par user experience. For now, personally, I would accept being able to run iOS apps on my Macbook Air.

We do expect innovation in this category as well as fierce combination and hopefully creative innovation. What do you think?

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • shockme

    The two biggest issues for text entry in iOS are the non-standard keymap and the lack of precise cursor placement. On a desktop this is addressed with a hardware keyboard and mouse. In iOS it could be addressed with a more familiar keymap and cursor/selection arrows such as those appearing in the app known as TextKraftEN.

    When combined with a hardware keyboard and the iPad in portrait orientation (to show more of the page) accurate cursor placement via arrows would make it very productive in situation where a table was available and the operator could use both hands.

    • benbajarin

      I agree. Thanks for commenting.

  • RedMercury

    Yes! Bring back the eMate!

    • shockme

      The eMate was awesome at text entry and you could throw it across the room if you wanted to.

  • An iPad with a keyboard and large amounts of storage seems pointless to me… just get a MacBook Air.

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