In a Tech.pinions piece I wrote a few weeks back, I stated that in our talks with IT directors they have been sharing with us their interested in the hybrids or convertibles that are just starting to get into the marketplace. Products like Lenovo’s Yoga or HP’s Elitebook Convertible are attractive to them for various reasons, but the main one is that instead of having to support a separate tablet and laptop, these converged products give them both in a single package.
An IT capable tablet might cost $600 or $700 and an IT grade laptop might cost upwards of $900- $1300 depending on configurations. These convertibles or hybrids are priced around $900-$1300, which is cheaper than buying a separate laptop and tablet combined. Thus, cost of support and cost of ownership is reduced and with IT budgets being stretched these days, lower priced, yet highly functional devices like these hybrids or convertibles makes a lot of sense to them.
We are also seeing some real interest in hybrids and convertibles with SMB and some consumers as well. The compactness of having a 2-in-1 device seems to be of real interest to them as well. At a personal level, I have used a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad for over a year and in many cases, this has replaced my laptop. However, I still need my laptop to handle what we call heavy lifting tasks like managing my media, doing large spreadsheets or complex documents.
Looking to the Future
In my 2013 predictions column last week, I suggested that hybrids and convertibles could be a sleeper product next year and could catch on with business users in a big way. However, in this same column I made a bolder prediction that Apple would create something I called the AirPad or iPadAir that possibly would be ultrathin like the current MacBook Air and be more like an actual laptop but the screen would detach and become an iPad. Since I made this prediction I have had a lot of calls and emails from people who today have iPads, but tell me they would love to have an iPad/laptop combo device and they would be first in line to buy it.
There is one big problem with my prediction of an Apple hybrid though. Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record saying that Apple does not believe this type of device makes sense. They appear heavily opposed to this idea and seem to stand strong around the idea that a laptop is a laptop and a tablet is a tablet. At the moment, you can’t argue with their logic as they are selling a record numbers of MacBooks and iPads, and they may be right. Hybrids and convertibles from the PC crowd have only been out for a short time. Microsoft’s Surface product being the poster child for hybrids also clouds this issue since it acceptance in the market has been lukewarm at best.
Given the type of work we do at Creative Strategies, we get to see a lot of products behind the scenes before they ever hit the market. Over the last three months, we have seen about a dozen hybrid’s or convertibles that will hit the market in Q1 or Q2 of 2013 and some of them are stunning in their design and functionality. On some of them, the screens stay attached and either slide down over the keyboard to become a tablet, or they twist and fold down to also become a tablet in its own right. In our work, we define these types of products as convertibles.
We have also seen a lot of what we call hybrids, in which the screen completely detaches from the keyboard and becomes a much lighter stand-alone tablet. In both cases, some of these are ultra-thin and extremely well designed and I can’t help but believe that when these products hit the market interest by business users and consumers will be piqued. Hybrids dual functionality as a full laptop as well as a real tablet, along with lower pricing than if you bought the tablet and laptop separately, will resonate with many people.
I have also been hearing that the PC side of the house is very bullish on these two-in-one designs and since most of them fall under Intel’s ultrabook designation, they will be heavily promoted next year as part of an increased campaign to get people to buy Ultrabooks. Because of the innovative designs in hybrids and convertibles, which are really eye catching with most priced under $1000, this duality of design and functionality should get a lot of attention next year.
What if the Market for Hybrids Takes Off?
If our prognostication that hybrids and convertibles are correct, and they really take off, Apple will have to look harder at possibly creating a similar type of product for their customers. Today they just let them go out and buy a third party keyboard and force their users to piece together their own hybrid solutions. We have talked to a lot of people who have done this and just love the fact that in a very small package the iPad becomes a powerful productivity tool as well as one that they can use for consumption of media, pictures, etc.
There is strong precedent as well that a product Apple said they would never do they eventually bring to market anyway. Steve Jobs said Apple would not get into phones. And he also said he believed 7” tablets were worthless. However, market dynamics have a way of changing Apple’s position on products they dismiss as not being viable for them to do.
That is why I believe that if hybrids and convertibles really strike a chord with consumers, Apple will have to respond to this possible threat to them, especially in business markets where these types of products are garnering a lot of interest now. Imagine a MacBook Air like design with an iPad tablet that detaches. Given Jony Ives brilliant design acumen, I could imagine an Apple hybrid that would not only be competitive with the PC crowd, but one that would re-define the market for these types of products in the future.
We are in the very early stages of bringing hybrids and convertibles to business users and consumers, so it is too early in the cycle to predict with any certainty the level of adoption of hybrids. But our early research in this area continues to point to the fact that these types of products could be attractive to a large amount of users, and if they do take off and become a threat to Apple, it would not surprise me if Apple responds in kind and creates a product that could turn this market upside down.
45 thoughts on “Should Apple Make a Hybrid or Convertible PC?”
Does anyone proofread these articles? Hyrbird? Hyrbids? My iPad spell checker knows better.
Where to begin. Lots of broken premises create a wobbly foundation.
#1 New convertibles are better than the current ones.
We’ve seen all the designs at shows etc. and none are compelling. Not the Yoga, the Slider, the twister unless you’ve seen some hinge that we haven’t? They are all too heavy to be a viable tablet. The iPad is about to slim down significantly in its next rev. probably approaching 1lb while all these are in the 2.2-3.5lb range. That makes them higher priced ultrabooks with a hinge begging to be a failure point.
#2 Enterprise IT managers know what their users want
If consumerization has proven anything, it is that IT managers do NOT know. They stubbornly didn’t choose what their users wanted and have thus lost their authority in device selection in many places. Most IT managers do not fundamentally understand their users needs/requirements and do not know how their devices are used. Their assumptions on how a compromised single device is preferable to carrying 2 is broken. Pulling the right device for the job at hand out of the bag is much more important than saving 1lb in the bag. Integration through a private/hybrid cloud or existing enterprise apps addresses device sync.
#3 Convertibles/Hybrids are a mainstream market segment
Looking around at most corporate IT deployments, super-light device demanding road-warrior users are a small proportion of most knowledge workers. Desktops still predominate, most traveling users don’t need anything super-light to be productive on and the few that have real tablet use cases (going to clients, electronic signatures, logging onto enterprise apps from the car, etc.) need real tablets. Even the theoretical use cases are a small minority.
#4 Hybrids/convertibles are driven by the device not the OS
The premise for these devices is dependent on the OS. Only W8 full offers the opportunity to create a real hy/conv device and it is deeply flawed. Otherwise the device is just a tablet with a keyboard and crappy touchpad. Unless the OS allows apps that make sense in the desktop mode it is an irrelevant format. An iPad or Nexus 10 with a keyboard are fine for lengthy text input but you still wouldn’t do complex spreadsheets or presentations on such a small screen on your desk. Apple has no OS for a hybrid. Mac OS is not designed for touch, iOS is not for standard office apps. There are plenty of good keyboards for iOS devices. Android is no better with weak productivity apps and limited mouse-based functionality.
Overall, I just don’t see anything other than an extremely small user segment for the current convertibles/hybrids with their flawed premises and compromised execution.
you have some good points that i agree with. The only one that i disagree with is #4. The hybrid is in its infant stages…If microsoft gets their act together then can set up win9/10 to be in desktop mode as soon as a keyboard is present and back to metro mode the moment its removed with the app and the desktop programs seamless sharing syncing functions. Same with MacOS and iOS as i see a similar thing happening in the next few years. The technology is just not there yet to give the heavy lifting in these devices but it will be – without a doubt. Just look how far the tech has come in the pass few years. Exciting times ahead…but its not this year or the next. 🙂
I agree with your point but think it will be harder because the value will be in the hands of the app developers, not the OS maker. MS can’t create that proposition you describe without the App devs playing along and making multiple versions of their apps for fundamentally differently able platforms, leveraging a common cloud, etc. Easier said than done… I guess we’ll see if the SW side can keep up with the constant HW innovation.
I agree with capnbob67 that you’re badly wrong here. I think you’ve forgotten a basic fact: Apple doesn’t design its products according to what IT or businesses want. Apple makes its products to appeal to two and only two groups: consumers and professional creative types (artists, designers, etc). Businesses and IT are not a customer segment they serve. Nor are they interested in selling to the tiny market segment of professional road warriors who cannot deal with the extra weight of an ipad on top of their laptop.
With everything it does, Apple shows every intention to continue to be a consumer electronics company, not a business electronics company. They’ll make modest improvements to their products that look like they’re designed to make businesses happy (ie, i think it was IOS 2’s mail app featured Outlook integration), but they do that so as to make individual customers who want to use their iPhones at work happy, not so as to make businesses or IT departments happy.
Some IT managers may be interested in convertibles, but they are the (sadly common) wrong type of IT manager, that puts IT staff work reduction, ahead of delivering the best product to the client.
Almost no one needs the utility of a touch tablet. We use tablets, because the form factor enhances the PLEASURE of certain activities.
Convertible miss that point entirely. They deliver the utility of touch, without the form factor pleasure enhancement and thus deliver NOTHING.
Convertibles are the ultimate failure to get it. The ultimate failure to understand product design and user interaction.
Will Apple do a convertible?
No, because they get design and user interaction.
I didn’t get this post at all. A convertible is just a tablet with an add-on keyboard. The level of “enjoyment” related to such a product relates almost directly to software. No one has yet created a compelling SOFTWARE solution to take advantage of the hybrid or convertible form factors. As I’ve pointed out in other posts, Apple already has the foundation to do that.
“A convertible is just a tablet with an add-on keyboard.”
By this definition, an iPad with an add-on keyboard could be a convertible.
Almost, iPad with an add on keyboard could be considered a hybrid not convertible. A hybrid in our view is tablet most of the time and notebook only part of the time. A convertible, like the Yoga, is PC most of the time tablet part of the time.
Great description. Thanks.
There’s still a huge issue of operating systems if you are not running Windows 8. An iPad or Android tablet–or to some extent Windows RT– with a keyboard has a very different sort of operating system than a laptop or convertible running Windows or OS X or Linux. This is especially true with regards to the file system and user-installable drivers. I’m not saying that one is better or worse than the other but that they are different, and intended for different sorts of uses.
When I said convertible I meant something like this Dell, considered by many to be the best of Win8 convertibles:
IMO that loses the main benefit of a tablet, which is the user experience that comes from the small/light form factor.
Simple producing a detachable keyboard for the iPad doesn’t make it a convertible IMO. Those already exist. Is the iPad a convertible? No. Will Apple producing their own keyboard change that? No.
I use a convertable, and I love it
there are lots of people out there who would appreciate a good touchscreen and stylus. I input lots of Chinese and I do lots of math, touchscreeens are the way to go for this
Just curious–do you input Chinese and math as ink or for handwriting recognition (conversion to text)?
I use handwriting recognition for Chinese input, OneNote for math notes
There have been touchscreen’s with stylus’s on the market for over a decade, they have never got more than 0.5% of the PC market.
Considering the use-case for tablets is essentially standing up to use them, I’m skeptical that convertibles work as tablets at all. Hybrid tablets weigh nearly twice what the iPad retina does. The huge appeal of the mini is it eliminates much of the hand fatigue you get from holding a tablet for long periods of time.
As for detachable keyboards, the iPad already supports them. There are dozens of great keyboards from Zagg, Creative, etc. I’ve heard rumors of a 16:9 iPad which would be a good form-factor for a larger, more finger-friendly keyboard so it’s possible. Maybe Apple will announce a new slightly larger (and likely lighter) iPad with a combo keyboard case for akin to the Surface.
To say the least, I don’t agree with many of the rebuttals.
“Hybrids” are for people who primarily want a laptop but may have need of tablet functionality on occasion. Under these conditions, the weight compromise is acceptable as the device will not be used as a tablet very often.
“Convertibles” are for people who want the best of both worlds and I think the form factor gets pretty close right now and will nail it in the future. In tablet mode, a convertible has the identical UX from a hardware perspective as a dedicated tablet. As a laptop, a convertible has the same size and weight of an ultraportable laptop plus the additional benefit of a supplemental battery that can give it up to 50% greater battery life than a laptop.
There are still issues to overcome in screen quality and performance but improvements for those are right around the corner. The main issue is the software. Once this challenge is met, I don’t see why convertibles and hybrids won’t take over a very large portion of the mobile PC market.
I’d offer it the other way. Our view on hybrids is that its for people who want a tablet 80% of the time and notebook like functions, mostly for input, 20% or so of the time. WIndows 8 does not deliver this because it sucks as a tablet. Therefore my conviction is we are yet to see the true premise of a hybrid hit the market. With the notable exception of an iPad paired with a keyboard, which I use an awful lot. But still has its holes because the integration is not where it should be in that or to call that a true hyrbid solution.
The convertible form factor, in our view, is closer to yours. Notebook most of the time, tablet part of the time.
LOL, I think we are just saying the same thing. I think I just have the nomenclature reversed.
We are. I just wanted to clarify our use of the terms so you know for future reference. We will write quite a bit on this subject throughout 2013.
Should Apple build a hybrid? Sure, why not. Just for laughs.
Will Apple build a hybrid? No. Never. For several glaringly obvious reasons.
Apple currently makes most of their revenue from hardware sales. Attempting to merge their MacBook and iPad lines into a hybrid “convertible” could only cannibalize sales of both lines. Bad idea.
MacBook and iPad are orthogonal products, meaning that you can own both and use them for different tasks, with a certain tolerable amount of feature-overlap. It’s like using a fork and a spoon. A hybrid, on the other hand, is like a spork. Not even airlines use them any more.
Also, the hybrid concept has been tried before, never caught on, and apparently remains as unappealing as ever. If it were a great idea, it would have taken over the world way back in the Windows CE days. It didn’t. Remember the Clio? Didn’t think so.
And they should make a netbook too!
Others here are quite correct when they say IT people don’t get what we need. They always specify completely underpowered computers for users where I work. We have proven over and over again that none if they HP PCs they have chosen for our staff can handle reviewing videos, let alone creating them.
I am ever so sick and tired of the silly and lazy “analysis” that Apple might do anything they said they won’t because they entered markets they had previously shied away from.
Here, grab this clue stick:
When Apple say they won’t do a product they also say why.
If the reason is something that is an inherent flaw of the product they stick to their guns.
If the reason is they can’t bring it to market, they work to change that and they eventually do if the opportunity is big enough.
Apple said they won’t make a netbook because netbooks suck.
Result: No Apple netbook. Ever.
Apple said they won’t make a phone because operators abused their distribution power to dictate phone features.
Result: Apple made such a fabulously great phone that they were able to negotiate a historically better deal, but (even to this day) only with some operators and almost never starting with the biggest operator in the country.
Apple said that styluses are clunky, easy to lose and that writing recognition is not only the hardest to get right but also the slowest form of text input.
Childish and absurd ADD blogger conclusion: Apple hates styluses.
Reasonable conclusion: Apple tried and did not find enough appeal for styluses to justify the complication of including them by default in any of their products. This may or may not change over time as technology evolves.
Apple said that 7″ tablets suck because their screens are too small to run significantly richer apps than smartphone apps.
Result: Apple introduced an 8″ tablet with 35% more screen area that runs tablet apps. 7″ tablets still run scaled phone apps. Clueless ADD bloggers everywhere jump and scream about how Apple recanted and is now a scared follower of market trends.
So, will Apple make a hybrid or convertible?
Well, what did they say about when asked?
They said they won’t because the products are not good and that Microsoft is only doing it for strategic reasons (shoving their new touch UI upon their legacy installed base to hopefully keep at least some of them in the post PC era).
Does this scenario sound more like phones or like netbooks?
I was also sad to see the “he said 7″ tablets were worthless” meme trotted out here.
Tech-pinions folks usually display deeper insight. This is very shallow take on what Jobs actually said.
Also read my comment above. The Netbook meme as the excuse is fundamentally flawed.
I am not sure what that has to do with my comment above. I am just tired of the faulty “Jobs said they wouldn’t do 7″ tablet” meme.
I expect better here. Jobs never said that. What he actually said was multifaceted and well reasoned.
As far as Apple Hybrid/Convertibles, I don’t use a Steve Jobs Meme to explain why I see that as extremely unlikely.
It is the near impossibility that a convertible can deliver a top user experience as both a tablet and a notebook. I don’t see it as technology issue only.
There is essentially a mutually exclusive size difference between a good tablet and a good notebook experience.
You can’t build a device that is big enough to be a good notebook, while being small enough to be a good tablet. This rears it’s head before you even get to the issues of how you manage the physical mode change, and how you handle the bifurcated GUI.
Will Apple build a device with a knowingly compromised form factor and the negative user experience that implies? It seems very unlikely.
Tim agrees with you on the 7″ point. He wrote a lengthy analysis for our industry clients explaining why Jobs was right but not discounting smaller tablets role. We saw the writing on the wall for a smaller iPad for some time and were preparing our clients for its impact.
I don’t disagree with your premise however, the hybrid in our definition is mostly a tablet and only sometimes a notebook. The device / form factor adequately serves those who want mostly output and limited input but do not want a tablet and a notebook. I don’t disagree with you that the hybrid on Win 8 is a compromise. And that that OS can’t make a good tablet and good notebook in the same device. The question from an Apple standpoint is can they evolve the tablet to still be the best of breed tablet but allow for some more heavy input as necessary for a segment of the market that does not want two?
So the question is can Apple or should they evolve a version of the iPad, perhaps the 10″ into this device?
“So the question is can Apple or should they evolve a version of the iPad, perhaps the 10″ into this device?”
A 10″ tablet with an attached keyboard is, AT BEST, a Netbook.
Should Apple build a tablet that does secondary duty as a Netbook?
Refer to your own comments about the value of a Netbook.
No Netbooks were truncated notebooks. Tablets are first and formost a new form of computing via touch computing. Consumers didn’t actually want nor ask Netbooks to be PCs they simply wanted something cheap and portable. Our data along with many others showed large percentages of consumers used netbooks alongside PCs and the other nugget was many netbooks never left the house. Just showing they were mainly cheap internet terminals in consumers homes.
Tablets changed the whole game and brought new use cases, natural UI, etc. Very very different products and categories.
IF I am right that notebooks over serve the vast majority of consumers who use screens for mostly output and very light input, then we get to the heart of this opportunity.
I’m not saying the hybrid is the say all and end all as pure slates will exist as will a number of other categories. One size doesn’t fit all but my job as an analyst is to try to validate a category and shed some insight into its potential size. Our research is indicating this is an area of interest and as a part of our industry analysis we have to have scenarios where Apple makes one as well as ones where they don’t. Most of this is simply a thought exercise but it is based in real world data in terms a trend.
One more time, with extra detail enhance clarity.
Netbooks were nothing but small, cheap, crappy Notebooks. Once you could buy an inexpensive proper sized notebook, Netbooks were dead.
It is not the flawed Netbook form factor that was desired (screen too small, keyboard to small/cramped = dismal user experience) but the low price.
Now if make a clamshell out of an iPad, and you use that for heavy text entry you are replicating the dismal user experience of the Netbook, with a too small screen and a too small keyboard.
Even as a secondary usage pattern, I don’t see Apple ever building something that emulates the dismal user experience of the netbook.
I’ve been using the iPad with an external keyboard for some time and have had a billion times more enjoyable experience than I ever had with Netbooks. This is the basis for my argument. I am continually surprised how many mass market consumers use the iPad with keyboard accessory and have nearly cut out all PC usage.
Keyboard is second highest attach rate to iPad after a case. This is telling us something. There are still many holes to this model but it is already self sufficient and immensely better than the Netbook. Its all a about the software. There are things Apple can do here no other vendor can do because of their vertical model.
For example what if Apple just made a better more integrated external keyboard with tighter software integration and more smarts? 100 bucks a piece times hundreds of millions of iPads? Pretty good business.
Better SW, and more ports won’t solve the fundamental problem of a Netbook type keyboard.
It is just too damn small for comfortable touch typing (at least for me) I have a similar size KB for my HTPC (Logitech K400) and touch typing on it is total frustration (and I don’t have big hands).
You might be able to make this work, but I can’t see this working for most people.
I don’t see Apple ever selling netbook size keyboard to the masses.
I have seen quite a bit of user studies from keyboard accessory makers showing largely positive experiences with the external keyboard. But just a thought exercise do you remember the IBM Thinkpad Butterfly. That was a pretty ingenious design. I don’t’ want to limit what amazing engineers can do with hardware.
So keyboard accessory makers publish study show positive experience with their product. Shocking. 🙂
I remembered the butterfly, but not the name or who did it (thanks for the reminder). I was actually wondering about that as a possible solution. But it does seem too fiddly for Apple.
Some indication of the scale of the problem.
Width of main keys on my desktop keyboard: 285mm
Width of the main keys on my too small K400: 250mm
Width of an iPad in landscape mode: 243mm
I find the K400 spacing unusable and its main keys are still wider than the whole iPad.
Now if Apple made a 12″ screen iPad, it could mate with a proper spaced keyboard, but then you have the problem of a large, unwieldy tablet.
If I wanted to type a lot with an iPad I would bring a real full size external BT keyboard, rather than be cramped onto a sub-netbook KB.
That’s why I even bothered to comment because I know they hold themselves to a higher standard here.
I think your take on this is off base. Apple never used the word nor said they would not make a hybrid. They assessment of Windows 8 as a duality is correct but that does not mean they can not make a product that is a hybrid done right that is not a dual personality. The simple premise of a hybrid is a product that is 80% tablet but then can function as a PC for the small amount of time one may need something like a keyboard or more powerful input mechanism.
The bottom line is Steve Jobs viewed the iPad as an output device and the PC as an input device. It became very clear that over time even Apple saw some value as it largely being an output device but having some input capabilities. That is all the premise of a hybrid is. And as you can see both Tim and I have mentioned MANY times before that the addition of a keyboard with the iPad comes awefully close to this premise and if Apple believes this use case can sell more iPad, one could make the argument that all they really need to do is elegantly design a keyboard either as an accessory or key component.
Where I feel you are missing the mark is that you are looking at the hybrid through Microsoft’s eyes not Apple. Who are we to say Apple will or will not make something? The Netbook was easy, that device was a piece of crap and it brought nothing new to the market. The new use cases our market research is indicating from not just tablets but the premise of hybrids is yielding very different market data than our similar research with netbooks. To my knowledge we were one of the few firms who accurately communicated in our notes to clients that the Netbook was not sustainable. We have also been extremely accurate in our tablet impact on the PC industry reports. This is not to say we will be extremely accurate in our analysis of hybrids and the market sentiment we believe they may have, but that our data is yielding something different with this form factor than Netbooks. All of that to make the point that Apple may or may not make a hybrid, however, using the Netbook as the example is fundamentally flawed from our analysis perspective.
Apple spent about the same amount of time showing off consumption (Safari, Photos, Maps) as they did productivity (iWork, Mail, Calendar, keyboard dock) in the first iPad keynote.
They have followed up with Garage Band, iPhoto and iMovie.
All of the above should be enough to disprove the idea that Apple ever viewed it as an output device.
I think you are projecting the sneering ignorance of the blogosphere that took their sweet little time to acknowledge the power and usefulness of the iPad. It was obvious to consumers, but for many power users it was like pulling teeth.
The keyboard dock Apple introduced along with the original iPad and the Origami case are enough for writing at a desk.
Looking at them closely offers a good hint as to why Apple doesn’t provide a laptop style clamshell solution: the width of the iPad is quite smaller than a comfortable full sized keyboard.
Check out my comment on Tim’s 2013 predictions post from December 14th about what makes sense to me and I’m hoping for.
Finally, it seems that I left the impression I have something against hybrids and convertibles.
I don’t. I think they are excellent hardware ideas and you can add me to your list of people that would buy the first good hybrid available.
But the software support is not there.
I’ve tried Windows RT hybrids in store and found them to be a confused mess.
I am fairly sure Apple will not try to mash iOS and OS X together, so the closest thing to a hybrid I expect from Apple is pretty much what we already have: keyboards docks and no software support for mouse or trackpad. I wouldn’t call that a hybrid.
Android does have support for touch, keyboard and mouse in the same UI but only smartphone sized touch apps are available.
We agree more than you think. My point is much of the comments here are looking at the idea or premise of the hybrid wrong in their assertion that Apple will never or should never make one. Tim’s column like many we offer here of more speculative angle are meant to be thought experiments to spur healthy discussion. It’s sort of how we do analysis in public to flesh out thoughts of our own even if we have not necessarily convinced ourselves it will happen. We simply want to spur thought and see what others have to say.
In that regard and based on our research, the reasons many commenters here against Apple doing a hybrid are off base. Sure they may never make one, but also they may. To be honest I’d love to see it done right as I feel there is a way Apple can do it that has a clear separation of the iPad and Macbook.
I’m just not trying to be limited in thought regarding this possibility and I encourage others to do the same. Rather than dismiss it why don’t we explore the question of what if APple did it right.
Also to this point.
“I think you are projecting the sneering ignorance of the blogosphere that took their sweet little time to acknowledge the power and usefulness of the iPad. It was obvious to consumers, but for many power users it was like pulling teeth.”
If you have read much of what I have written on the subject of the iPad you will know this isn’t true. In fact I’ll point you to the first one, the column I wrote for Slashgear the day after the iPad was released.
Like I said, I would also like Apple (or anyone else for that matter) to make a really great hybrid.
If you feel there is a way Apple can do that, then please write up how you imagine they would do that.
How would the hardware and software package work and look like?
I would like to read it because it’s not at all obvious to me, and so my mind jumped to the ideas that have been floating around: MacBook Air with touch screen and detachable keyboard running OS X with or without an iOS touch layer slapped on top.
That is what I think Apple will not do and should not do.
So again, if it’s not secret, please share your alternate vision.
It should provide a good starting point for the healthy discussion you’re seeking.
I don’t understand how you could be surprised and disappointed that people express skepticism for a prediction about the success of a class of product after it hit the market with a thud and continues to struggle in the market.
How do you expect people to ignore current products and focus instead on theoretical unannounced products without you even providing at least a sketch of how and why the future products will be better and do better?
I am not surprised at all of the criticisms of the current products because I myself have criticized them for not being good. This has everything to do with the software. My point is that the criticisms of the current hardware should not necessarily be criticisms of the category itself. Our research strongly indicates interest in the hybrid premise which is a tablet most of the time with the capabilities of some light / heavy input. So we are convinced there is interest in the concept just no current concept delivers on the vision. An iPad with keyboard accessory comes the closest in my opinion.
In terms of what they could do, I can share some things but not all. This kind of stuff is why the industry subscribes to Creative Strateiges Insight services. But there are some technologies on the horizon I think become interesting for this category. Fiber for distributed computing (meaning accessing CPU peripherals), next generation multi-resoltion displays (ones that can change aspect ration for example with the same screen) and 64 bit ARM.
Harry McCracken at Time Magazine wrote a great story on the Netbook. There was nothing wrong with them that time and Moore’s Law wouldn’t have fixed. The problem was that Intel and Microsoft couldn’t make money off of them the way they wanted to. The whole class was killed off to protect their profit margins.
The whole category was also an accident. Something I have direct insight into that I might share the story around in the future.
Cool. I’d love to read about it. I have been a big fan of Netbooks, though I was hoping the category would ultimately settle in the 10-11″ screen range. I think Chromebooks are pretty much the same concept and those seem to be gaining steam. Seeing Ubuntu on the Samsung ARM Chromebook makes me think the idea still has a lot of merit.
Should Apple? If they can figure out a way to make non-clunky, maybe. No one thought people wanted a mini-van (more than a station wagon, less than a van). There was this half car, half pickup once that eventually tanked. Others have tried to make transformer like cars, too, like the Thing, and a couple other recent attempts at SUV/mini-van/pick up truck vehicles. Those have pretty well flopped. But who would have ever guessed 4 door pick ups would be such a big hit?
I think the lesson here is more moving parts means more complexity. They sound great on paper “Just do this, twist that and voila!” But after a while even something simple gets old and one settles into one configuration anyway.
Personally I think even an external keyboard on an iPad is a transitionary attachment, in the same way people still purchased external floppy drives after Apple ditched them. The issue here is that keyboards have been so ingrained that getting away from the as a primary input means will take longer. Long enough for a short term play (by short term I mean around 5 years). But I think long term the winner will be the guy who says “there has to be a better way” and develops it.
On the hardware side the design has to be simple. I like a tablet because I just grab it and go. Even a laptop gets bothersome and cumbersome comparatively. (Interestingly an iPad is more notebook-like than a laptop).
On the software side someone will have to develop something that makes the difference matter. Few attempts to bridge old ways of productivity to new hardware is all that seamless. Apple has done an admirable job with Pages, et. al. But even those attempts lack depth.
Sometimes I just hate waiting for the future!