Devices combining the functionality of a touchscreen tablet and a laptop will dominate enterprise tablet marketshare over the next few years, but its adoption in Asia-Pacific will lag behind North America and Western Europe
Mykola Golovko, consumer electronics industry analyst at Euromonitor International, said hybrid laptop-tablet devices will become the dominant tablet form factor for enterprise use, accounting for 65 percent of volume by 2016. This will be followed by small communicator-type devices and media tablets, which are mainly designed for entertainment and currently make up the majority of tablets adopted in the enterprise.
With the upcoming rollout of Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system, PC vendors such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung, have prepared to launch hybrid laptop-tablet products. These devices have a touchscreen as well as an attachable keyboard, allowing users to use them as either a laptop or tablet.
Improving designs of hybrids
Nick Reynolds, executive director of worldwide consumer product launch for Lenovo, believes that Windows 8's 10-point multitouch capability is a boost to hybrid laptops as it will provide "great user experience".
Golovko believes that the new hybrid laptops will see wider adoption compared to their predecessors because of their increased portability and little sacrifice in functionality.
Reynolds agreed, adding that past hybrids were "thick and heavy" while the current iterations were "thin and light".
Slower adoption in Asia
According to Golovko, much of a hybrid tablet's functionalities will be reliant on cloud computing services and mobile data networks. "Without this infrastructure the added portability of a tablet has little value and bears a significant cost in terms of functionality in most use cases," he said.
As cloud computing will develop "more robustly" in North America and Western Europe, the analyst added that tablets and hybrids will have less of a value proposition for Asian markets, especially in emerging markets.
Furthermore, the wider adoption of tablets among Asia-Pacific enterprises will lag behind North America and Western Europe, said Golovko.
"By 2016 we expect tablets to account for almost 30 percent of the total enterprise computer volume in Western Europe, slightly ahead of North America. Enterprise tablet demand in Asia will remain slow by comparison reaching about 7 percent of the overall enterprise computer market in the same time frame," he added.
Hybrids not for everyone
Singapore-based student Adrianna Tan does not see the appeal of a hybrid device. She would prefer working on a tablet and finds the keyboard of a hybrid "redundant" as she can type directly on the touchscreen.
Nurse coordinator Doris Yeo, whose job requires her to be mobile and also based in Singapore, agreed. She added that the keyboard would bring "extra bulk" to the touchscreen device. However, her current media tablet--an iPad--does not have enough functionality for work as she finds working on spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel difficult.
On the flipside, Andrew Schrage, co-owner of U.S.-based finance site Money Crashers Personal Finance, said he is considering purchasing hybrid laptops for his employees. The company plans to buy "slide" hybrids, where the screen slides over the keyboard to become a tablet; and "fold" hybrids, which allow the screen to stand at an angle or lay flat, he said.
Hybrid laptop would provide extra benefits compared to buying a separate laptop or tablet device, Schrage added. "There are many instances when it would be a great advantage for my team members to be able to switch from a touchscreen to a traditional laptop with a keyboard. You just can't do this seamlessly when using two different devices," he said.
"Most of my team members are freelancers who simply aren't tied down to a desk all day. Therefore, providing them with hybrid laptops will allow them to get more work done while they're on the go," he added.
However, Chuck Small, creative director at technical documentation and technical publicity company Minds Online, does not plan to get a hybrid tablet. Small said he was looking for a portable device with high resolution so clients can approve documents before the files are sent to print. However, no such device is available in the market.
He currently carries a bootable portable hard drive with Windows 7 and other professional software installed. When the client needs to make changes, he will borrow a computer to boot the hard drive and make changes.
"No tablet would duplicate this functionality because I do a lot of my input with a small Wacom ArtPad and not a mouse and certainly not with a touch pad," he added.